What is idolatry and does it still exist today?

What is idolatry and does it still exist today?

In our day and age, it appears as if we take the concept of idolatry for granted, it was something done long ago in the age of Pantheons and the height of pagan religion. Or at the very least we see it as a casual annoyance for God as he watched over the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Through our modern desensitization to the overall idea of idolatry it is no wonder then why we have lost the theological and moral implications of these actions. In his book We Become What We Worship G.K. Beale has set out to remind contemporary readers of the dangers, consequences and power that idolatry held over the Israelites. Not only that he sets out to demonstrate how even Christians today who claim a better covenant are still susceptible to this corruption of the heart and relationship with God. Therefore, we shall delve into how G.K. Beale understands not only the core of idolatry but how it applied to the Israelites and modern Christians through his core thesis of “what people revere, they resemble, either for ruin or restoration.”[1]

What is Idolatry

The Act of Idolatry

            At its core “idolatry is the ultimate expression of unfaithfulness to God and for that reason is the occasion for severe divine punishment.”[2] Therein lies the danger and the allure of idolatry as whatever idol or source is set above God becomes the foundation of a person’s life. In essence idolatry can be expressed as “whatever your heart clings to or relies on for ultimate security.”[3] Throughout his book, Beale examines this topic primarily through Isaiah’s appointment, Isaiah’s prophecies in chapters 40-66 and through the episode of the golden calf at Mt. Sinai. These prophecies and events are presented as the backbone of Israelite idol worship which was the attempt by the nation to find security, fulfillment and purpose outside of God.

            These idolatrous actions and attitudes of the heart are not just an absence of devotion in a person or nation but rather the corruption of it since there is no neutrality in this process. The cost of idolatry then is great as:

when we worship something in creation, we become like it, as spiritually lifeless and insensitive to God as a piece of wood, rock or stone. We become spiritually blind, deaf and dumb even though we have physical eyes and ears. If we commit ourselves to something that does not have God’s Spirit, to that degree we will be lacking the Spirit. We will be like ancient Israel.[4]

This insight by Beale forms the backbone of his theology, for as Israel followed their idols to a greater degree the more the people resembled those idols. This transformation did not bring them the life they hoped for but instead left them blind, deaf and dumb spiritually. It left them spiritually deficient which is no wonder why the likes of Isaiah, Jeremiah and Elijah were in the minority for much of Israel’s history.

What is an Idol?

            Understanding the action of idolatry then begs the question of what exactly is an idol and how can this hunk of stone or wood have so much power? At its core, an idol “is anything worshiped in place of the true God,”[5] it is a physical representation of a spiritual force or idea which draws the devotion of a person or nation. In the era of the Old Testament “an idol or image contained a god’s presence, though that presence was not limited to the image.”[6] This can be seen in Israel through the Asherah poles or even the statue within the temple compound during the ministry of Jeremiah. These images ranged from giant statues to small household statues like the one Rachel stole from her family. While these were prohibited in Israel, they were prevalent throughout Israel’s neighbors for they believed that each idol was a connecting point between the gods and the people.

Connection Between Idols and Demons

            Scriptures such as Deuteronomy 32 and 1 Corinthians 10 make it clear that behind many of these idols were fallen spiritual forces who were opposed to God. People believed their idols were tied to real spiritual forces and the testimony of the Scripture was that while they did “exist” they were all beneath YHWH. Beale presents idols in this light as a means to emphasize the severity of idolatry as the people were worshipping fallen creatures rather than the creator.

Various Israelite traditions connect this idea with the worshipping of the golden calf at Mt. Sinai, as even Paul’s discourse in 1 Corinthians is “parallel with the targumic traditions that see the activity of Satan working through the golden calf idol to influence Israel to be spiritually identified with the idol.”[7] Furthermore Paul “interprets sacrifices to idols to be also sacrifices to demons, which necessarily entails ‘becoming a sharer in demons,’ who indwell the idol.”[8] This is a revelation which was true centuries ago and while controversial still applies to modern times as behind many ideologies, contemporary idols and other matters lie spiritual forces who lead people against God and his purposes for humanity.

            By understanding these aspects of idols and the act of idolatry it becomes clear that the heart of this issue is a rejection of God, his rulership and his nature. There is only worship of God or rejection of him in favor of idolatry, there is no grey area in between and this is “why half-heartedness is a template of idolatry. When someone wants to embrace both (cf. 11:19, 21), it invariably leads to whole-scale apostasy.”[9] Jesus warned his followers about being double minded for this very reason, and it is why he used the language of those not understanding his teaching being blind or deaf.

Becoming What You Worship

            Idolatry is the action of endorsing and supporting any spiritual being, ideology, person, tradition, attitude or action which stands in opposition to God. Through this consignment to opposing forces the idolater assumes the heart and nature of whatever they have chosen in place of God, this is Beale’s core idea of “becoming what you worship.” We can see this idea go all the way back to the garden of Eden as “Adam’s allegiance shifted from God to himself and prob-ably also to Satan, since he comes to resemble the serpent’s character in some ways.”[10] Beale describes how this happened through Adam not trusting in God’s words and in Eve’s misquoting those same commands.

            This pattern then repeats itself throughout the history of humanity, but on a theological and historical level it reached a climax at Mt. Sinai. There the people grew impatient with Moses and created a new god, or a new embodiment of God for themselves. Another option is that “a calf or bull was among the most important of the Egyptian animal images that represented Egypt’s gods,” [11] specifically Ptah. God subsequently judged the people for these actions of rejection and Moses destroyed the original commandments, and this is where most people stop with the story. However, Deuteronomy 29:3 states “But to this day the Lord has not given you a mind that understands or eyes that see or ears that hear” (ESV). Through their idolatry and spiritual stubbornness God had allowed Israel to resemble what they truly worshiped, and it left them spiritually blind. “Just as idols had eyes but could not see and ears but could not hear, so Isa. 6:9–10 describes apostate Israelites likewise to indicate figuratively that what they revered they had come to resemble.”[12]

This episode of the golden calf Beale points out is the origin of the language of Israel being “stiff-necked” like a wild young ox, language which repeats itself throughout the Old Testament. “To understand this is also to understand the way idols subverted Israel’s security. YHWH was the sworn protector of Israel. As he had made them, so he would be with them.”[13] Yet despite all of this the Northern Tribes still erected their own golden calves in defiance of Jerusalem and the people continued following these and other gods until the exile. The judgment they faced from the Assyrians and the Babylonians becomes more understandable as God was treating the people as he would treat their idols. Especially when we consider places such as Isaiah 9 where “idolaters are compared to cultic trees and their judgement is suitably depicted as cultic trees being burned.”[14]

How Does Idolatry Warp the Image of God?

We have seen how “all idolatry is human rejection of the Goodness of God and the finality of God’s moral authority,”[15] yet this corruption goes far deeper into the core of humanity. It could be argued that idolatry obscures the image of God within people, as it directs our love and attention away from God our true source and forces us to take in counterfeit life from another. Beale elaborates this point as to how, “Those who are not ‘loving God’ and consequently, not being ‘conformed to the image of God’s Son’ are loving some other earthly object of worship and, consequently, being conformed to that earthly image.”[16]

Humanity’s Nature and Purpose

One of the great tragedies of idolatry is that it goes counter to the purpose of God creating humanity, that is to be an image or a physical representation of God within the Earth. In this twisting of nature the ones who are in the image of God have instead chosen to reject that assignment and worship other creatures. When humans sinned they chose “not to conform their life to God’s image but to the image of the serpent’s sinful and deceptive character.”[17] A decision we continue to live with today as while the image of God is innate in all people it is visible in only a few who are willing to forsake their idols and reclaim their position as imagers of God through Christ. These are those who work towards “the penultimate goal of the Creator was to make creation a liveable place for humans in order that they would achieve the grand aim of glorifying him.”[18]

