December 15, 2014

Dispensation 6: A Change of Heart

Posted in Salvation, Terminology, The Church, The Dispensations tagged , , , , , at 11:48 AM by E. M.

Changed_heartThe dispensations are God’s contrastive way of proving that His plan for man is right, by allowing mankind the opportunity to choose to be Godly on their own. In the first three dispensations God allow men fairly free reign during periods of complete innocence, vast knowledge, and full cooperation. Each time mankind chose themselves over God by thinking comparatively. Furthermore, each dispensation resulted in men becoming more evil!

In the 4th and 5th Dispensations, God provided progressive guidance though earthly representatives and by giving them His Law, culminating in the advent of a divine Redeemer. Again men choose themselves over God by rejecting (and ignoring) the guidance.

Since in the previous two dispensations God gave men guidance through external sources, the next just and logical step would be to make that guidance intimate and internal.

The 6th Dispensation asks the question: What if God’s presence was housed inside us, and gave us day by day guidance on how to be like Him? Would we choose God over ourselves?

Its an intriguing proposition, and its one of the many ways that this dispensation is so special and unique. But how would this work? How does God presence get “inside” us (and how much space does He need?)

It all starts with Salvation.

When a person’s “gets saved”, it’s not a one-way proposition. When the decision to accept the gift of redemption is made, God doesn’t just give a wink and a thumbs-up. God begins the work of actively changing your entire life!

Salvation makes us a new creation. We are given a new heart by God, and His Law is written on our hearts. Why our hearts and not our brain/mind? Because the heart is where your integrity comes from.

Like the brain, the physical heart has neural connections that make it function like a “mini-brain”. Your heart has its own independent nervous system consisting of over 30,000 neurons.. Like the unconscious brain, the heart is part of the body that can respond and make decisions based on intuition and feelings.

But its effects on us are more primal and less influenced by the things that can affect our conscious minds. The heart is much more binary. You can fake all kinds of things with your conscious brain, but you can’t fool the heart. Whatever is true about you flows from your heart. That’s why in salvation, God is much more concerned with what you believe in your heart than in your mind.

The problem is that before salvation, man’s heart is evil! It reflects the fact that man is not always and completely right and just. That heart rejects the Godly thought process (contrastive thinking and growth) and embraces destructive thoughts (comparative thinking and comfort). Fortunately man has free will and can choose to act outside of his nature.

Accepting redemption is an act of free will. But even with that acceptance God knows that is would be a losing battle to try to influence through our old heart, and He certainly can’t dwell there – so He gives us a new one!

Of course I’m not speaking of replacing the physical organ (becoming a Christina does not require major surgery), I’m speaking of the spiritual housing of the heart – the part that affects and is affected by our thought process. This new heart can hear from God and can be influenced by God

This is the definition of grace – the Divine influence on the heart and its reflection in life.

The 6th Dispensation is unique in that it is a direct conduit to the meaning of life. How is it connected to the meaning of life? Remember, in order to be with God, we have to be like God. The only “man” who has ever managed to be like God is Jesus during his earthly incarnation. How? He lived by grace! He ONLY did what God told him to do. This is how he was fully man and fully God. The sixth dispensation gives us all that same opportunity!

The Problem is we get all kinds of inner notions and urges influencing us constantly. Sure we get a new heart through salvation, but the rest of us (specifically our minds) are still under Adam’s curse. We are still not always and completely right and just in our nature. So how do you know if it’s God’s influence that we are hearing?

Unsaved man is influenced by three sources, the “World”, the “Flesh”, and the “Devil. Two are external (world and devil) the other is internal (flesh). All three sources have two things in common – they all oppose God, and they are all “loud” (they all influence us aggressively).

The “voice” of the World focuses you on the pursuit of external things to replace God in your life. The World steers you toward comfort, self-justification, religion, and conformity. The World is the system that wants to deny uniqueness and get you to embrace a Godless Eden.

The Flesh is the enemy within. Is our human nature that is the polar opposite of Godly thinking. The Flesh wants us to be comparative, which is the source of pride, fear, and evil.

The Devil is the demonic influence (“devil” is from the Greek “diabolos” which means “one who hurls thing at you”  In the Biblical context, it is translated as “Accuser”). The Devil’s goal is destruction in long term. The devil works in the opposite manner to God. The Devil is constantly hurling seductive/destructive thoughts at your Flesh (as opposed to the heart), which you must make the moment-by-moment choice to accept or reject. Whenever an evil, destructive thought enters you mind and you think “where did that come from?” It was probably the Devil.

But, when you get saved a fourth influence is added – the Holy Spirit, who Jesus promised would live in the hearts of believers! The influence of the Spirit is focused on growth and faith, through contrastive thinking. The voice of the Spirit is the most difficult to hear. The Spirit speaks in a quiet, still, small voice. If the world pulls at you, the flesh yells at you, and the devil jabs you; the Spirit gives you a gentle nudge.

