Month: June 2013

Are you “5 Talent” Living?

The “Parable of the Talents” in the Bible has long been interpreted with a leaning towards the basic idea that if you serve God more, He will serve you more.  Give God more, and He will give more of Himself to you.  If you don’t, you will have a lacking life and may be in jeopardy of losing your salvation. It’s the kind of interpretation that has given many a Christian a performance-based view of the Christian life.

Yet, if we don’t let the Bible interpret the Bible in its “context”, we can make a “con” out of the “text.”

The parables of Jesus were used to help people glean revelation from God about the Kingdom of God and how God works. The are highly symbolic and deliberately so. They are meant to draw the listener/reader in to the revealing whispers of the Spirit as one meditates on God’s Word.

This parable is given in its original context to a Jewish, legalistic audience. This is a key understanding in discerning God’s revelation through this parable.  The Jews were followers of the Law, and saw personal performance as their means to God and the things of God. Jesus, being the manifestation of Grace, came to fulfill the law and establish a new covenant solely based on His performance on the cross and His gift of righteousness to all who believe.

The Parable of the Talents is commonly referred to as the “Parable of the Bags of Gold.”  This too, is an important contextual issue in discerning the Spirit’s revelation of truth through this parable. The talents given in the parable were gold.

It is commonly known that “gold” in the Bible is a symbol of the righteousness of Christ. As a gift, it symbolizes God giving His best, His son Jesus Christ. Indeed, gold is a symbol of the Grace of God in Christ Jesus, providing us righteousness through His performance  (death and resurrection) on the cross, received through faith. Like gold, it is a pure gift of pure righteousness for those who believe.  Jesus paid the price we couldn’t pay so we could receive a gift we could never deserve. It is this Grace of God that saves us, sustains us, and sanctifies us.

Now for the parable. (Matthew 25:14-30)

14 “Again, it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted his wealth to them. 15 To one he gave five bags of gold, to another two bags, and to another one bag, each according to his ability. Then he went on his journey. 16 The man who had received five bags of gold went at once and put his money to work and gained five bags more. 17 So also, the one with two bags of gold gained two more. 18 But the man who had received one bag went off, dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money.

19 “After a long time the master of those servants returned and settled accounts with them.20 The man who had received five bags of gold brought the other five. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with five bags of gold. See, I have gained five more.’

21 “His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’

22 “The man with two bags of gold also came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with two bags of gold; see, I have gained two more.’

23 “His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’

24 “Then the man who had received one bag of gold came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed. 25 So I was afraid and went out and hid your gold in the ground. See, here is what belongs to you.’

26 “His master replied, ‘You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered seed? 27 Well then, you should have put my money on deposit with the bankers, so that when I returned I would have received it back with interest.

28 “‘So take the bag of gold from him and give it to the one who has ten bags. 29 For whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them. 30 And throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’

In basic terms, the parable portrays Jesus, the master, giving His most precious gift, the righteousness of His son Jesus Christ symbolized by gold talents. The Grace of God in Christ Jesus is given to all, but what we do with God’s grace matters deeply to God.  The parable is dealing with the stewardship of God’s unmerited Grace and favor through Jesus Christ, not personal talents.

Why 5, 2, and 1?  The number 5 is symbolic of Grace, the number two symbolic of Jesus and dualism, and 1 represents God.

The people who are living a 1-talent life view God and living for God in a very legalistic way as symbolized in the parable. They know God as creator, but not Jesus as Lord and Savior. They have buried the revelation of Grace through Jesus Christ, desiring rather a life based on their performance and merit. They have chosen religion (or the absence of) over regeneration and relationship with Christ. Because they have no faith in God’s Grace in Christ, the have no reward, but rather loss. What they now have available to them in Christ, able to be received through faith, will one day have an expiration date upon Christ’s return, and in that sense, be taken away from them because they refused unto the end to receive it.