Idolatry Changes our Source

In the story of the fall “There also seems to be an element of self-worship in that Adam decided that he knew what was better for him than God did, that he wanted to advance himself at all costs, and that he trusted in himself, a created man, instead of in the Creator.”[19] Adam changed the source of his life and ideology in exchange for a forbidden wisdom that he desired so he could be like God. A great lie for Adam since he was already in the image of God, meaning he already was to a degree like God. Therefore, Adam’s source changed from life to death, he exchanged God’s glory for entropy and futility and from this place the meaning and mind of humanity began to drift. We could look at this change as if humanity had altered its operating system or even replaced it, such as replacing Windows with iOS. However, humanity was not compatible with that change of source and operating system so it sought to either find new gods for themselves or to submit to other spiritual forces who were determined to make humans suffer despite promises of health, wealth and joy. No longer did humans look to God for fulfillment but instead turned to other sources for happiness and security. This is the lesson of Adam who “stopped being committed to God and reflecting his image, he revered something else in place of God and resembled his new object of worship. Thus, at the heart of Adam’s sin was idolatry.”[20]

Idolatry in our Contemporary Age

From the lessons of ancient Israel who trusted in idols such as the golden calves, Baal and Asherah more than God we move on to our more “civilized” age where we claim to no longer follow these idols. When in actuality our gods of wood, stone and metal have been replaced by the gods of Self, Money, Ideology and Tradition.

A Culture of Self-Idolatry

The culture of the western world in the past hundred years has been marked by the desire of the individual to rise up above something, anything, in attempt to find meaning and understanding in this world. From this has come consumerism and rationalism which leads people into thinking that their purpose is to take in resources and trust that their finances will grow by 2-5% every year so they can continue the process of consumption. It is a mindset which places us as gods over ourselves as “we know best,” or that we “trust our gut” as the paragon of intuition and guidance.  Leaving people unaware that “the fundamental idolatry described by the Bible lies also at the heart of the varied modern idolatries: the idolatry of the self. The self is set at the center of existence as a god: ultimate significance is found in god-like individual autonomy, self-set goals and boundaries.”[21] Beale highlights this idea in saying, “modern people devote themselves to ‘self’ by taking every expedient in order to insure the welfare of their “self,” ultimately without concern for others or for God.”[22]

We worship the self by indulging in its appetites and through the quest of happiness and fulfillment through the resources of creation. “Consequently, if we try to make ourselves great, then we are actually reflecting our own egos in a greater and greater way.”[23] This is the trap of setting ourselves above God in our own eyes or by rejecting God because he won’t let us have what we want (whether it is a matter of sin or not). When this is done a person might as well bow down to a statue of themselves, or even before a mirror. No matter how hard we try, “Desiring to reflect the idol of ourselves and making ourselves larger can only lead to becoming small, because of judgment.”[24]

A Culture of Financial Idolatry

Beyond the culture of self-idolatry Beale tackles next the issue of financial idolatry which is more than worshipping money in itself but through placing trust, lust and dependency upon the entire system of greed. Beale points out how “The worship of idols likely often involves not only the usurpation of divine prerogatives but self-worship, since people would worship various gods in the ancient world in order to ensure their own physical, economic and spiritual welfare.”[25] This is an issue pointed out in the letters to the seven churches in Revelation as many of the charges against places such as Thyatira concerned their allegiance to trade guilds which participated in pagan practices and idolatry. Even Israel sought security from idols such as Baal the storm god and bringer of rain along with other gods who promised fertility and blessings.

The blunt fact is “greed is idolatry because the greedy contravene God’s exclusive rights to human love, trust and obedience.”[26] It is a religious devotion to acquisition which inevitably forces the worshipper to do so at any cost to themselves but especially to others. This is done in the name of security or “protecting my family” or keeping “investors happy.” These people place “their ultimate security in the excessive trappings of their money, jewels, beautiful clothes, cars, and houses; they place their trust in financial security, which is idolatry, and they literally begin to take on the appearance of the wealth in which they have trusted.”[27] Paul in Colossians 3:5 confirms the idea that greed in itself can be seen as idolatry, not that business or providing for a family is evil, but it is when your life is dictated by those pursuits.

A Culture of Ideological Idolatry

A subject that deserves mentioning but Beale does not touch on is the idea of ideology as being a form of idolatry. Recent examples such as the social justice warrior movement, Black Lives Matter, Antifa, MAGA and a host of other battlelines drawn between liberals and conservatives all invoke a religious and idolatrous connotation. If religious ideology can be a form of idolatry it could be argued that the same can be said about social or political idolatries. Especially in this highly charged and polarized society where in many cases social acceptance is tied to total allegiance to certain ideologies which have become idols in themselves.

In speaking about Proverbs 14:12 Beale comments “The idolaters thought the idols would bring greater life and prosperity, but they would only inherit death and emptiness, which is to become like the spiritually dead and empty idols.” This same sentiment can and should be applied today to various ideologies as people commit to these beliefs out of hope (or fear) that they will bring about health, wealth and security. Often this is “achieved” through the powers of indoctrination, destruction and fear. Therefore, when we trust in ideologies or in “false teaching, which is a false substitute for truth, then we are guilty of idol worship. The church must guard itself from venerating false theology as a substitute for the true.”[28]

A Culture of Christian Idolatry

Perhaps most controversial of all of these modern forms of idolatry is the amalgamation of these idolatries into the operation and expectation of the modern church. One that in the eyes of some is only concerned with growth, finances, collecting people and appealing to people’s base desire for self-fulfillment or uncritiqued worship of self. These matters have been matched by critiques of the church such as “Too many churches of today are market-driven, attempting to meet the need of their consumers’ desires for idolatrous self-fulfillment… Much of the Church today, especially that part of it which is evangelical, is in captivity to this idolatry of the self.”[29] On the surface the church can see itself as the dwelling place of God but at the same time be indistinguishable from its surrounding culture. All the while claiming spiritual superiority given its status as the house of God, a claim made by earlier Israelites which was met with judgment from God.

Even the likes of Eugene Peterson spoke out against this alteration of the heart of the church and how it has strayed from its true devotion:

Do we realize how almost exactly the Baal culture of Canaan is reproduced in American church culture? Baal religion is about what makes you feel good. Baal worship is a total immersion in what I can get out of it. And of course, it was incredibly successful. The Baal priests could gather crowds that outnumbered followers of Yahweh 20 to 1.[30]

In many ways then the church itself has adopted an idolatry of growth, financial security, along with an aversion to tackle ideological idolatries of the day and in enabling the continued idolatry of the “self” by many in the congregation.

Restoring the Image of God

Trying to find restoration or relief without first letting go of idols is a fruitless endeavor because “One’s only hope in being delivered from reflecting the spiritually lifeless images of the world is to be recreated or reformed by God into an image that reflects God’s living image, which results in spiritual life.”[31] Any attempt to do otherwise only ends up in people trading one idol(s) for another which may draw them even deeper into the proverbial darkness. Stanley Grenz points out that “according to Paul, the divine glory is precisely what fallen humanity has failed to attain, for sinful humans have refused to glorify God,”[32] therefore the cure to idolatry should be found in glorifying God and more specifically through worshipping and following Christ.

Beale postulates “that the image of God’s son to which Christians are becoming conformed in Rom. 8 is the antithesis to the worldly “image” that unbelieving humanity had exchanged in place of God’s glory in Rom. 1.”[33] Christ as God and man presents us with a new source of being and gives us a path out of the darkness of idolatry, if we are willing to follow him fully. In many ways this offer of cleansing and redirection is even greater than what transpired in Isaiah 6 when the prophet saw the glory of God and received cleansing in exchange for service. For those in Christ the image of God is able to once again reflect the glory and purpose of God as people have the option to no longer trust in themselves or creation but have access to God and his provision and guidance once again.

