Becoming a Believer

Theosis is participating “in (the Life of) Christ,” for the purpose of partaking in His Divine nature, and so, to be made increasingly similar to His example in words & deeds. This is far different than religion (participating in the rituals of a church), because Jesus abolished the foundations of religion, replacing them with Himself. True spiritual formation is rather to participate in the Life of Christ himself. As many have said, “Jesus gave his life for us, in order to give his life to us, so that he might live his life through us.” Or, “The Son of God became the Son of Man to allow the sons of Man (humanity) to become the sons (children) of God.”

UNDERSTAND THE ANCIENT WORLDVIEW OF 1st CENTURY BELIEVERS:

Understanding the 1st Century Mind

Every 1st C, non-biblical document indicates earliest Christians (Believers & Followers of Jesus of Nazareth, a.k.a. The Way) understood their Faith in the context of a boundless community: a family, tearing down ethnic, sexist & classist divisions, with no human hierarchy, just a spiritual organism with One Head —Jesus Christ. This mystical Body of Christ is composed of redeemed persons and is to function nothing like the hierarchal institutional churches & professional clergy we see today, & most certainly not as a state church. The Kingdom of God & Christ is not like the kingdoms/governments of humanity, and cannot be legislated in or out of existence.

Since their rise in the late 1930s and throughout the Cold War, fundamentalist and conservative evangelicals have preached an externalist, behavior focused and authoritarian religion hinged upon a “go to heaven” and “escape hell fire” gospel, which they subsumed from a 14th C. European tradition of Dante’s Inferno & from very “flat” and very “close” readings of the New Testament, instead of interpreting by contexts, especially that of a 1st C Jewish and/or Greco-Roman worldview. A proper interpretation of “hell” will show that Jesus referred to mortal judgment as any hellenized Jew of his day: a realm of the dead (Sheol, Hades) and a place of decay & dissipation or refuse (Valley of Hinnom).

Furthermore, original Christianity was never about “going to Heaven instead of Hell.” 1st C followers of “that Way” understood their beliefs to be:

A. YHWH is the Hebrew God, the Creator of all and “highest” (uniquely infinite) God.

B. The ancient, pagan gods were (rebellious) angels & their minions that had been abusing the power, which YHWH had given them, when YHWH divided the nations (Gen. 6, 10-11; Deut. 32; Jude). That dividing of the nations happened, because humanity had wanted it to be so in cooperation with said rebellious spirits. God complied but planned the reconciliation of all back to Himself via the Messiah.

C. Jesus of Nazareth is YHWH in flesh, who came to make it possible—after millennia of suffering fear and oppressive subservience—for humans no longer to be subjected to and divided by (many times violently) ethnic allegiance to the pagan gods (fallen angels) any longer but to be reconciled as one new humanity to Him.

What would happen if Christian individuals and entire congregations were intentional in proclaiming—with their lives—that a central reason Jesus died was to reverse the divisions that started with Babel (Gen 11) and to tear down walls of hostility between people (Eph 2:14-16)…. —Greg Boyd, ReKnew

D. Jesus also was incarnated and physically died and arose bodily, in order to reconcile humanity to God, because humanity had become apparently willfully subservient to the influence of these rebellious angels [a.k.a. Sin (big S)], which is evident by sins (little s; trespasses, offenses against the moral revelation found in the Hebrew Decalogue, as well as THE trespass of angelic and human cohabitation, a.k.a. production of demigods, angelic bestiality, Genesis 6, Jude). Accordingly, we humans were irrevocably designated for the same eternal destiny as they, until Jesus arrived, as promised.

E. With reconciliation to God through Jesus comes spiritual regeneration (new ability to become a partaker of the Divine nature, via the indwelling Holy Spirit)… and thus a new class of humanity, without regard to ethnicity, social status, gender, etc. The “in Christ” identity surpassed all other former and lesser identities.

F. And Jesus—having risen from the dead and having ascended far above all beings in authority—will return to exact judgement on all evil (spirit beings and anti-Christ systems) and injustice, before making all things new (including a Resurrection to Life for believers and a Resurrection to Judgment for those who reject God, i.e. Jesus).

Repent Toward God; Faith in Christ

So, when you read the command in the New Testament to “repent toward God” and have “faith in Christ,” it literally is a mandate for all humans from every nation to:

1. Throw off allegiance to their ethnic/national gods, who lead them astray from the Creator & divide them, causing war. Give allegiance only to Jesus, in order to harmoniously return to a conciliatory and loving YHWH, as the Creator of all & Highest God, as properly and expressly revealed in character (deeds & words) by Jesus of Nazareth.

