Friday, May 27, 2011

Is Christ an enabler?

Is Christ an enabler? 

Enabling is a term with a double meaning.  As a positive term, it references patterns of interaction which allow individuals to develop and grow. These may be on any scale, for example within the family, or in wider society as "Enabling acts" designed to empower some group, or create a new authority for a (usually governmental) body.  In a negative sense, enabling is also used in the context of problematic behavior, to signify dysfunctional approaches that are intended to help but in fact may perpetuate a problem.  A common theme of enabling in this latter sense is that third parties take responsibility, blame, or make accommodations for a person's harmful conduct (often with the best of intentions, or from fear or insecurity which inhibits action). The practical effect is that the person themselves does not have to do so, and is shielded from awareness of the harm it may do, and the need or pressure to change. It is a major environmental cause of addiction. 

A common example of enabling can be observed in the relationship between the alcoholic/addict and a codependent spouse. The spouse believes incorrectly that he or she is helping the alcoholic by calling into work for them, making excuses that prevent others from holding them accountable, and generally cleaning up the mess that occurs in the wake of their impaired judgment.  In reality what the spouse is doing is hurting, not helping. Enabling prevents psychological growth in the person being enabled and can contribute to negative symptoms in the enabler.  Generally, individuals who enable others have weak boundaries, low self-esteem, and have difficulty being assertive when they communicate with others. (Please bear with me as I tie this concept with our lesson)

The cover of our lesson shows a man – presumably Jesus – putting on a robe over another man's old dirty clothes.  To an outsider, after the new clothes are on, the old clothes under the new ones will probably not be visible.  However, you may be able so smell them after a while.  Since these garments are about character, it would mean that Jesus is just covering the surface.  The old, ugly, dirty character still exists.  The man just looks righteous.  However the "smell" of the old character will be evident after a while.  This concept – which also recurs throughout our lesson – runs contrary to what we read in Zechariah 3.  Let us read,

             Zechariah 3

1 Then he showed me Joshua[a] the high priest standing before the angel of the LORD, and Satan standing at his right side to accuse him.

 2 The LORD said to Satan, "The LORD rebuke you, Satan! The LORD, who has chosen Jerusalem, rebuke you! Is not this man a burning stick snatched from the fire?"

 3 Now Joshua was dressed in filthy clothes as he stood before the angel.

4 The angel said to those who were standing before him, "Take off his filthy clothes."  Then he said to Joshua, "See, I have taken away your sin, and I will put fine garments on you."

 5 Then I said, "Put a clean turban on his head." So they put a clean turban on his head and clothed him, while the angel of the LORD stood by.

 It is evident in this passage that that the old character is removed to put on the new one.  That is the Father's plan.  It is Jesus' work through the Holy Spirit.  All three persons of the Trinity are involved.  The Father is not looking to be appeased.  He is looking to appease us with Him.  Paul says in Romans 5: 10, "For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life."  The Father's wrath is not against us, but against Sin. Many believe the opposite.  They believe that the Father has not poured His wrath – to them the ultimate consequence of Sin of which we are all guilty - because Jesus intercedes.  If the Father's wrath is the ultimate consequence of Sin, and if Christ is a covering shield that prevents the Father's wrath - the consequence of Sin - then Christ is an enabler.  In this view Christ takes our responsibility, guilt or blame for our Sin and hides it from the Father to spare us from the Father's anger.  Sadly, in this view we remain shielded from awareness of the harm we may do, and the need or pressure to change.  In other words, we remain in Sin.  

But, if death is the ultimate consequence of Sin (Romans 6:23) - a harmful condition that will kill us and others unless it is treated - and the Father sends Christ to be that treatment, then Christ is not an enabler.  This paints a different picture of the Father since the Father sent the Son (1 john 4:14).  The idea of covering us with the cloak of righteousness is not to hide our Sin but to take it away, to remove it.  And, this shows that the forgiveness of sins is something more than a mere form, something more than a mere entry in the books of record in heaven, to the effect that the sin has been canceled.  The forgiveness of sins is a reality; it is something tangible, something that vitally affects the individual. It actually clears him from the fault that makes him guilty.  Thus the sinner is cleared from the guilt, and if he is cleared from guilt, is justified, made righteous, he has certainly undergone a radical change.  He is, indeed, another person, for he obtained this righteousness for the remission of sins, in Christ.  

