I am currently delving into a deeper understanding of the true meaning of the cross of Christ, how it relates to salvation and how it reveals God's heart.

Friday, January 12, 2018

Giving Gifts to the Needy

They told him, "Teacher, we found this woman in adultery, in the very act. Now in our law, Moses commanded us to stone such. What then do you say about her?" They said this testing him, that they might have something to accuse him of.
But Jesus stooped down, and wrote on the ground with his finger. But when they continued asking him, he looked up and said to them, "He who is without sin among you, let him throw the first stone at her." Again he stooped down, and with his finger wrote on the ground.
They, when they heard it, being convicted by their conscience, went out one by one, beginning from the oldest, even to the last. Jesus was left alone with the woman where she was, in the middle. Jesus, standing up, saw her and said, "Woman, where are your accusers? Did no one condemn you?" She said, "No one, Lord." Jesus said, "Neither do I condemn you. Go your way. From now on, sin no more." Again, therefore, Jesus 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." (John 8:4-12)

Accusing is counterfeit judging.
Accusing is condemning.
Accusing is the spirit of looking for faults in order to assign blame.
Whoever ends up with the blame, according to the reward/punishment system, must be punished.
Living according to the reward/punishment way is living under the law.
Living under the law is living according to the flesh, where everyone is valued according to how closely they conform to the ideal of the law – relative value for everyone and everything – commerce.
This commercial spirit dictates that we must figure out the relative value of each one according to the law of reward and punishment so that order and unity can be maintained through hierarchal authority.

Accusing/condemning then is the means by which we think to maintain law and order in society. It relies on fear of punishment as the primary means by which to everyone in line with the law. Because of this invested belief in law and punishment, we find it nearly impossible to accept that there could be any other way to hold society together, and we insist God must do so similarly.

This is our system of fear-based social order. We rely on fear as one of the main incentives to keep people from sinning, and when anyone does sin we believe it is a moral duty to find someone to blame for that debt who should receive punishment. Then we must cooperate with authorities designated by God to carry out due punishment. This is what is happening in this story – blame, shame and threat of severe punishment against the person whose sin has imbalanced the scales of justice.

The problem, of course, with this view of how life is to operate is that it neglects the value of the heart. Even more, it ignores or denies the entire meaning of value according to God's design. Our ideas of relative value for people and performance is entirely an artificial notion of value that disregards God's original design for us to live from our heart in freedom, love and trust. The counterfeit way is reward and punishment which is designed to crush the heart and dismember it so we cannot thrive as designed. Thus Satan effectively distorts God's intended reflection of glory from our heart by obsessing over things of lesser importance while ignoring the truly valuable things.

The Lord said to him, "Now you Pharisees cleanse the outside of the cup and of the platter, but your inward part is full of extortion and wickedness. You foolish ones, didn't he who made the outside make the inside also? But give for gifts to the needy those things which are within, and behold, all things will be clean to you. But woe to you Pharisees! For you tithe mint and rue and every herb, but you bypass justice and the love of God. You ought to have done these, and not to have left the other undone. Woe to you Pharisees! For you love the best seats in the synagogues, and the greetings in the marketplaces. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like hidden graves, and the men who walk over them don't know it." (Luke 11:39-44)

Why didn't God send His Son into the world to condemn the world? Because saving the world will never be accomplished by participating in the very thing destroying our hearts. This idea of attempting to overcome evil with evil is doomed to miserable failure, and God will never participate in trying to do what will never work.

Evil can only be overcome with good; darkness can only be eliminated using light.
There are no other possible ways.

What we need to repent of is not just sins we have committed, but far more importantly THE SIN which is our entire way of thinking we have been immersed in all our lives. This primary sin is the twisted thinking infecting all of us after our first parents ate of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil inducing in all of us a serious case of double-mindedness ever since.

Jesus came to defeat and conquer this double-minded sickness by reintroducing into the human genome the original design of single-mindedness, the saving principle of agape love. Nothing else can ever come close to resolving the problem of evil because anything other than pure love is evil.

The heart was made for love and is damaged and malfunctions when it fails to receive and pass on love effectively. Did you notice the phrase in that last passage that speaks volumes about this issue? But give for gifts to the needy those things which are within, and behold, all things will be clean to you.

Who are the needy Jesus is talking about here? Is it people who don't have enough money to support themselves? Is that what He is telling the Pharisees? I don't think so. Rather, Jesus is putting His finger on the core issue of sin, ignoring of the heart to prefer keeping up appearances and imagining that this will somehow impress God with how pious and holy we are so He will bless us. So we measure our relative value by comparing ourselves with people we imagine are worse than us so we can feel good about our relative righteousness and convince ourselves that God plays this game along with us.

No, the needy that Jesus was referring to are represented by the woman in this story who these Pharisees considered a terrible sinner deserving to be punished. They believed it was their God-appointed duty as the religious authorities to assign blame and execute justice lest God be displeased with them for not carrying out their duties and would then punish them in turn. In other words, this line of religious reasoning leads us to imagine that if we don't point out other people's faults and do our part to maintain law and order in the church, in society, the family or wherever we have responsibility, then God will punish us for not carrying out our duty.

This way of living with others is primarily based on fear – fear aroused by the belief that God will ultimately punish anyone who doesn't do their part in enforcing justice, albeit our kind of justice that is rooted in the thinking of debts and credits, reward and punishments, earning and deserving. Yet all the while our hearts are shriveling up and starving for lack of love, grace and freedom. Yet from our perspective those are secondary issues that may be enjoyed only after justice has been satisfied.

