JOHN 10:30 I and the Father are one… JOHN 14:15 If you love me, you will obey what I command. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever — 17 the Spirit of Truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you… 23 If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. 24 He who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me… 26 the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you… JOHN 15:26 When the Counselor comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father, he will testify about me… JOHN 16:13 When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. 14 He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. 15 All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.
DANIEL 12:10b — none of the wicked shall understand, but those who are wise shall understand.
1st CORINTHIANS 2:12 Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God. 13 And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual. 14 The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. 15 The spiritual person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one. 16 “For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ.
What I am about to write will make great sense to some… and virtually no sense to others, seeming trivial, or completely at odds with the ‘practicalities’ of ‘real’ life.
I mean that on two levels.
First, the content. Any discovery like this, in scripture, ought to feel ‘neat’ in and of itself if we’re in Christ. Why? Because it points to Him. It helps us grow closer in relationship to Him. I’ve begun to appreciate how the revulsion I used to have for scripture… the utter contempt in which I once held it, was diagnostic of where my heart was with regard to Jesus, just as my love for it now flows not from any love for a flat, dead book, but out of thanks for what amounts to a love letter that I could never deserve to receive. As Chuck Missler likes to say, with an emotional catch in his voice, that letter, the Word of God, was penned for me, in blood, on a wooden cross, in Judea, 2000 years ago.
Second, in terms of process. I’ve only recently begun to see how I’ve been following a method for understanding scripture in greater depth that may be useful to others. It may seem whimsical to those who don’t credit the power of the wind unless they can see where it’s coming from and where it’s going, but such are the ways of the Holy Spirit, we’re told. (See John 3:8.)
The process is not new or ‘fad-ish’ but relies on the basic, conservative tenets of, a) letting scripture interpret scripture, b) it all points to Jesus and, c) expositional constancy. I.e., a word, scene, symbol, action or relation indicates not only literally what it says but also the same concept or pattern throughout all of scripture, from the first line of Genesis all the way through to the end of Revelation. E.g., the ark “is” the ark is the ark in a spiritual sense, the rock is the rock is the rock, etc.
With those three things in mind, with the Holy Spirit guiding, and with a heart of eager diligence, scripture can positively explode in you into multi-dimensional color, light, sound, taste and movement. It begins to live. The Word becomes flesh.
God is One (Deuteronomy 6:4). Jesus and the Father are one (John 10:30). His Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Truth, speaks only on the authority of the Father (John 16:13). I.e., He too is One, with Jesus and the Father. By contrast, the kingdom of this world is inherently divided against itself (Matthew 12:25-26, Mark 3:24, Luke 11:17-18).
Thus, if you find this impenetrable, strange, difficult, or offensive, it forces a hard but very logical conclusion: we are not of the same spirit. That should be cause for both of us to humbly invite the singular Holy Spirit of YHWH to examine our hearts and minds more deeply, according to the Word of God, Jesus, the Messiach (Christ/King), His Son, of whom the Psalmist writes (re-quoted in Hebrews 10:7):
PSALM 40:7 “Behold, I have come; in the scroll of the book it is written of me: 8 I delight to do your will, O my God; your law is within my heart.”
We are to let the Word of God and His Spirit examine each matter for us, as did the Bereans who Luke writes were “more noble” (i.e., more fit for kingdom service) not only because they “received the word with all eagerness” but also for their reverent diligence in spirit-testing (1st John 4:1), “examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so” (Acts 17:11). For to jump too quickly, on instinct, to what we think, is folly… a sin of which I have been routinely guilty and to which we all fall victim far too readily, I’m afraid, in this age of hyper-available, instant, fast-moving information and personal expression.
PROVERBS 18:2 — A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion.
None of which, I hope, puts a damper on the comment threads, which often do lead to at least my pleasure in increased understanding of God and what He would have us do as my brothers and sisters in Christ reflect in the same Spirit, bringing three to the table.
So… I was just a few verses into my newish daily Bible reading program (pdf) this morning (of which I can’t say enough good things — one being that just a few weeks of this practice utterly demolishes the notion that God ‘evolved’ or otherwise changed His mind or plan between the Old and New Testaments), when a familiar phrase in a familiar story leaped off the page at me (proverbially speaking).