The people who are living a 2-talent life believe in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, but live a life mixing together Jesus and their own performance as the bases of their worth, value, and favor from God. What they may call a “balance” or “dance” between God and their performance, God calls a mixture of two covenants. By their living and how they teach others to live, one can tell they don’t truly believe that the same Grace that saved them also sustains and sanctifies them. It’s obvious that we are all designed in Christ Jesus for upright, godly living, and to fulfill and serve a purpose here on earth. 2-talent people however, believe the best method to this goal is to mix their efforts and God’s together.  They see the Christian life as “Jesus and me” instead of “Jesus as me.”  Thus, the foundation of their life and living is a little bit them and a little bit Jesus. Yet, God’s method to the goal of holiness and faithfulness is Grace. It’s His performance “as us” in this world. We are the righteousness of Christ, co-laborers, having every spiritual blessing. In the Bible, Paul declared that “in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form, and in Him you have been made complete” (Colossians 2:9-10). We lack nothing. Jesus Christ possesses all of God. We possess all of Jesus Christ. He possesses all who believe. It’s a complete union. There is no division between us. It is not just Christ in your life, it is Christ “as” your life. This is the foundation from which Paul concluded, 13 [Not in your own strength] for it is God Who is all the while effectually at work in you [energizing and creating in you the power and desire], both to will and to work for His good pleasure and satisfaction and delight. (Philippians 2:13, AMP)  The foundation for obedience and service is faith, not self-effort nor performance. Your Christian life is a 100% you and 100% Jesus. Not 50% of each. Neither is it a 50% your performance and 50% His. It’s 100% Jesus’ performance in, through, and “as” you. You don’t need more of Jesus or more closeness with Jesus, you have all of Him and are as close as you can get, you need only believe it to receive it. Faith is the currency of heaven, not your faithfulness. It is clear that this 2-talent person had at least a faith to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and because so, his faith was rewarded.

The people who are living a 5-talent life have received God’s Grace and are living solely from God’s Grace. There is no mixture of covenants. It’s all grace upon grace, not grace with a mixture of Law (performance based rules).  There is no balance or dance, there is only being “as He is so are we in this world.” (1 John 4:17) Because they have received the pure Gospel of God’s grace through faith, they don’t sin more, they sin far less. Their identity in Christ (complete, whole, forgiven etc.) shapes their performance in life, not the other way around. It is right believing that leads to right living.  These are people who have taken all of God’s Grace and live all by Grace, and give all through Grace. For them, as they labor to rest in Grace (Hebrews 4:11), there is no striving or trying to their Christian life, there is only believing and trusting.  Theirs is an obedience of faith (Romans 1:5) that leads them to act on the promptings of the Holy Spirit with true power and multiplying effectiveness for the Kingdom. They don’t have to serve, love, sacrifice, etc. they “get” to.  It’s not a work, but an act of love from a foundation of rest. It is in and through this foundation of faith that God is able to bless and multiply. The multiplying mathematics of the Kindgom is “grace upon grace” not “grace upon performance” or “grace upon law.” All received and manifested through faith.

The only two places in scripture where it is recorded by the Holy Spirit that Jesus became angry were situations where Grace was not given (and thus obviously not received).  God is super serious about what we do with His pure Gospel of Grace, and the Parables of the Talents is one place where Jesus communicates this seriousness through parable.

For sure, don’t refuse Grace and live a 1 talent life. Yet, don’t mix Grace and live a 2 talent life. Receive, live, give, and rest in the fulness of the Gospel of God’s grace and live a 5 talent life!

The Religion of Nutrition?

Let me be clear as a glass of Veen bottled water, I am a firm believer in God’s desire for us to take care of our bodies, and eating well is a vital aspect of doing such!

There is growing evidence that many physical and emotional problems can be traced back to nutrition at some level or another. My wife and I and our 4 children have removed most process foods from our diet and are very health conscious about what we eat.  I have been known to juice two to three times a day and declare with firm conviction the benefits of doing so.  So, as you read further, you can refrain from sending me emails declaring my ignorance or resistance to nutritional health and the biblical admonitions to live a healthy lifestyle.  Furthermore, in a church/christian culture ladened with diet-caused obesity, I am very encouraged to see more Christians moving towards healthier eating lifestyles. We as Christians are so quick to point out sins like homosexuality in our culture, all while we stuff our overweight bodies after Sunday service at the church of Golden Corral. Christians who don’t eat responsibly with health in mind are moving away from the Grace of God that teaches us to live rightly, just as much as any other.