So what constitutes being needy according to Jesus? Well, to start with He indicates that the need is within, not a need in the external arena. This should alert us that what He has in mind is the condition of our heart rather than some external value assigned to us relative on how well we keep the rules. What I also see here is that if I am starved internally – needy myself – then it will be impossible for me to give to others who are needy internally. That makes sense even if it is intellectual. I can't give what I have not received. Yet the catch is that if I am unwilling to give I also block myself from receiving.

For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you don't forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. (Matthew 6:14-15)

Is this a threat or is it a principle? I believe it is like expecting a garden hose to deliver water while it is not receiving water from a source at the other end. I can demand all I want that the hose deliver water to me, but the best I will be able to get from it is any residual water left in the hose from the last time it was used. If I expect to get more than that, then hose is going to have to be connected to a good source of water itself before it will be able to give water out the other end.

Yet the converse of this is equally true as well. If the hose has a nozzle on the end, it may be hooked up to a good source of supply all it wants, yet until the nozzle is opened to release water out the other end it will be impossible for that hose to receive any more water than what is inside it already.

So really there are two ways in which we can malfunction according to this illustration. We can try to give and give until we collapse in emotional and spiritual exhaustion and then blame God that it simply does not work. Yet the problem may be that we are trying to give something we are failing to receive because we are not remaining connected to the unlimited supply of grace and love available to us at the heart level. Or we may be living in a glut of blessings from God but are so blinded by unbelief in His goodness that we fail to realize how rich we already are and consequently live in judgment over others because they don't measure up to where we imagine we are on the scale of moral worth. Thus we plug the outlet blocking us from receiving more from God. Over time the water already in the hose then stagnates and can become putrid and toxic.

So, how does Jesus defeat accusers? Does He accuse them, pointing out their faults by writing them on the pavement to humiliate and intimidate them until they slink away in shame? This would be overcoming evil with evil, but that never works in the long run, for Jesus knew that condemnation never achieves the kind of righteousness we need that restores us. Jesus loved these Pharisees just as much as He loved this woman, and He was not infected with the commercial way of viewing people like we are. By keeping Himself in constant communion with heaven, He saw every person He came in contact with as God's well-beloved child. That includes you and me by the way.

No, Jesus did not defeat accusers by counter-accusations. Rather He brought light to where darkness was and the light itself induced God's kind of judgment which is very different from our notions about justice. The light of love caused these men to choose whether to let love soften and change them or leave in fear of exposure by that love. They chose to leave because they loved darkness more than light and they feared their deeds would be exposed if they remained in the light just as Jesus said would happen in judgment. This is always how God defeats accusers – simply by loving without reservation and allowing each one to choose how they will relate to the love ever coming from His heart.

But give for gifts to the needy those things which are within, and behold, all things will be clean to you.

What gift comes from within the heart of God?

For God so loved the world, that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have eternal life. For God didn't send his Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world should be saved through him. (John 3:16-17)

This by the way, comes just before Jesus explains how true judgment occurs just a couple verses later.

What was sent to us within the Son who came to become one with us?

For the law was given through Moses. Grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.
No one has seen God at any time. The one and only Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, he has declared him. (John 1:17-18)

Do you see it? The gift from within God, the gift sent from the very bosom of the Father, was the embodiment of pure, unconditional love, acceptance, grace and the truth that God loves everyone without exception or reservation. That gift never has the slightest condemnation, for our sin problem is not that God is upset with us as we have so long imagined, but that we are afraid of Him and as a result are starved of love on the inside. The gift provided to each of us who are needy comes from the bosom of the Father in the person of Jesus who is love. This love in Jesus is tightly connected to the Father's heart and pours love relentlessly into the heart of anyone willing to open up their heart to receive it.

Do you feel needy of heart right now? Do you feel any need at all, or has fear so damaged the soul that we find it difficult to admit that you are starving for love?

Just a few chapters later we find another story possibly involving this same woman according to some. Clearly she experienced a dramatic transformation of heart from the love shown her by Jesus, and her passion to find some way of returning some of that love compelled her to do something she knew would make her vulnerable in front of those who could not see what was inside her. When Jesus not only freely accepted her public expression of affection but also defended her against those who tried to shame her, laying a guilt trip on Jesus at the same time, He shared a principle with them that is vitally important to appreciate when it comes to living from our heart.

Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much. But to whom little is forgiven, the same loves little." He said to her, "Your sins are forgiven." Those who sat at the table with him began to say to themselves, "Who is this who even forgives sins?" He said to the woman, "Your faith has saved you. Go in peace." (Luke 7:47-50)

It is the law of proportion, a principle counterfeited in our false system through relative rewards or punishments figured on the degree of merit or offense. The law of proportion can also be seen in the analogy of the garden hose, for to the degree I open myself up to receive love, I am able to pass love along, and that is how much love I will experience myself.

For with whatever judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with whatever measure you measure, it will be measured to you. (Matthew 7:2)

He said to them, "Take heed what you hear. With whatever measure you measure, it will be measured to you, and more will be given to you who hear. For whoever has, to him will more be given, and he who doesn't have, even that which he has will be taken away from him." (Mark 4:24-25)

Don't judge, and you won't be judged. Don't condemn, and you won't be condemned. Set free, and you will be set free. Give, and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over, will be given to you. For with the same measure you measure it will be measured back to you. (Luke 6:37-38)

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