All of this boils down to whether or not a person will reject their idols and recognize God as being the only true God and source for humanity. Beale points out that when “we love God, and in the process of loving him, we become what God wants us to become. Loving God, paradoxically, is the best expression of self-love, for in loving God we are truly happy.”[34]

Conclusion

Through Beale’s book We Become What We Worship and many of his other works he presents the idea that what people worship they will become. This includes becoming spiritually blind, deaf and dumb as their physical idols and being labeled for judgment for rejecting God as God. This applied not only to Israel in the past but continues today as people worship the idols of self, finances (greed), ideology and even church practices. However, there is a remedy for this corruption of the heart which leads to idolatry. Though Christ people are able to receive cleansing and forgiveness by which they are able to recognize God as God with a clear mind. This then presents a choice to people of, what do they want to become? They in turn answer this by determining what they will place their trust in as they seek for security, blessing and peace. Beale leaves us with the sobering challenge of “whatever work Christians do, they should pray, ‘Lord, cause me to take pleasure in your glory and not in mine.’”[35]


[1] G.K. Beale, We Become What We Worship: A Biblical Theology of Idolatry (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2008), 16.

[2] Brian S. Rosner, “The Concept of Idolatry,” Themelios 24, no. 3 (1999): 21.

[3][3] A. Motyer, “Idolatry,” in The Illustrated Bible Dictionary, ed. J. D. Douglas (Leicester U.K.: Inter Varsity Press, 1980), 2:680.

[4] Beale, Worship, 307.

[5] Beale, Worship, 166.

[6] Beale, Worship, 17.

[7] Beale, Worship, 155.

[8] Beale, Worship, 154.

[9] John N. Day, “Ezekiel and the Heart of Idolatry,” Bibliotheca Sacra 164 (2007): 28.

[10] Beale, Worship, 133.

[11] “Calf” in Dictionary of Deities and Demons in the Bible, ed. Karel van der Toorn, Bob Becking, and Peter W. van der Horst (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans 1999), p. 181

[12] G. K. Beale, The Book of Revelation: A Commentary on the Greek Text, New International Greek Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI; Carlisle, Cumbria: W.B. Eerdmans; Paternoster Press, 1999), 239.

[13] Richard Lints, Identity and Idolatry. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2015. 81.

[14] G. K. Beale, “Isaiah VI 9-13: A Retributive Taunt against Idolatry.” Vetus Testamentum 41, no. 3 (1991): 278.

[15] C. J. H. Wright, The Mission of God (Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 2006), 164.

[16] G. K. Beale, A New Testament Biblical Theology: The Unfolding of the Old Testament in the New (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2011), 376.

[17] G. K. Beale, Redemptive Reversals and the Ironic Overturning of Human Wisdom, ed. Dane C. Ortlund and Miles V. Van Pelt, Short Studies in Biblical Theology (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2019), 54.

[18] G. K. Beale, The Temple and the Church’s Mission: A Biblical Theology of the Dwelling Place of God, ed. D. A. Carson, vol. 17, New Studies in Biblical Theology (Downers Grove, IL; England: InterVarsity Press; Apollos, 2004), 82.

[19] Beale, Worship, 134.

[20] G. K. Beale, A New Testament Biblical Theology: The Unfolding of the Old Testament in the New (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2011), 358.

[21] Iain Provan, “To Highlight All Our Idols: Worshipping God in Nietzsche’s World,” Ex Auditu 15 (1999): 33.

[22] Beale, Worship, 138.

[23] Beale, Worship, 297.

[24] Beale, Worship, 140.

[25] Beale, Worship, 138.

[26] B. S. Rosner, “Idolatry,” in New Dictionary of Biblical Theology, ed. T. Desmond Alexander and Brian S. Rosner, electronic ed. (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2000), 575.

[27] G. K. Beale, Redemptive Reversals and the Ironic Overturning of Human Wisdom, ed. Dane C. Ortlund and Miles V. Van Pelt, Short Studies in Biblical Theology (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2019), 65.

[28] Beale, Worship, 285.

[29] David F. Wells, Losing Our Virtue (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1998), p. 202-3.

[30] Eugene Peterson, “Spirituality for All the Wrong Reasons,” Christianity Today, March 2005, p. 45.

[31] Beale, Worship, 279.

[32] Stanley Grenz, The Social God and the Relational Self: A Trinitarian Theology of the Imago Dei (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2001), 232.

[33] G. K. Beale, A New Testament Biblical Theology: The Unfolding of the Old Testament in the New (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2011), 376.

[34] Beale, Worship, 298.

[35] Beale, Worship, 310.

 
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Understanding The Glory Of God

Understanding The Glory Of God
Go even deeper with the podcast of this message

Glory to God! This is something that most Christians have heard at one point, maybe in a song, or while someone was preaching or even while reading the Bible. But what does it mean, what is glory, what does it have to do with God and how to we give glory to Him?

Depending on which branch of Christianity you are apart of you may be familiar with pictures of God’s glory being anything from the sick being healed to people singing and dancing, to a magnificent cathedral decked out in gold or fine art or it could be a picture of a person coming to know Jesus. While there may be some traces here and there of God’s true glory in these pictures it is far from an accurate picture of what God’s glory actually is.

What Is Glory

Usually when we look at the concept of glory outside of the church we usually see pictures of grandness or power. The old phrase “for the glory of Rome” comes to mind which spoke of Rome’s power, dominance, authority, expansion and control of the people so that the state itself would grow and continue to consume. Or we see in sports where glory is seen as the afterglow which comes from a mighty victory where the champion(s) are exalted and recognized for years because of their accomplishments.

What these interpretations of glory have in common is that they are fleeting, based on works and are easily erased by others who come later. No longer is Rome the master of the Mediterranean but is the capital of a struggling nation a fraction the size the empire once was. Those who attained glory through sports are replaced by new champions and they become a fading memory or a statistic quoted by a color commentator on occasion.

When it comes to God’s glory we are dealing with something which is eternal, powerful and unstoppable.

When it comes to God’s glory we are dealing with something which is eternal, powerful and unstoppable. In the scriptures we see that God’s glory is spoken of constantly in places such as Psalms 24:7-10, 29:3, Exodus 33:18-23 and Isaiah 40:5. The glory of God at its core is the manifestation of God’s power and presence throughout creation (both natural and spiritual) it is the sonic boom that ripples through the air when God speaks. We see this in Exodus 24:16 when God’s presence came down upon Mt. Sinai, it came with clouds, thundering, smoke at a great billowing voice that terrified the people.

This same presence came again during the dedication of the temple in 2 Chronicles 7:1-3, where the power and presence of God was so overwhelming that the priests couldn’t even go into the temple. The glory of God is power, transcendence and holiness in full display for people to recognize, it is the wave which rises from the sea to crash upon the shore. The water is always there but at certain times the waves rise up for all to see and come crashing upon the shore. At times the waves are so great that they sweep inland and cause great destruction because the structures created by men and women cannot resist the force of the water that rose up out of the sea and entered their domain.

The glory of God is power, transcendence and holiness in full display for people to recognize, it is the wave which rises from the sea to crash upon the shore.

So it is with God’s glory at different points throughout history God has risen up and released His presence upon the world of men and women. At times He has swept away the structures made out of pride or ignorance, other times He comes to bring much needed water the barren fields and still other times the water has come to renew, restore and heal the people. At its core the glory of God is His nature, power, dominion, love, holiness, justice and will released into creation.

Living In The Shadow Of God’s Glory

We understand Heaven as the place where God’s presence and glory are able to shine without any hinderance , but if that were to happen here on earth nothing would survive. It would be like staring into the sun at high noon on a clear day, however this is possible when there is an eclipse. You see Jesus acts as a proverbial eclipse which allows the light of the sun to shine and allows us to gaze upon it. Jesus is that protection which allows us to behold God’s glory in a tangible way (rather than just an intellectual or theological way).

Now I’m not saying that the glory of God is absent from Jesus I am actually saying the exact opposite. The glory of God is just as strong in Jesus as it is in the Father, however through the atonement and covenant relationship we have been offered through Jesus we are able to behold that glory. Unlike Uzzah who died touching the presence of God on the Ark of the Covenant we are made alive by that same presence through the Holy Spirit within us.

