Tag Archives: born again

The Bible is an End-Times Book

It often seems that Christians are heavily focused on the end-times. For example, virtually every generation has thought that they were living in the end-times. Why is that the case? I believe it is because the Bible is thematically an end-times book. So, the focus on the end-times is quite understandable. However, I feel that the end-times theme is sometimes interpreted too narrowly.

If you ask people what books of the Bible talk about the end-times, the books you’ll probably hear most are Daniel and Revelation. But in reality, such writings are just a few instances of an overarching theme that encompasses everything from Genesis to Revelation.

So, what is the Biblical end-times theme? I believe the end-times theme is about transitioning into a new order. The old, corrupt ways entangled with sin are dissolved, and God works to bring in a new order of righteousness in the world, or in the lives of individuals.

The flood in Genesis was an instance of the end-times theme. That was one type of instance that God said would not happen again (Gen 8:21). The Israelites’ exodus from Egypt was another instance. In the New Testament, the theme of being born again (John 3:1-10) or being made a new creation are examples of the end-times theme in relation to individuals.

2 Cor. 5:17 – “If anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!

The “renewing of one’s mind” (Rom. 12:2) is yet another example of the end-times theme.

A lot of the writings that are conventionally viewed as “end-times” writings today (such as Daniel) come from periods when the Jews were under oppression, such as the Babylonian captivity, and later Rome. These writings were connected to day-to-day, practical concerns and struggles for the Jews. These writings prophesied of a war between the Jews and their enemies, and promised that the Messiah would come to judge the nations persecuting the Jews, and establish a new order of righteousness in which Israel would rule the world.

But I want to relate this to an aforementioned point, which is that these writings are part of the broader end-times theme of freedom from oppression, and the transition from an old, corrupt order to a new, righteous order.

These writings were not simply written to inform us about events at a future time. Instead, these writings are instances of a much broader, sweeping theme across the Bible.

The end-times message is a transitional message rather than a doomsday message. Now, I am sure many of you know from your own experiences that transitions are not easy. Transitions causes tensions and conflicts, as there is resistance that has to be overcome. Thus, when nations, or individuals, go through “end-times” experiences, there is often upheaval and anxiousness along the way, as I am sure many of you have experienced.

However, the Biblical end-times theme is not about punishment, in the absolute sense. Everything that is involved with “end-times” scenarios, ultimately works toward a redemptive goal, either for individuals or the world. But something has to get the processes started. And the factors that God employs to drive the processes can seem like punishment even though ultimately they are of a transitional, corrective nature, designed to stimulate change.

I plan to make more posts this summer on the prophecies that are often looked at as end-times writings. Specific events which these writings point to is a subject where my own understanding is not conclusive in certain aspects, so that is why, instead of focusing on prophecies of specific world events, I wanted to make this current post to focus on the broader end-times theme in the Bible.

Demystifying Spirituality – Part 3

A concern among many Christians is that people will fail to take the initiative to do what is right and instead sit around waiting for God to get them to do something through a dramatic experience. The often-repeated warning is that God will not force us to do anything, and that He is waiting for us to take action. The idea is that God works in us only when we are also taking action; it is viewed as a cooperative process between us and Him.

So, then, considering my own writings on this blog, am I suggesting that we cannot do anything until God drives us into action? Well, I’m not suggesting that, and in this article, I want to explain why.

I do not believe that we need some sort of “push” or dramatic experience with the Holy Spirit to do something. Rather, I think that what we need is a reorientation of our minds and physiological responses. I am going to cover several more spiritual phrases in this article, such as “surrendering one’s self to God, being “separate from the world,” and being “free from Law.”

I’ll describe an experience that has been true for me, and I think it is true for most people in general. As soon as we wake up in the morning, thoughts enter our minds, which in turn cause feelings based on our physiological make-up as discussed in Part 1 of this series. These feelings influence our actions. Now, at times throughout the day, we may try to bypass these feelings by telling ourselves to act contrary to them. However, success may be limited because, even though we are trying to deny those feelings, we live with perceptions of reality that promote those feelings. Thus, we are denying them and promoting them at the same time, which yields little success.

