For in him [the Son of God] we live, and move, and have our being; as certain also of your own poets have said, For we are also his offspring. Forasmuch then as we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Godhead is like unto gold, or silver, or stone, graven by art and man’s device. And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent,” (Acts 17:28-30 KJV).
It has been almost two millennium since Christ rose from the grave and here we are on another Easter morning with many of us celebrating that event which took place so long ago. I think it is a time to reflect on this deciding event that we as Christians have made into a tradition called “Easter.”
The life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ was a pivotal point in the annals of man’s history, but I am not sure that any of us fully understand just how big a turning point those thirty-three years lived on this earth by the Son of God really was. How much of what we call “Christianity” today is still patterned after the Old Covenant that Christ came to bring to an end and usher in a NEW Spiritual order among His Father’s creation which the writer in Hebrews called “a new and living way”(see Hebrews 10:19-23)?
We all know the gospel message, “You must be born again. That which is born of the flesh is flesh and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.” But just how far has this message gone into the depths of our thoughts and lives? Paul wrote, “First the natural and then the spiritual.” That which is born of the flesh is natural, earthly, but that which is born of the Spirit is super-natural and heavenly.
In the Old Covenant God made provision for a fleshly people, the Hebrews, and gave them a system of government and worship that spoke to them on their fleshly level. They had just come up out of Egypt and had been captivated in a pagan culture for over 400 years and as a result they thought as pagans do (remember the golden calf). They thought of the gods as being present in temples, in their temple niches, where temple priests offered up sacrifices and incense to the gods for the people. These Egyptian gods were represented by earthly things, the sun, a frog, a bull, a hound, etc. So what did God do, He gave these newly escaped slaves earthly and tangible things for their worship of Him. He winked at their superstitious ways, so He gave them a tabernacle, a portable temple. He gave them a niche, the most holy place where His presence abode. He gave them animal sacrifices and incense to offer up before Him. He gave them a priest cast to do the “spiritual work” for the people of tending to Him in His temple. He gave the priests special vestments to wear and special services to perform before the people. BUT instead of giving them a carving of something earthly of God’s creation to worship, He gave them the Ark of the Covenant over which two golden angels, heavenly beings, presided with their wings stretch out over the lid of the ark. It was between these to representative beings that the Shekinah glory of God presence was manifest (BTW, the word shikinah is Hebrew, but not found in the O.T. text, but was used by the rabbis to describe the presence of the Lord upon the Ark and among the people when it happened).
Now let’s take this forward 1500 years. By the coming of Christ the temple system had been “refined” by man quite a bit from what God gave the Hebrews during their exodus from Egypt. They now had a massive temple built in the Promised Land by a despot king named Harod the Great in the city of David, Jerusalem, and no longer a moveable tent. As a result this temple had many more officers and functions that were needed to preserve its order that went beyond the original priest cast and heavenly design given to Moses by God. In fact Harod was not a Jew and he had killed the rightful high priest and installed his brother-in-law, Aristobulus III in his place in the temple. Herod was a murderer who was appointed by Rome as the “King of the Jews” and he killed many people that he felt were a threat to his little kingdom. He had his own secret police and anyone that even thought of going against him often ended up dead.
His temple also had an extensive bazaar incorporated into it which at the time of Christ was presided over by Annas the high priest, where people bought and sold animals and exchanged currencies for the temple currency. The temple had so change from God’s heavenly pattern given to Moses on Mount Sinai, that Jesus made a whip of cords and made havak of the place saying, “It is written, my house shall be a house of prayer, but you have made it a den of thieves!”
Jesus was not a natural man as we think of men of the world today. He was a heavenly man with a heavenly relationship with God His Father. He did not march to this world’s order of things. In fact He told Pilate at his trial, “My kingdom is NOT of THIS world…” He was a heavenly Man! And being a heavenly Man, he was constantly on a collision course with all those who were intent on preserving their earthly kingdoms including the Pharisees, scribes, Sadducees and temple priests as well as the Chief Priests of that Jewish system.