At the mount of transfiguration in Luke 9:31 we see God’s glory radiating from Jesus, but it did not consume Peter, James or John but rather moved them to revere and worship Jesus because He is God. Jesus in Matthew 19:28 speaks of sitting on a throne of glory (or glorious throne in some translations), where He will rule over creation as God.

Notice that Jesus is not in competition with God because through the Trinity they are both equal (Hebrews 1:3). Just look at what it says in 1 Peter 4:7-11 and focus on what it says in verse 11 “that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belong the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen.” We see this idea of one brining glory to the other go the opposite way in John 11:4 where Jesus was to receive the glory for the resurrection of Lazarus.

What Does It Mean To Bring Glory to God?

If God’s glory has to do with his power, nature, holiness, dominion and will then how can we bring glory to God. How can we give Him what He already has in abundance (it’s actually limitless)? To understand this we have to go back to the original Hebrew and Greek. The word translated into glory was also translated into several other English words. In Hebrew that one word is translated into English as beauty, splendor, fame, honor, admire, magnificence, weight, power, majesty, heaviness, and importance. While the Greek word doxa is translated in the New Testament into the words glory, boast, praise, honor and glorious.

Our ability to give glory to God is not tied up in us giving God more of His own presence but it has to do with us recognizing that power, presence, love, holiness, justice, dominion and will through us honoring and loving Him.

Our ability to give glory to God is not tied up in us giving God more of His own presence but it has to do with us recognizing that power, presence, love, holiness, justice, dominion and will through us honoring and loving Him. The two go together God moves in power, love, conviction and we move in gratitude, obedience, honor and love. Look at what Paul said in 2 Corinthians 3:15-18


15 Yes, to this day whenever Moses is read a veil lies over their hearts. 16 But when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed. 17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18 And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.” (NKJV)


Through Jesus we are able to witness and partake in the glory of God being poured out into the world. No longer do we hide our face from the sun but now through the atonement and the protection of Jesus we can look upon God and what He is doing through the spreading of the gospel, the expansion of the Kingdom and the working of miracles. Rather than being burned up by the light and power of God that shadow cast by Christ allows the glory and nature of God to transform us, it strips away the filth of the world but does not destroy us, so how can we help but to worship, honor, thank and proclaim God.

We can now see a clear progression of glory which looks like this:

God > Jesus > Believers > Jesus > God

Does that progression seem strange? What did Jesus say in John 17:20-23? In verses 22-23 Jesus said “The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.” God moves through Jesus and his adopted brothers and sisters to unleash upon the world the words and power of God so that the world will be able to witness the truth and presence of God.

The works of Jesus done through believers brings glory to God by testifying of his goodness and power towards other people so they can accept and believe the gospel so they to can be part of the same relationship we have with God so others can be delivered through the gospel

We should look at ourselves as being living and breathing representations of the Ark of the Covenant. The ark was the symbol of God’s presence among Israel and it housed God’s words, a testimony to His power (Aarons rod and the manna) and it was infused with God’s presence and glory. All of those facets live inside of us so we to must see ourselves as being like the ark instead of just and average Christian who may or may not have a prayer answered and just hopes for a quiet life where no one is disturbed.

How Do We Hinder God’s Glory?

Our ability to limit the expression of God’s glory upon the earth and our ability to glorify God is tied directly to our ability to sin. When we sin it is like building a dam to hold back a mighty river, our actions attempt to throttle the power and presence of God being released into the Earth. When we rebel, or disobey, or ignore what God has called us to do He lifts His glory off of us until we come to a place of repentance.

When we are in sin we cannot honor God because our actions show that we honor ourselves and our own desires more that God. When we sin we are declaring to the world that God is weak and powerless because despite our claims we still live and do as we please without fear of reprisal or correction. When we sin we no longer look at the sun through the eclipse of Christ but rather bury our heads in the dirt and end up like those Paul spoke of in Romans 1:21-23.

When we sin it is like building a dam to hold back a mighty river, our actions attempt to throttle the power and presence of God being released into the Earth.

Is this any different than what happened to Israel, they failed to see the Ark of God as the symbol of God’s glory and presence among them and instead treated it like a good luck charm. Eventually this logic led to the Ark being captured by the Philistines (1 Samuel 4). Then later on in the days of Jeremiah the people used the presence of God in the Ark at Jerusalem to excuse them of how they were living in idolatry and sin. It is ironic then that after the destruction of Jerusalem by Babylon that the Ark disappeared never to be seen again.

If the glory and presence of God in your life can be compared to a crown then sin can be seen as you lifting that crown off of your head. However through the forgiveness and atonement made available to us through Jesus He comes and places that crown back on our heads, at which point we honor and thank Him for that forgiveness. That is how we glorify God by publicly showing love, honor, thanksgiving and testimony of what He has done to us to the world around us.

We now see how the glory of God is His love, power, holiness, dominion, justice, mercy, and will released into the world like and unstoppable wave. We also see how we are to respond to that pouring out but honoring, thanking and proclaiming to others what God has done to us. Therefore, don’t wait any longer and go out and proclaim what those in heaven declared in Revelation.


Revelation 5:11-13 “11 Then I looked, and I heard around the throne and the living creatures and the elders the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, 12 saying with a loud voice, “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!” 13 And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying,  “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!” (NKJV)


 

 

Creative Commons LicenseUnderstanding The Glory Of God Cameron Conway is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

 

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Living Under Judgment and Loving It

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At one point or another you’ve probably heard a Christian talk about God’s judgment falling on some person, place, organization, or even on yourself. Biblically it is the great equalizer that reminds us that one day we are all to stand before God for our celestial hearing (Revelation 20:11-15) before we either enter Heaven or eternal punishment. But this idea has been abused and misunderstood to the point that people inside and outside of the church have become numb to the concept of God’s judgment, or they even believe that it vanished after the cross.

What gets lost in our understanding of Scripture is that God is not just storing up all of His judgments for the last day like some vindictive squirrel, but He is watching and judging the world, the church and ourselves constantly. A fact that many people no longer accept thanks to overzealous doom and gloomers. In Micaiah’s encounter in 1 Kings 22 he shows us God’s judgments in action. Here the prophet witnesses God passing judgment on the kings of Israel and Judah by relaying a scene from the heavenly courtroom of the eternal King who made judgment against them, and sent out someone to enact it.

God is not just storing up all of His judgments for the last day like some vindictive squirrel.

Far too often we become fatalistic with the concept of judgment when it comes to God but at the same time our everyday lives paint a different story. From what I can tell by the primetime TV schedule it seems that a lot of people have a love of reality TV shows featuring performers and Judges. I’m not exempt as even my wife and I watch America’s Got Talent. There the judges are an intricate part of the show as they act as coaches and gatekeepers of the talent.

Without them anyone could make it onto the show and the ones who are actually talented and could win may be blocked out by the sheer number of people. Without these judges it would better resemble the Gong Show than a talent competition. The judges are there in that show to (for the most part) separate those who are talented from those who just think they are. That is the first judgment, the second judgment comes when trying to encourage those who have talent to improve themselves so they can survive in such a competitive arena.

At times in these shows they will mock and ridicule the contestants but in the finale you always see the ones who took their criticisms seriously and consistently bettered themselves and their craft throughout the process. It was less of a process of condemnation and expulsion and more of a refining process which was brought about through the challenges set before them.

Perhaps this is how we should be looking at God’s judgment in our own lives. Going forward I want to you only look at yourself and your own situation. Don’t think about how so and so needs to read this, or I wish _______ would get a hold of this. No, first of all you must apply this to yourself rather than running out as some sort of Divine Justice Warrior imposing your pet peeves upon others and calling it holiness.

Spared From The Great Judgment But Awaiting Debriefing

Facing judgment while we are part of this world should be seen as process of refinement and not condemnation. How we respond to God’s judgments and critiques of our life today will determine our final judgment. It is like someone staring at their phone while walking, they keep their heads down and keep scrolling but with each step they get closer to the edge of a pier. People may try to yell at the person to “watch where they are going” or God could speak to their heart and say “look up” or even “look up, or else!”