MATTHEW 20:1 For the kingdom of heaven is like a master of a house who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. 2 After agreeing with the laborers for a denarius a day, he sent them into his vineyard. 3 And going out about the third hour he saw others standing idle in the marketplace, 4 and to them he said, ‘You go into the vineyard too, and whatever is right I will give you.’
I’ve usually read this passage with my business ‘hat’ on, thinking of worldly finances. Most of us have been employees at one time. We’ve gotten paid for our labors — sometimes fairly, sometimes not. (In about 90% of the studies I’ve been in on this passage, someone gets totally derailed on the unfairness of what Jesus seems to be proposing.) As most know, the story continues to the “eleventh hour,” in verse nine (i.e., the end of things), when each of those called to the vineyard receives a denarius, a coin of the time.
Simple enough. Yet my eye wouldn’t move beyond that phrase: ‘Whatever is right…’ Where had I heard that before? I went and looked it up on-line, surprised that the phrase turned up not only where I was expecting, but in another place also, with the two shedding a kind of stereoscopic light on the parable from both Old and New Testaments:
DEUTERONOMY 12:8 You shall not do according to all that we are doing here today, everyone doing whatever is right in his own eyes, 9 for you have not as yet come to the rest and to the inheritance that the LORD your God is giving you.
PHILIPPIANS 4:4 Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. 5 Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; 6 do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. 8 Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things. 9 What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me–practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.
We often read the Philippians verse in the abstract. At least I have. We can each think of things which satisfy one or two of these adjectives, e.g., a lovely flower or an admirable gesture of charity. And those things are good to a degree, for they are part of God’s creation (both physical and moral), reflecting Him. He made all things good. Yet they were and are corrupted. As such, I can’t help reading this passage now and seeing Paul as referring to Jesus who alone removes that corruption by His blood. Only One person satisfies all of these “think about” criteria in Himself and to the fullest degree imaginable.
In other words, the phrase “whatever is right” takes on a whole new meaning if we make it personal. Whoever is right… think about Him. And who is right? Certainly not us, for all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, doing what seems right in our own eyes. Or as Jesus puts it, in a conversation recorded in Marks’ gospel:
MARK 10:18 Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone.
Whoever is right and pure and true and noble and lovely and admirable and excellent and praiseworthy (eight items, indicative of overflowing abundance), think about Him. And He is Christ Jesus, the coming king. Which is an insight that I find makes Song of Songs a whole lot easier to understand. We’re meant to dwell on our beloved because he so loved us that he laid down his life for us, even while we were yet sinners.
Shifting back to the parable of the laborers in the vineyard then, we are told that,
MATTHEW 20:4 …whatever is right I will give you…
…9 each of them received a denarius.
Listen to Jesus in another scene, teaching about how we should deal with taxes:
LUKE 20:24 Show me a denarius. Whose likeness and inscription does it have?” They said, “Caesar’s.” 25 He said to them, “Then render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”
He’s not saying money cannot ever be an important expression of our devotion (it can), just that in and of itself, the world’s money means nothing. (The key to understanding the parable of the widow’s mite, in Matthew 12:41-44.) The thrust is entirely consistent with the Old Testament, as we would expect it to be.
PSALM 50:9-10 I will not accept a bull from your house or goats from your folds. 10 For every beast of the forest is mine, the cattle on a thousand hills.
PSALM 51:17 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.
So, follow the logic here…
If we’re to render payment to God in His currency, i.e., in a manner sharply different from how the world conducts its commerce — beyond and above earthly currency, (i.e., if generosity with earthly currency is merely one reflection and symptom of a humble spirit, wildly in love with Jesus) — then would we not also expect that the payment rendered from God to the laborers in the vineyard (i.e., disciples) would also not be of an earthly coin (the false “prosperity gospel”), prone to losing its value and getting stolen (not to mention the fact that we can’t take it with us), but the singular coin of everlasting value, the fullness God Himself and the right to live with Him in His house forever as full heirs?
I.e., God renders unto his laborers (and certainly unto his bride) the spiritual coin of His realm not merely that of Caesar’s. (He can give that too, of course, in abundance, should it suit His purposes, for His glory, for He is the Creator of all things, including all Caesars, but in the full light of Him, who would care to have only that?)
Whatever is right, I will give you, says Jesus. And who alone is right (good)? God, Who gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him [i.e., whoever should place faith in His currency as the only coin of lasting value] should not perish, but have everlasting life.