This should explain many of the things that Jesus taught and why Jewish scholars like Nicode’mus were so bewildered by His teachings. Nicode’mus came to Jesus by night representing the Pharisees and temple leadership saying, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him.” It is here that Jesus interrupts him and sets things straight saying, “I say unto you, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” In other words, “Buddy, I am telling you that with all your learning about the Old Covenant, you don’t have a clue about God’s REAL kingdom is or who I am.” That is a pretty harsh thing to say to a ruler of the Jews.
Then Jesus continued to speak to this man born of the flesh about what it means to be born of the Spirit of God and HIS kingdom, “I say unto you, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit… The wind blows where it wills, and you hear the sound thereof, but can not tell from where it came, and where it goes: so is everyone that is born of the Spirit.” All old Nick could say was, “How can these things be?!”
So in the economy of God’s plan for this world, first we have the natural manifested and then the spiritual. The old things were passing away right before the eyes of the religious Jews and by the time forty years went by from the above encounter with Christ, all the outward and natural vestiges of Judaism would be gone. The temple which they worshiped would be destroyed just as Jesus prophesied (see Matt. 24:1-2). The priesthood would be murdered by the Romans and done away with. The veil of the temple was torn top to bottom as Jesus died on the cross, thus making way for all who believe to enter into the presence of His Father. Even Israel as a nation would be no more until it was re-established in 1947 by the Jewish revolt. But how many of us get the full significance of all this and what God did 2000 years ago through Jesus Christ? Paul wrote,
For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. (Romans 8:2-6 KJ2000)
Paul, speaking of the New Covenant that is ours IN Christ wrote, “The old has passed away and behold ALL things have become NEW.” ALL THINGS! The church was established with the outpouring of the Spirit on all flesh on the day of Pentecost, fifty days after Jesus rose again. They were a NEW people who personally knew that God is Spirit and they worshipped Him IN Spirit and in Truth as the Spirit abode in them. They knew that they were all a kingdom of priests and that all who had been given the Spirit were living stones in a spiritual temple and that the old temple system and all its observances had no relevance any longer. In fact the very first martyr, Stephen, was killed by the Jewish leaders because He dared to preach this very message to them (see Acts Ch. 7).
They also knew that they were now born of the Spirit and that they also had spiritual senses with which to communicate with one another and with their heavenly Father. They no longer needed to worship Him by natural smells (burnt offerings and incense), by natural sight (magnificent temples, vestments, temple decorations, earthly priests worshipping before them, etc.), by natural hearing (trumpets, bells, incantations being spoken by priests, etc.), by things felt (anointing oils, temple tapestries, vestments, stone work, etc) or by things tasted (special feasts, covenants of salt and so on). Being newly born of the Spirit of God and having been made spiritual beings, they now had spiritual sight. They knew one another after the Spirit in them, not by the flesh (see 2 Cor. 5:16-17).
They even had visions of heaven, Jesus and the Father! They now had spiritual hearing and could hear the voice of Jesus and the Spirit as Jesus admonished them saying, “Let he who has [spiritual] ears hear what the Spirit IS saying to the churches.” It was Jesus who said, “My sheep hear my voice and another they will not follow.” They also had spiritual smelling and knew when another spirit that was not of God was present and could discern hypocrisy in their midst. They had spiritual taste as well. They were able to “taste and see that the Lord is good.” And they had spiritual touch and were touched by the presence of the Spirit among and in them as He changed their lives.
With all these thing being true we cans see why Paul was so emphatic in his letters to the Corinthians who had gone back to being carnal and living in the flesh and to the Galatians who had had done so well starting out in the Spirit and had gone back to serving God in their flesh by Old Covenant law keeping and traditions. It is this emphasis on walking after the Spirit and not after the flesh that made Paul’s letters a shining light pointing us to a New and Lasting Covenant with the Father and the Son.