If Christ is to be an enabler, then let Him be in a positive sense.  Christ enables us to repent and be converted.  Jesus enables us to be a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17).  

Raul Diaz

Friday, May 20, 2011

This week's commentary

Due to travel none this week.  Hope to resume next week.

Friday, May 13, 2011



My friends and I love to sing.  So, we sing as often as we can.  One of the greatest pleasures of singing is to sing in harmony.  Everyone sings a different note but somehow all the notes sound great together.  In music harmony is defined as a combination of sounds considered pleasing to the ear.  Harmony is also defined as a simultaneous combination of notes in a chord; which is probably why it sounds so good.  The notes of the chord are in agreement. 

Agreement is another definition of harmony.  Harmony is agreement in feeling or opinion; accord.  The word harmony is used to describe a collation of parallel passages, especially from the Gospels, with a commentary demonstrating their consonance and explaining their discrepancies.  The word harmony is derived from the Greek word "harmos," which means joint.  This gives an implication of togetherness.  So, to really be together you must be in harmony, therefore you must be in agreement. 

What must we do to be in agreement?  Let us look at Amos 3:3: "Can two walk together, except they be agreed?"  The answer to two questions about this verse will give an answer to the previous question: 1. What does agree mean in this verse?  2. With whom do we walk? 

In the Hebrew the Word for agreed in this verse is the same verse used for betrothed, meet and together.  It is interesting that the Septuagint translators used the word for to be known.  In other words, two cannot walk together unless they know each other.  (Knowing each other is the basis of trust.)   If two are to agree they must know what they agree on.  This should be common sense; yet, it is not.  When nearly 50% of marriages in the USA end up in divorce is because at some point the couple realized they did not agree; which means that the couple did not really know each other.  Not knowing yields distrust and disagreement.  Two cannot walk together like this. 

Many of us claim to be Christians, followers of Christ.  Yet our lifestyle says otherwise.  If we are walking with Christ should we not be more like Him?  It is interesting that the word used  the Greek for Christ to name the Holy Spirit is Comforter – the one that walks beside you.  To walk with the Holy Spirit you must agree with Him, which means you need to know Him deeply and trust Him.    

David walked with the Lord until one day he let iniquity take over.  We know the story: he saw a woman he liked, he lusted after her, he slept with her, and he tried to deceive Uriah - her husband - into sleeping with her so he could attribute her pregnancy to Uriah.  When David's scheme failed he had Uriah killed.  So, King David let himself be lured into horrible sin--adultery-murder-lies. For a long time he was able to repress the painful guilt, stomp on it, and keep it covered up. And he bluffed and smiled his way through his royal appointments of state; but when in solitary the guilt finally caught up with him, his devastation of soul was horrendous. Nothing could have made him happy.  He discovered how it felt to walk on your own, resisting God's walking companion. 

David repented and realized the contrast.  How better it was to agree and harmonize with God.  When God's forgiveness came, David wrote: "Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven ["lifted up, taken"], whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man unto whom the LORD imputeth not iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no guile.  When I kept silence, my bones waxed old through my roaring all the day long.  For day and night thy hand was heavy upon me: my moisture is turned into the drought of summer. Selah." (Psalms 32: 1 – 4). Nothing in the vast universe is so joyous to receive than God's forgiveness.  Nothing is more joyous then to be in harmony with God.  Which is why David now can choose to "… abide in Thy tabernacle for ever: I will trust in the covert of Thy wings" (Psalm 61:4).  Are you in harmony with God?  Are you walking with Him?  Do you trust Him? 