However, anything can become an idol, work, legalist standard, religion, or self-righteous ritual, including nutritional health.

The word salvation (sozo) in the New Testament actually refers to the redemption/salvation of the whole person (physically, emotionally, and spiritually). Salvation is not just about getting out of hell and into heaven, it’s about the healing of the entire person, including their bodies. God has provided the supply to our every need, through His son Jesus. Every impact of sin on our life was remedied on the cross, as Jesus bore it all on our behalf. Faith is what applies the entirety of the work of Jesus on cross into our lives and living.

Yet, until we enjoy a new heaven and new earth upon the second coming of Christ, the truth is, as organic and anti-processed as you might like to become, the Garden of Eden is not available to us.  Everything of creation on earth is still yet tainted with sin. Even the best of what creation has to offer is fallen. Are there some foods that are better than others? Absolutely! Should we be consuming those better foods rather than the junk that is popularly offered? Absolutely! But nutritional health cannot save you, increase the favor of God on your life, nor make you more of a genuine Christian than another person. Oops, I think I hear few bubbles bursting.

Creation cannot redeem us nor sanctify us, only trusting in the Creator can. In fact, there can even be more clinical connection between stress and disease than there is to nutrition and disease. I would venture to say that some people are so stressed out about their nutritional life that any benefit they might enjoy from eating well is eclipsed by it. They have turned nutrition into a religion, even to the point of posturing themselves as a more faithful breed of Christian. Look at me and what I eat, now that’s what a real-deal Christian does!

Satan is always looking for things to entice the believer to look (and to get others to look) at their own performance for their legitimacy with God and their Christian living. For some, Satan has successfully dangled “nutrition” on a string swinging back and forth in front of their eyes, putting them in a trance of legalistic, nutritional rule keeping. Think I am exaggerating? If you haven’t already, it won’t be long until you run into a Christian who has become a nutritional Nazi, not out of a healthy, humble expression of their own freedom in Christ, but with a desire to project their freedom into yours with a sure sense that if you aren’t living like them, you aren’t as good as them. There is a whole new brand of Christian emerging that will not only thumb the Bible over your head, but a grocery list as well.

Nothing in creation can be your redemption nor salvation supply, only the Creator.  We are saved by Grace, not by gluten-free. And perhaps more importantly, we are to live by Grace from Grace, with the freedom to be gluten-free or not. Our identity in Christ is to Christ, not to what we eat or don’t eat. We are not what we eat, nor how we appear, we are what we believe and receive through faith. Jesus makes us who we are, not our diets.

It is more important to believe right than to eat right. The first gives birth to the second. It is more important to rest in Jesus and trust Him to be our every supply, (spiritually, emotionally, and physically) than it is to put your trust in nutrition for your health, value, legitimacy, and identity.  Food does not save you nor sanctify you, faith in Jesus, the true Bread of Life does. What would it do to gain the world’s best nutritional offerings and forfeit your soul, rest, and trust in God’s supply for your life?  Does God work through the wisdom of nutrition and better eating to benefit, bless, and even give physical healing in our lives? You bet. The same is true with medicine. But the Christian should never work to God from the wisdom of nutrition. God uses Christ to save us and sanctify us, not His creation.

Let’s not give up on faith and chase after the allure of a religion of food. Eat well, be health minded, exercise, but trust in Jesus more. Worship Jesus, not nutrition.

The Spirit makes it clear that as time goes on, some are going to give up on the faith and chase after demonic illusions put forth by professional liars. These liars have lied so well and for so long that they’ve lost their capacity for truth. They will tell you not to get married. They’ll tell you not to eat this or that food—perfectly good food God created to be eaten heartily and with thanksgiving by believers who know better! Everything God created is good, and to be received with thanks. Nothing is to be sneered at and thrown out. God’s Word and our prayers make every item in creation holy.   1 Timothy 4:1-5 (The Message)

© 2017 Chris Kratzer

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