But why does God, the most powerful force of them all, choose to be so subtle?

Because he wants us to choose him! He wants us to love him – and that takes effort! Unlike the other influences that bombard us constantly and consistently, we have to be intentional to hear from God. We have to actively seek Him and intentionally block out the other voices. We have to pursue God. He wants us to love him enough to sacrifice our comforts, our lusts, and our natural desire to prosper without him.

Why?

1. Its a reasonable response to the sacrifice of redemption. Salvation is offered freely, but it wasn’t free. Jesus paid the price, and to live the redemptive life justly requires effort on our part.

2. The meaning of life requires it! Remember, the meaning of life is marriage. Jesus didn’t just come to save mankind, he came to redeem a bride! And he naturally wants a bride who wants Him and loves Him enough to be conformed to His image. His bride must be like Him – always and completely right and just.

And that’s the whole purpose of the 6th Dispensation, to find a bride for Christ!

This Bride consists of a group of people who are willing to accept His redemption, and intentionally and consistently allow themselves to be conformed to His image by heeding the voice of grace and be transformed into unique individuals who flourish in their individual greatness, adding the value of that greatness to the overall body of believers, thus creating a Bride worthy of God’s Son.

(Grace is personal, the guidance given to each person while always and completely right and just, also guides them to be the royal image bearer that was lost when Adam fell.)

This group of believers who are to be the Bride is called “the Church”.

If the 6th Dispensation were to be a success, the Church would be completely sanctified and conformed to Christ by obeying the voice of the Spirit completely.

However, logically, we know that this dispensation will fail like all the rest. But since we’re still in it, we don’t have the benefit of history to tell us exactly how and when it will end as we had with the other dispensations.

However we have enough knowledge of the dispensational pattern to take a theoretical stab at it. If success is tied to the Church hearing and obeying God’s voice, then failure would be the opposite -to ignore His voice.

But it has to be more than that. Dispensational failure means choosing ourselves over God. So then, in line with that pattern, this dispensation will fail when the Church chooses to be guided by ITS OWN voice instead of God’s!

I’ll address HOW this can happen in an upcoming post. As to WHEN this failure happens. . . I would contend that it ALREADY HAS!

Obviously that is a VERY provocative position that I’ll need to back up, and I will do that in an upcoming post as well.

But before we go there, we need to take a deeper look at this unique and mysterious entity called the Church. What is it? What are its origins? What is its purpose? Why does Jesus consider it his Bride? And what has it been doing the last 2000 years? We begin examining these questions next time.

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January 11, 2012

Dispensation 4 – Remedial Guidance

Posted in The Dispensations tagged , , , , , , , , , , at 3:43 PM by E. M.

The Dispensations are God’s contrastive way of proving that His plan for humanity is right.  Each dispensation allows man the opportunity to choose righteousness (God) on his own; outside of God’s plan.

In the first three dispensations, God pretty much gave men a free hand to choose Him over themselves.  God first gave them complete innocence with no knowledge of good and evil.  He then gave them great longevity in order to allow them to accumulate an abundance of knowledge.  Then He allowed them to have organization and unity to give them purpose in making the choice.

Not only did each of these dispensations fail, giving man a free hand to choose God over themselves without guidance resulted in men getting more evil in each successive dispensation!

I would be unjust for God to continue in the same vein.  The just thing to do would be to start giving men guidance.

The next dispensations should include and increasingly complex methodology to guide men into making the righteous choice.

The next dispensation should contain guidance that is simple, direct, and geared toward the current situation.

As the dispensation progressed, men went from being individuals, to being families, to being communities.  The Third Dispensation resulted in men being grouped into nations and governments.  Therefore, in the Fourth Dispensation, God dealt with men corporately  – as nations.

As such, God would need to form a nation to represent Him and offer men the opportunity to choose Him by choosing His nation (thankfully, the Third Dispensation did not end with men be grouped into communes or God would have had to form a competing drum circle to represent Himself).

In the aftermath of Babel, God chose a local man named Abram (who would eventually be renamed Abraham), and gave him a pretty impressive “Go west young man!” speech:

Now the LORD had said to Abram: “Get out of your country, From your family And from your father’s house, To a land that I will show you. I will make you a great nation; I will bless you and make your name great; And you shall be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and I will curse him who curses you; And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” – Genesis 12:1-3

So God will form His representative nation from Abraham’s offspring.  God will bless Abraham and his offspring to the point that people will KNOW that they are God’s representatives.  Thus the success or failure of the Fourth Dispensation is based on whether or not the other nations choose to bless or curse Abraham and his descendants.