2. Therefore, proclaim Jesus is the risen (authoritative) Lord & God, in unique victory over all empires/kingdoms/governments and their leaders, because he raised from Sheol (grave, hades, realm of the dead) & ascended far above every other earthly and spiritual authority. To be plain, Jesus abolished organized, nationalist, imperialist religion, and he overturned the “top down” (hierarchal) model of rule.. All who believe should live together in harmony by “the new and living Way,” in the Name of Jesus and by the influence of the Holy Spirit, which is (in every case) Divine Love (selfless, fearless care for & loyal devotion to the honor & wellbeing of both friend AND enemy).


A MODERN APPLICATION:

1. God is not the Creator of evil. He originally created all things in a state of untested goodness. Christianity offers an answer to the “Who/What” and “why” questions of the origin, design, meaning and destiny of all things; but the Bible does not attempt to assert an answer to the “when” or “how” question of all things. That is, interpretatively honest Christianity will not assert an age of the universe or use the Bible to refute scientific data on matters like the age of the cosmos, resultant evolution, etc.

2. God’s initial design for humans in this life was not to know evil, but to experience only life in harmony with Him, and in turn care for the rest of creation in the likeness of God Himself. Humans were conferred by God the bearing of His image (likeness & regency) to all other earthly creation. (Genesis 1-3)

3. God is the Creator and giver of free will, and that means people are made with the innate ability to choose wrong/evil, as well as good/truth. God does not violate the free will He gave, even though humans abuse it and one another, or defy God. Free will is necessary for true love and true choice. God will not stop the choices & actions of others, even though it affects us. He can, however, welcome & redeem/deliver us from the evil. (Genesis 1:26,27; 3)

4. When the course of the human experience was being tested/determined (fig. program via user election; Genesis 3), humanity (through federal representatives: Adam & Eve) chose to know both “good AND evil,” instead of God’s prescribed path. Therefore, the image of God in humankind (His likeness & our regency under Him) was preset toward sin (mortal flaw, innate dissimilarity to God) and our appointed role as his sub-regents was forfeit to malevolent spirit beings (angels). Said innate corruption is confirmed, manifested and evidenced by the fact that all sin (ex. shortcomings, character flaws, vices, etc.). Also, because of mankind’s forfeiture of pure goodness, we now live in a fallen world, filled with the relentless experience of knowing both good and evil (physical suffering, disease, disaster, death, etc.). Such happenings are what can be called “natural evils.” These natural evils seem like punishments, but they are actually the natural consequences of humanity’s choice, in the most ancient times, to experience evil alongside good. They are not directly from God. But, God states that he makes rain fall on the just and unjust. That is, He treats everyone (as much as possible, apart from a fallen world & human choices) with the same blessings of life, so that we might know his impartiality and non-vindictive nature. And, Romans 8 declares that even the rest of creation groans, while awaiting the time humanity is fully redeemed by God’s Plan, whereby he makes all things new.

5. If we are not experiencing natural evils, then the evils we experience are the results of our (and others’) corrupted nature (like Satan’s nature more than God’s). That means we & others can do things that affect our lives, directly or indirectly (1 Peter 2:20, 3:8-22). Most times, we suffer, due to the choices of others… and this universe works according to the principle of action and consequence, cause & effect. But, if we cause the effect of suffering on ourselves (for having done wrong or risky things), what else do we expect? Some ask, “why do bad things happen to good people?” But there is only One who is Good, and He died for the unjust willingly… so that we may be rescued, not condemned (John 3:16; Romans 5:8). Moreover, God calls Himself the Redeemer, because He can cash in the evils we experience—at the hands of others and of our own doing—for a better story of our experiencing His goodness, unfailing Love and His glory.

6. We also have a very real, spiritual enemy: Satan and fallen angels and demons. Not only do these evil spirits operate in the unseen (spirit) realm on the individual level, but some also operate unseen on the local, regional and even national / international levels. Again, these beings were given a ruling occupancy, when mankind chose to know evil…. and when God further turned over the rulership of the nations to them, due to mankind’s desire (as accounted in the Bible at the Tower of Babel, see Genesis 11 & Deuteronomy 32:8-9). The presence of and corrupting influence of these fallen spiritual beings is another major reason why there are wars, disease and famine, caused mostly by the greed of human national/global economy and governance “leaders.” The Bible calls the sum of these enemies “the (fallen) World,” and Bible scholars agree that the “world” is Satan’s anti-God system of rule for subjugating and continually deceiving humanity (2 Corinthians 4:4). Those who are held captive by Satan via “the world” are also equated with “the world,” since they are its constituents by default. Thankfully, Jesus says to His disciples, “In this world, you will have Tribulation, but be of good courage; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). In other words, Jesus arrived in human flesh, in order to defeat Satan’s present, evil world and set human captives free via the reconciliation of all things!