Jesus said in Matthew 6:22-23: “The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light; but if your eye is unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness.”

I think this passage refers to the way we interpret what we see with our eyes – the things we tell ourselves based upon our vision.

Thus, I believe that “surrendering ourselves to God” can be seen as becoming willing to see our lives with new vision and to see the world with new vision. This reorientation of our vision is something that we can pray for and believe for. Paul wrote in Ephesians 1:18, as part of a prayer for the church, “with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may know what is the hope to which he [God] has called you.”

When we see ourselves and our environment with new eyes, our nerves and impulses can be controlled. Anxieties, temptations, and irrational urges do not go away altogether, but believers have the Spirit of God inside of them which can enable them to control these negative feelings and thoughts so that they do not rule one’s life (Gal. 5:22-23). But a readjustment of one’s vision may be necessary to act upon this inward spiritual power. The Spirit works in us so that we have the ability to act on our own initiative if our vision is oriented correctly. I believe this principle also helps explain the results of being “born again.” Through the new birth, God has given us an opportunity to go through a lifelong reorientation of our consciousness through the Spirit.

Another point I want to mention is being “separate from the world.” Christians have a lot of debate over how different from the secular world we are required to be. There are a list of ways in which I am different from many non-Christians of my demographic. However, I do not use these differences to justify myself. One reason is that, some of these difference are due to traits that I was probably born with. But the other reason is that, I myself am not completely sure what a lifestyle apart from the world entails.

Thus, my outward activity (in contrast to non-Christians) is a secondary factor. For me, being separate from the world is primarily about the perspectives and attitudes that I live with. All of the things I write about on this blog are things that I think about as I go about my daily life. I trust that, by focusing on these things, my lifestyle will adjust if there are any areas where it needs to be adjusted.

The last spiritual concept I want to discuss is being “free from law.” I think that, for many people, understanding freedom from law can be essential to experiencing the reorientation of one’s vision needed to solve problems in life.

Paul wrote in Romans 7:4-5, “You have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead in order that we may bear fruit for God.”

I believe the idea of law is that there are rules which you must measure yourself against to determine whether you can be at peace in your life. Paul also wrote that one’s conscience can serve as the law for one’s self (Rom. 2:14-15). The law demands full conformity (ever heard that “the law is the law?”).

How can law prevent us from reorienting our vision? Well, one reason is that law can keep us from seeing the big picture. Under law, we are condemned by any imperfection that we are conscious of. Thus, under law, our attention is fixated with that imperfection, and we neglect opportunities to “bear fruit” in our lives. Why bother to do good deeds in other areas of life when a single imperfection is going to condemn us anyway?

But there is another reason why law can hold us down; law causes anxiety that can lead to more missteps. Suppose that you have a habit of cussing and your conscience bothers you about it. You get self-absorbed with trying to fix your speech, thinking that you’ll be punished if you don’t, and a lot of tension builds up inside of you. Eventually, you can’t contain yourself anymore so you lose your tempter (without cussing) when somebody ticks you off. In this case, your law-driven obsession with not cussing led to a fruit of the flesh rather than a fruit of the Spirit. If you quit worrying about cussing so much, you could have a better temperament overall.

Yet another reason why we need to understand our freedom from law is that, law gets us hung up on sins in and of themselves, instead of looking at what inward problem caused the sins in the first place. The result is that we feel good about ourselves before we sin (because we’re fine according to the law), but we feel bad about ourselves after the sin occurs. This cycle of feeling good then feeling bad keeps us focused on our own faults rather than focusing on our freedom from sin. If our conscience bothers us about a certain habit in our lives, but we have not yet engaged in the habit today, our current abstinence should not be a reason to feel good about ourselves because it’s only a matter of time until we yield to temptation. To break the habit, we need to see our lives, and the habit itself, with new insights.