If the person doesn’t look up they’ll eventually fall off of the pier and might even blame God or others for what happened. This is how God’s continual judgments of our lives work, we set upon a course that could lead in destruction, ruin, pain, frustration or vanity and He tries to correct us before we plummet down our own proverbial pier (whether you land on the ground or in the water varies). God has a higher perspective than we do and uses that vantage point to judge, correct, direct and counsel us.

How we respond to God’s judgments and critiques of our life today will determine our final judgment.

At the same time God is not just looking to provide course corrections but He is looking to correct the issues in our heart as well. The personal excuses we come up with for different behaviors or even the ideas of “that’s good enough” does not equal a job “well done” in the eyes of Jesus. God through Jesus uses His judgment which comes from a place of love and mercy to refine us as individuals into the image and shape of Jesus (working this process through a church is usually done in conjunction with the five-fold ministry).

Jesus was not quick to condemn but spoke out in immediate judgment so that they would be spared future judgment and condemnation.

We see this process of judgment and refinement in action with Jesus’s words to the seven churches in Revelation chapters two and three. Here Jesus tells these groups of believers the good, the bad and the ugly of how He sees them operate. Jesus was not quick to condemn but spoke out in immediate judgment so that they would be spared future judgment and condemnation. Here Jesus was speaking out of love to preserve these parts of His body, He wasn’t looking for an excuse to amputate them. Jesus was looking to restore them and to purge them of any evil influences and the barnacles of the world and its ways.

When we talk about the Judgment of God it is something so much higher and powerful than anything we could see on a reality TV show. It has to do with our eventual debriefing of our natural life on Earth. I’m not talking here about the judgment which separates those in Covenant with God from those outside of it. I want to talk about the second judgment which falls upon us who have received and follow Christ.

2 Corinthians 5:9-11 “9 Therefore we make it our aim, whether present or absent, to be well pleasing to Him. 10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad. 11 Knowing, therefore, the terror of the Lord, we persuade men; but we are well known to God, and I also trust are well known in your consciences.” (NKJV)

John 5:22 and 9:39 paints for us a picture of how Jesus came into this world as not just at simple lamb but also as the eternal King and Judge of the universe. We see that God’s judgments flow through Jesus and that Jesus is testing the hearts of the people to see who will actually recognize and follow Him. From that point on those who do recognize and receive Jesus are not excused from any further judgment but rather begin to live a life filled with the encouragement, judgment and refinement of God to make us into what we were originally created to be.

Paul in 2 Corinthians 5:14-15 shows us how our lives which have been redeemed through Christ are no longer dictated by our own desires, but they are to be directed by Jesus. Given all that Jesus has done for us it is a very reasonable request. It would be no different that if a person was rescued from a nomadic lifestyle where they lived outdoors without shelter and was suddenly transported to the most expensive penthouse in Vancouver. They would have to undergo a process of change and adaptation to match their new living environment. The nomad couldn’t set rabbit traps by the bus stop, go to the bathroom in a hole he dug in the boulevard, have a campfire in the living room and so on. The same picture can be applied to a day care worker, they could not get away with acting like a four-year-old for eight hours a day and keep their job. They are working among the children, but they are not acting like a child while they are working.

Heaven is not the absence of consequences, it is the ultimate consequence and what we do here and now lives forever there.

We must understand that Heaven is not the absence of consequences, it is the ultimate consequence and what we do here and now lives forever there. This is what is meant by a heavenly debriefing that we are to give account for what we did in this world, and that includes given an account as to why we did not listen to God when He spoke to us about a great many things. It is one thing to say that you made an honest uninformed mistake it is another thing to say you willingly made a mistake even though you were warned that doing it was a mistake. I fear many people will be facing that judgment more than the former.

Growing Through Sanctification

Eventually God will ask you the question “How did you live your life?” This begs us to ask ourselves right now questions such as: “How have I contributed to the work of the Great Commission?” “Have I been forgiving and loving?” “Am I a living witness of Christ to others?” “What have I done to build and strengthen the kingdom?” “Am I a benefit or a hinderance to the Holy Spirit’s work here on Earth?” “Do I tolerate habitually sin in my life?” “Am I judgmental, prideful or selfish?” “Do I obey God am I too busy to pay attention or follow through on what I heard?

To be able to answer these questions positively we each need to go through the process of sanctification, the process of God reforming us into Jesus’s image. When we become a believer in Jesus the Bible says that we are reborn, we are made into a new creature (2 Corinthians 5:17-19), we have been changed from death to life, and so on. Accepting Jesus as who the Bible says He is comes at a cost, a high cost – it costs you your life.

Much like how a caterpillar goes through the process of transformation from something that crawls around into something that can fly, so to have we been transformed by the cross and the resurrection. The process of sanctification can be seen as our battle to break out of the cocoon of grace God places us in after we receive Christ. It is that struggle to once and for all cast off the way our life used to look because once it has been shaken off you are able to fly.

By accepting God’s various judgments about our life, thoughts, actions and intentions we are being helped in our process of sanctification. In reality, by listening to God we are able to avoid greater judgment through our commitment to sanctification. This is why we have to continually ask God to refine ourselves and to point out what needs to change or improve in lives. The best place to look for advice on how to grow in sanctification and avoid judgment is to look at the life of Jesus. He is our example and the root of our identity, everything God tells us to do and think comes from how Jesus acts and thinks.

The Three Main Areas of Judgment

In the process of sanctification we need to continually look at the three areas I believe God is most concerned about judging and refining us in the most: our thought life, our interpersonal life, and our Kingdom life.

1) Our thought life has to do with everything that goes on inside of us, what we think, feel, desire, believe and so on. It the part of our lives which is hidden from others but not from God (Hebrews 4:12) and we are promised (Romans 2:16) that God will judge this inner life within us. This is the part of our being which Jesus said is the source of evil thoughts and actions (Matthew 15:19, Acts 8:22), and it is the battlefield of the “War Within Our Heart.”

Just because no one can see or hear our thoughts does not mean that we are not guilty of displeasing God.

Just because no one can see or hear our thoughts does not mean that we are not guilty of displeasing God. Jesus said that lust was equal with adultery and that hatred was equal with murder (Matthew 5:22, 28). This internal part of our life is where fear, pride, selfishness and unforgiveness dwell. However, when we allow God to judge us and lead us through the process of sanctification and Christlikeness those wicked traits are replaced by faith, hope, love, forgiveness and the rest of the “fruits of the spirit” (Galatians 5:22-26).

2) Our interpersonal life has to do with how we live and interact with our family, friends, coworkers, church members, strangers and so on. In these cases we are judged in how we treat others, how our thought life becomes a reality, what we value in people and whether or not we walk in love (I don’t mean as a push over but actually caring for people). Matthew 5:22 and James 5:9 speak warnings about how we are to conduct ourselves with others, in that we are to avoid hatred, judgmentalism and baseless complaining (Matthew 12:33-37). God will judge our actions according to our heart’s intentions (Romans 14:12-13). Even if we do a “good deed” for a person it will be disqualified if our intentions were not pure, such as helping someone today to take advantage of them tomorrow.

The lack of sanctification and welcoming of God’s judgment in our lives is what produces most of the strife and interpersonal issues in the church. Why would a person want to go to a church if they just see the people acting as cold, political, argumentative as the secular world? The issue is the many Christians are unwilling to allow the renewing of the Holy Spirit to happen in their hearts because they either believe the they don’t need to, they already know everything, or they use grace as an excuse to act however they please. Grace is not a crutch to excuse our old nature, it is a new leg for us to stand on (Revelation 21:7-8).