Raul Diaz

Friday, May 06, 2011

Commentary: Passing the Baton

Passing the Baton

One of the most exciting events in athletics competitions are relay races.  During a relay race, members of a team take turns running parts the distance of a race (usually with a baton in the fist).  Typically, the total distance of the race is divided in four and four racers run one of the four parts, respectively.  The first runner starts of the race with a baton on his fist.  Then, at the end of his portion of the race he must pass on the baton to the next runner, which will pass on the baton to the third runner.  The third runner will in turn pass on the baton to the last runner.  Besides, the speed, there are other reasons for the excitement of the race.  One is that the winning team does not always win all four parts of the race.  This uncertainty adds to the drama of the race.   Another reason is that the passing of the baton can go wrong.  One thing is taken for granted in this race: the runner always has a baton; this implies that only those with a baton can run.  

The expression: passing the baton is applied metaphorically to other events.  For example in leadership, if someone passes the baton to another person, they pass responsibility for their position to that person. If someone picks up the baton, they take over responsibility for position.  If I am leading an organization, then I hold the baton.  If I retire and leave a successor in charge, I passed my baton to my successor.  In the race the baton determines who is running, for only the racer can have a baton.  In leadership, the baton becomes a metaphor for who is in charge.  He who holds the proverbial baton is in charge. 

Elisha is Elijah's successor.  The mantle is this case is akin to the baton.  In Bible times a mantle was a loose sleeveless garment worn over other clothes. It is thought that it was probably made of sheepskin made into leather (see Eaton's Bible Dictionary).  Twice we see the mantle used as a way of showing Elisha would follow Elijah.  We read from 1 King 19: 19,

1 King 19:19 So he departed thence, and found Elisha the son of Shaphat, who was plowing with twelve yoke of oxen before him, and he with the twelfth: and Elijah passed by him, and cast his mantle upon him.

The Lord had instructed Elijah to anoint Elisha as his successor.  To let Elisha know Elijah threw his mantle on Elisha.  Elisha seemed to know what it meant.  He was to leave all behind and follow Elijah.  The second time we see the mantle in relation to Elisha is in 2 Kings 2.  If we recall, as Elijah and Elisha walked and talked together, a fiery chariot from heaven swooped between them and took Elijah along in its terrific wind up into heaven (v.11).  It was over in an instant.  Elisha could but cry out in amazed tribute to his departed master (v.12).  Elijah was gone.  The era in which he lived ended; another began.  Elijah's mantle fell as Elijah went up.  We read what happens with the mantle in 2 Kings 2:13,

2 King 2:13 He took up also the mantle of Elijah that fell from him, and went back, and stood by the bank of Jordan;

As Elijah was taken to heaven, the mantle fell to the ground and Elisha took it and kept it as his own (2 Kings 2:13).  In giving his mantle to Elisha, Elijah symbolized the passing of the authority of prophetic leadership from himself to Elisha. The significance is that Elisha would be clothed with the Spirit of prophecy as the divinely appointed successor to Elijah. 

Elijah was now gone. Only his mantle remained. This mantle signified the power of God in the life of Elijah, who declared drought, who asked God to send fire from heaven while on Mt. Carmel, who caused nations to tremble with his messages, and who raised the dead. It was now taken up by Elisha who carried it back to the river Jordan and asked, "Where is Elijah's God" (2 Kings 2:14)? Next he struck the water with this mantle just as Elijah had done previously (v. 8).

So, when Elisha smote the water with the cloak, he discovered that although Elijah was gone, the Lord was not, because the water separated before Elisha just as it had done when Elijah earlier smote it with his mantle. The sons of the prophets who witnessed this scene understood that the Spirit of God rested now upon Elisha in zeal and in great power.

So the implication is that Elisha does not preach his message, but Elijah's message.  Elisha does not do his work, but continues Elijah's work.  Paul says that he went a step further.  He not only spoke and did Christ work, he lived Christ life. Let us read Galatians 2:20

 Galatians 2:20 I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.

And, we are not to do our work nor preach our message, but do Christ's work and preach His message.  We are to live His life.  Let us put on the mantle of Christ so we can continue His work by living His life on this earth.

Raul Diaz