Demystifying Spirituality – Part 1

I want to start a series of posts in which we look at highly spiritual terminology in the Bible, particular phrases such as “dying to sin,” being “born again,” having a “renewed mind,” and being “separate from the world.”

Now, might be thinking, “This is going to be heavy and serious.” Well, I don’t think it has to be. In fact, I think it will be an enjoyable series because I will show how you can relate these phrases to your everyday life. If you are not someone who says these phrases a lot, you may think that Christians who frequently use them are somehow more “holy” or devout than you are. However, I don’t believe we have to think of people that way. In past times, I separated this spiritual terminology from my day to day, secular activities. However, that changed about a year ago as my personal life evolved and I started looking at certain Scriptures more closely. Now, I can relax and think about “dying to sin” while playing games. I am going to share with you how I do this, and you can decide for yourself if it is right to think similarly.

Romans 6:5-7: “For if we have been united with him [Christ] in a death like his, we will certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be destroyed, and we might no longer be enslaved to sin. For whoever has died is freed from sin.”

All right, let’s think about this. First, consider what it means to be “alive” to something, versus being “dead” to something. Here’s an example: Some people have food allergies. A certain food will prompt a specific part of a particular person’s immune system to overreact, causing adverse activity in that person’s body. When I was young, I was allergic to eggs. My immune system was “alive” to eggs. Eggs would provoke, or “tempt,” my immune system. Then, my immune system would “sin” by reacting adversely, causing a rash. However, by the age of 9, my immune system “died” to eggs. I was no longer allergic.

Now, let’s look at our own lives. If we sin, it is because something provokes us and we fail to react appropriately; either we get agitated and do something bad, or we get intimidated and freeze, failing to do the things we should. Suppose you’re someone who hates the sound of nails on chalkboard. Somebody does that just to annoy you, and it makes you lose your temper.

You lose your temper as a reflex of sorts because your nerves are “alive” to the sound of nails on chalkboard, and your vocal chords become “slaves” to your nerves. But now, suppose a physiologist claims he can fix your reflex to that noise. He gives you a potion that makes you completely unconscious for three days. During that time, people set up a chalkboard next to you and scratch their nails on it day in and day out to see if they can make you lose your temper. But you never do. You have died to that reflex, or to that “sin”. Your brain is not listening to it; your nervous system is not reacting to it; your vocal chords are not reacting to it. The whole “body of sin” that used to trigger that reflex has been deactivated. While you are unconscious, the potion is working on your brain and nervous system. When you return to consciousness, you still don’t like to hear nails on chalkboard, but you can choose to control your temper because the potion adjusted the internal workings inside of you.

I find it significant that Paul used the phrase “body of sin.” I believe that, in many cases, the cause of sin is not our intellect, but rather, it is in our physiological systems. I think that factors such as the nervous system, brain chemicals, hormones, and reflexes, respond to what we see and hear in a way that leads to sin. This is why motivational tactics to change our behavior often fail; the problem is not rooted in the part of our brain where we motivate ourselves. The problem is rooted in our physiological systems that produce sensations in response to what our consciousness perceives. Thus, overcoming sin requires a physiological adjustment, not just mental motivation. And this physiological adjustment is something that happens through the Spirit. Look at Romans 8:11:

“He who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through his Spirit that dwells in you.”

Notice that the Spirit injects life into your body. I believe that living according to the Spirit, or being filled with the Spirit, involves the Spirit working in your physiology so that you respond to situations differently.

So, how do we actually experience this transformation in our own lives? Many of us are still dealing with physiological problems that cause sinful reactions. The deliverance from these problems described in Romans is something that has to be accepted in faith, given that faith is “the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Heb. 11:1). So, how can we have faith in this reorientation of our bodies and minds when we see and feel things to the contrary in our day-to-day lives? The next few post will examine that.