Grace is not a crutch to excuse our old nature, it is a new leg for us to stand on

3) Our Kingdom life has to do with whether or not we did our part to contribute to the Great Commission. I’m not talking about everyone joining the ministry, but each individual has a responsibility to share the gospel, disciple other believers and to move in the spiritual gifts God has given to them. This is the parables of the Talents and Minas in action whereby God asks us what we have done with the gifts, talents, and opportunities He has given us to proclaim Christ and bring glory to Himself. Paul called us ambassadors (2 Corinthians 5:20-21) not spectators, we are representatives of the King in a foreign land and it is our duty to share the culture and power of Heaven in this world. Our Kingdom life also must deal with matters such as worship, reading and studying the scriptures, prayer, intercession and other matters. God created us for relationship, and Jesus became a sacrifice to restore that relationship. Our Kingdom life is not just proclaiming the Gospel but it is also our living relationship with God. Everyday God is looking for us to spend time with Him as a loving Father and His judgments are not out of anger or malice but to help us in bringing others into the same relationship that we have.

Kingdom life is not just proclaiming the Gospel but it is also our living relationship with God.

All of this is a progression from what our heart thinks, to what our body does, then all the way up to how we will use those two facets of our being to proclaim the gospel, so others can be freed from eternal judgment.

Stanley’s Cup

What would happen if we took on a worldview that said everything is awesome and perfect all of the time and you never need to improve? What would your life look like? What would the church look like? This is a life without sanctification or the concern of judgment, it is what happens when we erase these parts of God’s nature and expectations of us.

Let me put it this way, this way of life is like a hockey coach who has accepted a philosophy that no one needs to improve because everyone is already the best version of themselves that they can be. As long as they can express themselves and their desire to play that is all that matters. The coach then goes about placing the intentions of the players above their physical performance, it’s the “as long as you tried” approach which allows people to avoid having to work and improve.

Now imagine if there was this mentality where you had a bunch of people who had never played hockey before and were allowed to think that they were the greatest and there was no reason to improve because they expressed the very best they thought they could do. Then somehow you place that team up against one from the NHL. What would happen? They would be crushed and defeated to the point where they would never want to play again.

Hope In Judgment

This is a ridiculous example but it paints a picture of what it is like when we reject sanctification and God’s judgment on our lives. We never progress spiritually, and we end up like the congregation which the book of Hebrews was written to, one that was dependant on milk and unable to eat the spiritual meat of the Bible. We need to seriously take 1 Corinthians 11:31-32 to heart: 31 For if we would judge ourselves, we would not be judged. 32 But when we are judged, we are chastened by the Lord, that we may not be condemned with the world.” (NKJV)

For us as believers judgment does not have to be about condemnation or punishment but it can be about refinement and becoming more like Jesus so we can be a better witness in this world. However, when we ignore God there are consequences for rejecting His warnings of judgment and His calls for sanctification. We can see the consequences clearly throughout the New Testament in place such as 1 John 3:36, Acts 5:1-16, Acts 13:8-11, 1 Corinthians 5:1-13, 1 Timothy 1:20 and so on.

We need to lay hold of what Paul has said:

2 Corinthians 7:9-10 “9 Now I rejoice, not that you were made sorry, but that your sorrow led to repentance. For you were made sorry in a godly manner, that you might suffer loss from us in nothing. 10 For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death.”

God does not bring to His children warning, correction or judgment for the sole purpose of hurting or condemning us, He does it so we avoid condemnation, the consequences of sin, the judgment of Himself and others. God does not want to bury us in depression but instead wants to set us free, but this only happens when we are willing to confront the issues God brings into the light. Repentance leads to sanctification and sanctification helps us avoid any negative judgment by God, and it strengthens our witness to this world.

Now what will you do? What has God been speaking to you that needs refinement? What do you need to change or improve? What will you do?

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The Secret Name of Jesus Christ

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As Christians we declare that we follow the one and only true Son of God called Jesus Christ.  We believe that He came from Heaven through a virgin birth, lived in Judea two thousand years ago, performed miracles, was crucified and resurrected from the dead so we can be part of the New Covenant and receive atonement. Everyday thousands of people utter the name of Jesus, some in prayer, others in worship, while others use the name to display frustration.

We open our Bibles and see the name Jesus, we go to church and (hopefully) hear the name Jesus being spoken from the front. We assume that everyone over the past two thousand years has called out to the name of Jesus Christ as well. Even back when He was walking the earth the crowds went out to hear the words of Jesus Christ and to witness His miracles, or did they?

The Secret No One Is Telling You

Today we just assume that because we call Him Jesus Christ that everyone else throughout history has as well. It is the belief that the way it is now is the way it has always been because we are always right and nothing really changes in the world. It’s like how people assume that places such as New York city, Istanbul, or France have always gone by those names. However, that’s not true; New York used to be called New Amsterdam, Istanbul was called Constantinople, and France was called Gaul. Be it because of changes to a language, invasions, or a differing of opinion names change over the decades and centuries.

Even if there aren’t the changes mentioned above, differences in language can change a simple name into a myriad of variations. Take Germany for example, that isn’t the nation’s actual name it’s the English version of it, in French it’s called Allemagne, while the Germans themselves refer to it as Deutschland. The same goes for nations in the Bible, what we call Egypt the ancient Jews called Mizraim, or that Tarshish is southern Spain and Yavan (Javan) is Greece.

Isn’t Jesus His one and only name and isn’t that what everyone called Him during His ministry, first name Jesus, last name Christ?

We see then that names may change over time but the things they identify remain the same, but what does this have to do with Jesus? Isn’t Jesus His one and only name and isn’t that what everyone called Him during His ministry, first name Jesus, last name Christ?  Have you ever questioned why Christ his last name, I don’t remember there being a Mary and Joseph Christ in the early pages of Luke, no there’s something missing here, something that’s been forgotten.

If Christ isn’t His last name then Jesus is still His first name right?  It may shock you to know that no one ever referred to Him as Jesus when He walked the earth.  In those days He was called by fellow Judeans “Yehoshua.” That name was the one given to Him when He was eight days old during His circumcision ceremony. It is the name Mary called Him by as a child, the name He was known by in the synagogue, and it was the name the apostles would have recognized Him by: Yehoshua from Nazareth the Messiah.

Lost In Translation

If Yehoshua is His name what does it mean? Yehoshua is interpreted from Hebrew/Aramaic as “Yahweh the Savior” or “Yahweh our deliverer.”  While the name Christ is the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew word Mashiach (Messiah), which literally means the anointed one and his anointing. To be anointed means to be covered and/or soaked by either oil or the Spirit of God, David being anointed by Samuel for example (1 Sam 16:12-13).  Therefore, when we casually say the name Jesus Christ we are literally saying “Yahweh our savior and deliverer from Nazareth (literal definition varies between “branch” and “guard”) the one covered with the Spirit of God.”

How then did we go all the way from His name being Yehoshua to Jesus? In Jesus’s time because of Roman (and earlier Ptolemaic Greek) rule it was customary to for Jews to have two names. They would have their Hebrew/Aramaic birth names and an alternate Greek name which was either a direct translation or something unique. Take Peter for example, with his multiple names, he was Simon (Shimon; to hear and one the twelve tribes) in Hebrew, Cephas (stone) in Aramaic and Petros (stone) in Greek. We see this with other disciples as well as Matthew who was called Mathaios (gift of God) in Greek and Levi (to be joined and one of the twelve tribes) in Hebrew and with Judas (not Iscariot) who was called Yehuda (praise and is one of the twelve tribes) in Hebrew and Thaddeus (courageous heart) in Greek and Aramaic.

The reason for these double names is that while the people of Judea would speak Aramaic or Hebrew at home and among themselves, while Greek was the primary political and business language in the Roman Empire. If you did any business in the Roman Empire outside of what we know today as Italy you did it in Greek.  Even in our day we see the same phenomenon with English (and to a growing extend with Mandarin), where people and businesses will learn English to access new markets and to grow in the global markets.

To the Jews Jesus was called Yehoshua and to the Greeks and Romans He was called Iesus.