The whole Letter to the Hebrews was written to us so that we could see how all those types that were so tangible in the Old Covenant were only a shadow of that which is perfect in the New. To these Hebrews who were clinging to their fleshly connection to the Old Covenant the writer admonishes, “If therefore perfection were by the Levitical priesthood, (for under it the people received the law,) what further need was there that another priest should rise after the order of Melchizedek [Jesus Christ], and not be called after the order of Aaron? For the priesthood being changed, there is made of necessity a change also of the law.”(Hebrews 7:11-12 KJ2000). Or as Paul wrote, “When that which is perfect is come, that which is imperfect shall be done away with.” He finally gets even more emphatic about the insult it is to God that they were casting-off the covenant of grace under Christ and going back to the covenant of law under Moses saying,
“He that despised Moses’ law died without mercy under two or three witnesses: Of how much worse punishment, suppose you, shall he be thought worthy, who has trodden under foot the Son of God, and has counted the blood of the covenant, with which he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and has done insult unto the Spirit of grace?” (Hebrews 10:28-29 KJ2000).
So here it is another “Easter” and what do we have today among Christians who call themselves, “the Church” with all their man-made services, temples, churches, chapels, universities, bible schools, seminaries, a special priest cast called “pastors” or “priests” and “bishops,” special rites, ceremonies, feast days, holy days, vestments, tapestries, paintings, stained glass windows, sacramentalism, holy cards, religious jewelry and key rings, statues and figurines, and all the “Jesus junk” that can be imagined in our local “Christian” book and gift store where one can find everything that appeals to the flesh, even books on how to be successful and prosper in THIS world!
Even the word “Easter” was morphed by the translators from the Greek word that was translated “Passover” throughout the rest of the Bible. In Easter we have a word with its roots in Ishtar, the goddess of fertility, thus all the symbology of rabbits, eggs, virgins dancing around the May pole… a carryover from the pagan rites of calling upon their gods to bless their herds and crops with fertility.
My dear church going Christian friends, isn’t it fair to ask the question, “Are you yet carnal and not walking after the Spirit of God, but rather the fleshly traditions of men?” Is it any wonder that the church without all these material “blessings” and things was able to turn the world upside down and spread throughout the whole known world by the end of the second century? They were walking after the Spirit of Christ and NOT after all things which appeal to the flesh as Christianity does today. THAT is the difference! No wonder the dark ages soon ensued once the Roman government in the fourth century made the church into an arm of its own ruler-ship and control. Once man got his carnal hands on it, the move of the Spirit that was started on the day of Pentecost almost 2000 years ago was soon dead and forgotten.
My friends, many of us are still in the dark ages spiritually speaking! Many of us are still titillated by all things carnal and of this world as we gather together in our church buildings and name the name of Christ. We still heap after ourselves teachers that point us to the natural things of this world with their traditions and doctrines instead of pointing us to Christ and the Kingdom of His Father which is totally Spirit.
Dear saints of God, first of all search yourselves to see if you are still IN Christ… walking after the Spirit and not after the flesh. Where is your heart? Is it on the things of the world and a worldly church or is it on the Kingdom of God and all things of the Spirit? What do you spend your time talking about after the “service” is over? Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks. Do you as a Christian spend your time talking about sports, kids, houses, cars, politics, world news, clothes, food, TV programs and movies? Or do you find yourself speaking with others all day long about Jesus Christ and HIS kingdom? Those of the former group are YET CARNAL. The later group of Christians are obviously member is God’s kingdom and like Christ, not of this world order. They also are finding out that they don’t fit so well in a church system that is of this world.
So, I would ask all of us to do as Paul admonished the Corinthians on this Easter, “Examine yourselves, to see whether you are holding to your faith. Test yourselves. Do you not realize that Jesus Christ is in you?–unless indeed you fail to meet the test!” (2 Corinthians 13:5 RSVA)
If He is alive in us, our lives and conversations should glorify the Father for that is what Jesus does and our Christian walks should not just be something that is done on one day a week to be seen of men or on special “holy days” or in a special religious building, but rather 24/7 and should exemplify our Father’s kingdom.
Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creation: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. (2 Corinthians 5:17 KJ2000)