Although Abraham would become one of the most exemplary and revered men in the entire Biblical narrative, he didn’t start out that way.  Like many of his fellow post-Babel Mesopotamians, the erstwhile father of the Jews was likely an idol-worshipping gentile Bedouin before God gave him his new mission.   Some extra-Biblical sources paint a very colorful pre-“call” history of Abram, which include his father working for/with our old pal Nimrod, and Abram getting caught up in several conflicts with him.  Although the authenticity of these stories is dubious, they are still an interesting read.

What we do know from the Bible is that despite having the Architect of the Universe offering him a rather spectacular destiny, Abram was not immediately “all in”.  Instead of heading straight to the Promised Land as ordered, Abram and his sister-wife (seriously), took their dad and just moved up-river a bit.  It seems our hero was still a bit hesitant to give up his old life.

Once dad died, Abram, Sarai (soon to be renamed Sarah), and their nephew Lot finally settled in the Promised Land, and God renewed His promise them, gave Abraham his new name, and made him one of the richest and most famous people in the world.  But Abraham still wasn’t a model citizen.  He and Lot nearly came to blows over property rights, he essentially pimped out his wife to save his own neck (twice), and he impregnated his maid when he and Sarah got impatient waiting on God to give them a son.

Yet God continued to grow Abraham’s faith until he reached the point where he was willing to sacrifice his beloved son Isaac, believing that God would resurrect him.

Abraham’s immediate descendants had their own growth issues.  Isaac repeated his father’s strategy of hiding behind his wife’s skirt.  Abraham’s grandson Jacob was a scheming momma’s-boy who stole his brother’s blessing.

Jacob had 12 sons – 8 with his (two) wives, (who were using children as marital currency), and 4 with the wives’ maids.  Think those kids may have turned out a bit dysfunctional?  Yep!  Among other things they were involved in a near genocide, incest, prostitution, attempted fratricide, and slave trading (I hear Quentin Tarantino is negotiating for the movie rights)

Yet these 12 great-grandsons of Abraham would father the 12 tribes of God’s chosen nation – Israel.  God did not choose because they were of such exemplary character (obviously), He actually chose them BECAUSE they were rough around the edges.  God wanted to make sure that they did not take pride in their chosen status (even though they often did), but remained humble representatives of righteousness.

Eventually, a severe famine drove the family into Egypt, a growing empire where Jacob’s favorite (and least scummy) son Joseph was prime minister.  Joseph’s skill and wisdom resulted in Egypt being the only place that had a surplus of food during the famine and the nation’s wealth increased tremendously.

When the fledgling Jewish nation wanted to settle in Egypt, it was time for the representative of a gentile nation to make a choice.  Would Pharaoh bless or curse God’s nation?

It turns out Pharaoh made the right choice!  He gave the Jews some of the best real estate in the land, an elevated position in the government, and even declared a national period of mourning when Jacob died.  True to His word, God blessed Egypt in returned, as the nation became the dominant world empire for several centuries.

However a bit later, a new Pharaoh who was not familiar with Joseph (its possible that he was not even Egyptian…but that’s another story) saw the Jews as a national threat and enslaved them for over 400 years.

Despite their hardships, the Jewish nation continued to grow in population, and God tapped Charlton Heston,…er, I mean Moses to go to Pharaoh and tell him to let the Israelites go so that they could go out to the wilderness and worship Him.

Keep in mind, ALL God asked was for Israel to be released in order to make a three-day journey to worship Him.

Pharaoh had a choice to either bless or curse God’s nation.  What did he do?

1.    He got offended and refused to let the Jews go worship God

2.    He accused them of trying to shirk their slave duties by taking a three-day holiday

3.    Even though they didn’t leave (because he didn’t allow them to), Pharaoh punished them as if they did by taking away a primary resource and demanding that they produce the same amount of work as they did when they had the resource!

If Pharaoh had chosen to think contrastively, he could have asked Charlton Moses about God and his relationship with the Jewish nation, and why He wanted their worship. Maybe he could have learned about God’s promise to Abraham and about Joseph’s contribution to Egypt.

Instead, his fear of the Jews led him to think comparatively.  He saw God’s request as a threat.  He became defensive and offended.  He punished the Jews unjustly, and justified his treatment by falsely accusing the Jews of angling for a vacation.

Pharaoh justified himself over God and cursed God’s nation.  Thus the Fourth Dispensation failed like the previous three before it.

God responded to Pharaohs’ curse by cursing Egypt in return.  He unleashed the famous 10 plagues, which devastated the land, and people, forcing Pharaoh to release the Jews and give them back pay for their years of servitude.

In the next few posts, we will take a deeper look and some important aspects of the Fourth Dispensation.

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