Through all of these political and linguistic influences which Jesus’s home country was facing we see then that to the Jews Jesus was called Yehoshua and to the Greeks and Romans He was called Iesus.  At its core both translations of the name carry the same meaning just in different languages, but how did it become the Jesus we know today?

We already know that the Greek translation of Yehoshua was Iesus, when the name was translated into Latin (the language of the Romans) it remained the same. It wasn’t until centuries later after the fall of Rome when the Latin language fractured into Spanish, French and Italian that things started to change. When Iesus was translated into French the “I” was turned into a soft “J” and would be pronounce as Jeyzu., This was because of the German influences of the language, as in Germans all of the “Y” names in Hebrew were turned into “J” names, such as Yirmeyahu to Jeremiah (for reference is was Ieremias in Greek). Later as the English language developed as an amalgamation of Latin, French, German and other languages the soft “J” was turned into a stronger German type hard “G” type pronunciation leaving us with the Jesus we know and love today.

But this is where things begin to get very interesting, if we were to make a direct translation from Hebrew to English of the name Yehoshua would not be Jesus but Joshua.

It’s hard to accept I know, but even in older King James Versions of the New Testament we see in two instances where Joshua and Jesus are used interchangeably.  In these two verses the writer is clearly speaking of the Joshua who came after Moses.  Yet His name was translated as Jesus because of the Greek texts which read Iesus.

Acts 7:45 Which also our fathers that came after brought in with Jesus into the possession of the Gentiles, whom God drave out before the face of our fathers, unto the days of David; KJV

Hebrews 4:8 For if Jesus had given them rest, then would he not afterward have spoken of another day. KJV

The writer is clearly speaking of the Joshua who came after Moses.  Yet His name was translated as Jesus because of the Greek texts which read Iesus.

We even see this exact same translation in the Septuagint, the Greek version of the OT which was the most popular translation used in the time of Jesus. There it also translates the name of Joshua/Yehoshua into Iesous.

I guess that does it, I broke the church as we know it and we don’t worship the Son of God called Jesus, but the Son of God called Joshua. I guess its time to rewrite all of those popular worship songs. I can’t wait to start singing songs such as “Joshua Lover of My Soul,” “Joshua Freak,” “Just Give Me Joshua,” and “Turn Your Eyes Upon Joshua.” It also looks like anything from U2’s Joshua Tree album is now fair game for Sunday mornings, who knew? We can also use this knowledge to launch a hip new rebranding campaign; “are you hurting, and looking for purpose in life then come to the church of Joshua the Soaked and find love, peace and eternal life.”

Promised Land Parallels

With this new understanding about Jesus’s name being Joshua things begin to get very interesting. Jesus lived out His earthly ministry according to the prophecies and scriptures written about Him (1 Corinthians 15:4).  God planned all the way back at the beginning what Jesus would do on the earth and how He would use prophets and other writers to declare what was to come, even if the true measure of what they received were veiled to them and their readers at first.  We see this same kind of divine planning which went into the life of Joshua, as many of the things he did were prophecies and guideposts towards the the second Joshua that would later come. These two lives are in many ways direct parallels of each other.  Just as the coming Messiah was hidden in the Law given to Moses, His destiny was revealed through the life of Joshua.

Joshua’s name in Hebrew was originally Hoshea which means “a savior deliverer”, (Num 13:8) but later his name was changed to Yehoshua, no longer a “savior/deliverer” but “Yahweh the (is my) savior/deliverer.” This name change happened after he spied out the land of Canaan and came back along with Caleb with a good report (Numbers 14:6) and tried to motivate the people to go and take the Promised Land.  That day he was renamed Yehoshua, no longer to be a savior/deliverer in his own strength but a declaration that Yahweh is the savior/deliverer of the people. That name “Yahweh is the savior & deliverer” is exact the name given to the Christ/Messiah and it is a continuation of the name Immanuel “God with us”.  Just like Joshua, Jesus came after Moses (a picture of the Law) to lead the people into a Promised Land, Joshua was appointed to lead the people into the physical land of Canaan while Jesus came to bring us into our Heavenly Promised land.

That name “Yahweh is the savior & deliverer” is exact the name given to the Christ/Messiah and it is a continuation of the name Immanuel “God with us”.

The parallels don’t stop there:

-Joshua sat in Moses’ tent and watched as God and Moses talked (Ex 33:11); Jesus sits at the right hand of God in the heavenly tabernacle and talks with God directly.

-Joshua refused to worship the golden calf at Mt. Sinai (Ex 32:17); Jesus refused to worship Satan in the wilderness.

-Joshua called on the people after spying across the Jordan to go and fight the giants of the land (Num 14:6, 30); Jesus conquered the Devil and calls His followers to go reclaim souls from the enemy.

– Joshua waited three days before crossing the Jordan (Josh 1:10-11) into the Promised land; Jesus remained in the grave 3 days before ascending to glory.

-Joshua crossed the Jordan on dry land (Josh 3:1-17) through a miracle of the Spirit; while Jesus was baptized into it and the Spirit appeared as a divine witness.

-Joshua who unlike Moses (the giver of the law) led the people into the promised land (Num 26:65, 27:18-23, Deut 31:14-15); Jesus who fulfilled the law leads us into the promised land of forgiveness, righteousness and total relationship with God.

-Joshua after crossing the Jordan circumcised every man (Josh 5:1-7); Jesus after crossing from death to life has circumcised our hearts and has written His law upon it.

-Joshua led the armies of Israel to capture the Promised Land (Deut 31:1-8, Josh 1:2-3); Jesus leads the armies of heaven and the church to expand the kingdom on earth.

-Joshua who uttered a cry and the walls of Jericho fell (Josh 6:16-20); Jesus who made His cry on the cross and the veil of the temple was torn in two.

-Joshua spared the life of the harlot Rahab (Josh 6:25); Jesus spared the life of the woman caught in adultery.

-Joshua who prayed that the sun should not set until he had completed the battle (Josh 10:12); Jesus upon the cross brought darkness over the land until he had declared “it is finished”.

-Joshua and the people faced betrayal and defeat because of the greed of one man Achan (Josh 7:19-26): Jesus was betrayed because of the greed of one man Judas Iscariot

-Joshua made a covenant with the heathen Gibeonites to spare them from the Judgment of God on the land (Josh 9); Jesus made a New Covenant for both Jew and Gentiles to spare them from the eternal judgment of God.

-Joshua made a public display of the fallen kings he had defeated (Josh 8:29, 10:24-26); Paul says that Jesus made a public spectacle of the spiritual forces He has defeated (Col 2:15).

-Joshua commissioned the 12 tribes to continue the fight and claim their territory (Josh 23:3-5); Jesus commissioned the 12 apostles to preach the gospel to every people, tribe and nation so the Kingdom would be spread.

Of all of these parallels the most important one is that Joshua came after Moses to bring the people out of the wilderness and into the promised land.

There’s Something About That Name

Jesus, Iesus, Yehoshua, Isa, Jezu, Yesu, Hesus, Iosa, Ihu or how it appears in any other language how we pronounce His name is not the issue as long as we know the power behind it.  The name in itself isn’t a magic word, the power comes from His actions, sacrifice, resurrection and in who He is.  Our faith in who truly He is will move mountains not whether we use an I or a J, or if we pray in Greek, Aramaic or English.  His blood, authority and dominion go beyond simple words. At His name, His true name “Yahweh our Savior the One covered with the Spirit of God.” every knee will eventually bow.

The name in itself isn’t a magic word, the power comes from His actions, sacrifice, resurrection and in who He is.

Where do we go from here? Understanding Jesus’s true name should awaken you even further to the purpose of His coming to earth, that we can see the parallels and previews of the life of Joshua and see its fulfillment through Jesus. We are to take this knowledge and use it to take that next step in understanding who Jesus is and how our lives revolve around that truth. That true name of “Yahweh our Savior the One covered with the Spirit of God” should be what we think about whenever we say His name, or read about Him, or pray, or even try to understand what it looks like for us to follow Him.