7. God will—one day—create a new world, after he brings all evil to justice in this present world (Revelation 20-21). Those who trust Him for their own reconciliation to Creator and to mediate an ongoing relationship with Him will see all things righted… but that time is not now. Currently, we wait patiently and endure, knowing that we (who believe) are rescued and awaiting the appearing of Jesus (Titus 2:13), the only Source of mankind’s reconciliation to God.

8. During our (believers’) wait, God wants to turn our trials and hardships into ways to teach us about selflessness, empathy, mercy, love, wisdom, meekness and devotion to Him (James 1). Without these trials and hardships, our corruptible human nature would just keep turning inward and never be transformed into being like Jesus, our Savior (Hebrews 11-12). These hardships and trials, allowed by but not designed by God, are called “correction,” and they are not vindictive actions by God. Offenses must happen in this fallen world, and the one who does them is “undone,” but God wishes to work redemption through them. Hardships can be transformative, if we trust the Redeemer of all evil to do His work presently and hereafter. In that process, we ourselves are changed; and that transformation has a great deal to do with His plan for the Ages and our specific purpose in His Kingdom. Again, God’s transforming us through the process of redeeming hardships is not punishment—an unending judgement for eternity. If we experience the evil people do, or the consequences of our own wrongdoing, it is never “God’s Plan.” But, again, He can redeem it because of Jesus. If it is a natural evil (sickness, death or destruction) then He makes all things new in the resurrection & the new world. Besides these things, believers are presently to act as if the future kingdom is already present in their person. This is called the New & Living Way that Jesus Himself demonstrated and instills in believers. This “Way” is completely opposed to that of “the (fallen) World,” with its strong & corrupting, selfish desires.

9. Judgment/Punishment (separation from God’s Life, Love and Light in eternity) can happen only to those who reject Jesus, Who is God’s Rescuer, Healer, Restorer from all evils. To reject His rescue is to be defiant by choosing to remain in the sickness of working evil; to exercise free will to remain condemned for preferring a fallen nature and evil deeds (John 3:19, 31-36). The most ancient teachings of Christianity did not present said judgement as everlasting, conscious, physical torment, but rather, as a supernatural, (i.e. eternal: outside of space/time) negative consequence, determined/pronounced by none except God and exactly fitting or representative of one’s own desires, deeds and choices; God loves all enough to offer a resurrection to new life, instead of judgment, yet will not force or coerce, but gives all what they desire, even if that includes “godlessness,” which is a sort of annihilation in the minds of ancients, because to exist completely apart from God (who is Life) is to be undone & exist not at all. [In the words of C. S. Lewis, “All get what they want; they do not always like it.”]

10. Actions to take:

—Denounce your corrupted human self (the “fallen self”) and Satan & all his doings.

—Announce your Faith that Jesus (Yeshua of Nazareth) is Lord: the Son of God, Who was miraculously born to Mary by the power of the Holy Spirit, and Who (after living a sinless life) died for our sin and was raised again, so that we can be reconciled to God and healed of inner corruption.

—Proclaim the Creator of All is your God and the Rightful Ruler of All Creation… that Jesus will return to bring all evil to justice.

—Show this belief openly by:

A. being baptized in the Name of the Trinity: Father, Son & Holy Spirit, according to the mandate of Jesus.

B. continually participating with the Spirit of God, Who constantly influences each believer to live out their identity as a new creation, part of the spiritual Body of Jesus… for the purpose of being transformed into one, who feels His kind of emotions, thinks His kind of thoughts, speaks His words, and does His kind of deeds. This participation cannot mature, if one is not meeting together with other believers in a community of the Faith.

Whatever you do, dear reader, please do not go to a “church,” which confuses the Old Testament Covenant of ancient Israel with the New Testament Covenant in Christ’s blood… or even with bad interpretations of the New Testament (see HERE, HERE and HERE):

Instead, we should ask ourselves if a thing is as thoroughly loving toward God and neighbor as it is loving towards our self. As it is written,

One of the scribes came and …asked Him, “What commandment is the foremost of all?” Jesus answered, “The foremost is, ‘Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is one Lord; and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” The scribe said to Him, “Right, Teacher; You have truly stated that He is One, and there is no one else besides Him; and to love Him with all the heart and with all the understanding and with all the strength, and to love one’s neighbor as himself, is much more than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.” When Jesus saw that he had answered intelligently, He said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” After that, no one would venture to ask Him any more questions. (Mark 12:28-34, NASB)

And also:

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34-35, NKJV)

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