Jesus didn’t just come to make us good moral people, He came to save us from sin and its eventually outcome of death and separation from God. Like Joshua He leads us into enemy territory to retake the land in the name of God’s kingdom, but now rather then using swords we use faith, prayer, testimony, good works, love, compassion, power and the fullness of the Holy Spirit to do so.

It also means that we today as Christians must look at the life of Joshua and the people he led and do all that we can so that we don’t end up like they did in the book of Judges. Those who claimed a relationship with God but looked and acted even worse than the Canaanites they allowed to remain in their land, or those who would worship God only when they felt that Baal had failed or ignored them.

The secret name of Jesus must be known to us so we see Him as He truly is, our savior, deliver and King. We must take this knowledge and spread it to all people in all places that “Yahweh our Savior the One covered with the Spirit of God” has come to set us free and to bring us into the Heavenly promised land. The Law, our good deeds, or even our hearts desires cannot carry us into the Promised Land only Jesus can.

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The Holy Spirit aka the Forgotten Part of God

The Holy Spirit aka the Forgotten Part of God
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WHEN IT COMES TO UNDERSTANDING WHO GOD IS we tend to be comfortable in the identities of Jesus and the Father. Yet when it comes to the Holy Spirit He feel less like a familiar neighbor and more like some hermit in that creepy house at the end of town. Throughout the Old Testament we hear of God moving through the prophets and the nation of Israel. While in the New Testament we are focused on the works and words of Jesus, however what we usually don’t realize is that the Holy Spirit is working right there along side them.

On a technical level the Holy Spirit is the third member of the trinity and is an equal part of the godhead along with Jesus and the Father. The Holy Spirit is the part of God in which we can interact with on a daily basis. He is the personal part of God which we have not only living inside of us but is a part of the world around us, as the tangible presence of God on the Earth (2 Corinthians 13:14, John 5:6-8).

The Holy Spirit is Closer Than Your Trusty Smartphone

Some people tend to see God as being far off in Heaven and Jesus is right there beside Him, while the Holy Spirit is here on the earth and is never far away. Through salvation and baptisms the Holy Spirit not only becomes part of our lives but comes to live inside of us. We can’t just reduce that truth to a Christian phrase or a theological topic, but we must come to a living reality of that truth in our own lives.

The Holy Spirit wants to be known by us and we must be just as willing to know Him.

The Holy Spirit wants to be known by us and we must be just as willing to know Him. That is the purpose of this first section to better know the Holy Spirit and develop a living relationship with Him here and now. To take away any walls of separation between us and the trinity. To live in the fullest possible measure of God’s presence and purpose for our lives.

We see The Holy Spirit at work in many ways throughout the Bible all the way back at creation in Genesis 1:2, 26 we see the spirit hovering, waiting to create, waiting to bring life to the natural realm we live in. Fast forward to the baptism of Jesus and we see Him at work again as the one who empowers Jesus to fulfill His mission to redeem mankind (Matthew 3:16-17).

After the death and resurrection of Jesus we see the power of the Holy Spirit at work through the apostles and the early church in the book of Acts.

The Holy Spirit was moving in the same way He was during Jesus’s ministry because we have been given the same authority to follow in the footsteps of Jesus and the do the same. The Holy Spirit isn’t a type of magic to be invoked He is the power and presence of the living God who is looking for those willing to not only have a relationship but be willing to do was the Father calls them to do with their lives.

One With Jesus And One With Us

The Holy Spirit’s role can be seen clearest through Jesus’ words about His unity with the Father. (John 5:36-40, John 8:28-29). The same relationship that Jesus lays out concerning His relationship with the Father should be the same for us and the Father today. The Holy Spirit, aka God’s presence on the earth should be just as open and vivid to us as it was to Jesus during His earthly ministry. The Holy Spirit does not glorify Himself, but the Son. This does not speak of an inferiority in His standing in the Trinity but reveals the role of the Holy Spirit in the plan of redemption. That is why we must never forget that the Holy Spirit came to make real the things of Jesus, that through Him the same power that was at work through Jesus is available to us today (John 16:13-15).

The Holy Spirit came to make real the things of Jesus, that through Him the same power that was at work through Jesus is available to us today

Unlike in the Old Testament where people were kept a safe distance from the Spirit of God, in the Gospels, Jesus signaled a change in how the Holy Spirit would relate to men and women. No longer would there be a separation where only the high priest on one day a year could experience the presence of God but all people at all times could be that near to God. Before the people would fear and quake at the presence of the Father, now under the New Covenant  the barrier of sin is gone and God through Holy Spirit has deposited His presence into us. No longer are just the prophets and patriarchs privy to a special relationship with the Creator but everyone who have called Jesus their Messiah and Savior.

The Holy Spirit Reveals The Father

Another key role of the Holy Spirit is that He takes the all of the things we associate with the Father and reveals them to us (John 16:12-16)We see this modeled over and over with Jesus as He only said and did what He heard from the Father. That same relationship is available to us today, and not just for a select few such as prophets or leaders of large churches. All who are willing to listen and obey can hear the voice of the Father.

This leads to another one of the Holy Spirit’s roles, the one who would empower His church to do what God called it to do. He helps the church be an authentic witness to the world just as we saw in Acts 1:8.

Acts 1:8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

The Holy Spirit wasn’t just sent to help the church metaphorically or emotionally, but He is here to help the church move in power. Be it power over sin, hopelessness, or the fallen state of the world. He also brings to us gifts of wisdom, knowledge and even (at times the most needed manifestation) miraculous power which sees the dead raised, people healed and testimonies which cannot be denied come to pass. You see as believers we are nothing more than living lightbulbs and the Holy Spirit is the electricity which generates light for people to see Jesus.

Starting with the apostles and carrying on to today we are all called to be proclaimers of the gospel. From the beginning God knew that Jesus’ physical presence would leave but He would send the Holy Spirit in Jesus’ place to work through and with believers (John 16:7).

The Holy Spirit came in this “new way” when Jesus’ physical presence left the earth and now uses everyday believers such as you and me to continue the ministry of Jesus and to expand the Kingdom. Everyday people who are willing to follow the Holy Spirit and not just the elite few. We all have our own places of influence and people we can reach that others will never be able to. If we give Holy Spirit room to move in those areas imagine what could happen, with Jesus’s resurrection and ascension the promise of John 7:39 is NOW in effect.

John 7:38-39 Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.” 39 By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified.

Living As If The Kingdom Is Already In Effect

When we begin to accept that the Holy Spirit is the living and active presence of God that lives within us then and only then can we have a true impact on this world. When we no longer look at Him as being some type of mystery or some genie certain denominations talk about we begin to understand. The God we read about in the Old Testament and the Christ we preach about from the New Testament lives inside of us and is looking to continue the work He began so long ago.

The same holiness, compassion and power Jesus walked in is available to us today through the Holy Spirit.

The same compassion and power Jesus walked in is available to us today, but with that the same standard of holiness spoken of by the Father in the Old Testament remains. The Holy Spirit has been unleashed to bring people to the cross, to work in power and to ensure that Christians live according to the standards which have been lovingly set by the Father.

John 16: 7-11 But very truly I tell you, it is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. When he comes, he will prove the world to be in the wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment: about sin, because people do not believe in me; 10 about righteousness, because I am going to the Father, where you can see me no longer; 11 and about judgment, because the prince of this world now stands condemned.

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Are you looking to develop your relationship with God and better understand the Bible? Pick up a copy of one of my books today.

Understanding Who You Are: A Survey of 21st Century Christian Beliefs
Amazon.com paperback, eBook | Amazon.ca paperback, eBook
Indigo, iBook, Nook and more HERE

Six Minutes of Grace: The Key To Finding Happiness and Purpose
Amazon.com paperback, eBook | Amazon.ca paperback, eBook
Indigo, iBook, Nook and more HERE

Six Minutes of Grace Journal
Amazon.com paperback | Amazon.ca paperback

Creative Commons LicenseThe Holy Spirit aka the Forgotten Part of God Cameron Conway is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.