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“Oh, the unspeakable greatness of that exchange,—the Sinless One is condemned, and he who is guilty goes free; the Blessing bears the curse, and the cursed is brought into blessing; the Life dies, and the dead live; the Glory is whelmed in darkness, and he who knew nothing but confusion of face is clothed with glory.” Trailady

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A person God turned around many times.

Thursday, December 01, 2016

The Messenger of the covenant, the Baptist, the Apostle, the Judgment

“But what went ye out for to see? A prophet? Yea, I say unto you, and much more than a prophet. This is he, of whom it is written, Behold, I sendG649 My messengerG32, which shall prepare Thy way before Thee.” (Luke 7:26,27).

G32 aggelosangelos” from aggellō (probably derived from G71; compare G34; to bring tidings); a messenger; especially an “angel”; by implication a pastor: -angel, messenger.

G71 agō A primary verb; properly to lead; by implication to bring, drive, (reflexively) go, (specifically) pass (time), or (figuratively) induce: -be, bring (forth), carry, (let) go, keep, lead away, be open.

G34 agelē From G71 (compare G32); a drove: -herd.

G2097 euaggelizo From G2095 and G32; to announce good news (“evangelize”) especially the gospel: -declare, bring (declare, show) glad (good) tidings, preach (the gospel).

G2095 eu Neuter of a primary word eus (good); (adverbially) well: -good, well (done).

G652 apostolos From G649; a delegate; specifically an ambassador of the Gospel; officially the commissioner of Christ (“apostle”), (with miraculous powers): -apostle, messenger, he that is sent.

In other words, John the Baptist and the disciples (later turned apostles), were all the messengers of the Lord, the angels of the Lord; they were all like their Lord, the great Angel of the Lord. They were sent by their Lord, as He was sent by His Father to turn away the curse of the Law and give the message of Well Done to His people who had accepted the punishment of their iniquities by four overlording Empires. Christ had been sent by God, His Father! The Messiah had come! “Who is blind, but My Servant? or deaf, as My MessengerH4397 that I sentH7971? who is blind as He that is perfect, and blind as the LORD’s Servant?” (Isa. 42:19).

H4397 mal‘âk From an unused root meaning to dispatch as a deputy; a messenger; specifically of God, that is, an angel (also a prophet, priest or teacher): -ambassador, angel, king, messenger.

The last book of the Old Testament, MalachiH4401, is really not the name of a prophet, but of the subject matter—that before the great a terrible day of the Lord God would send His fully vested Messenger.

H4401 mal‘âkîy From the same as H4397; ministrative; Malaki, a prophet: -Malachi.

“Behold, I will send My messengerH4397, and he shall prepare the way before Me: and the Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to His temple, even the MessengerH4397 of the covenant, whom ye delight in: behold, He shall come, saith the LORD of hosts.” (Mal. 3:1).

We could call it the very first version of the three angels’ messages. “I saw another angel fly in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach unto them that dwell on the earth, and to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people, saying with a loud voice, Fear God, and give glory to Him; for the hour of His judgment is come.” (Rev. 14:6,7). We could rename Revelation into “Malachi, Part II”. The last message of the Old Testament would be the same warning about Judgment Day that the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd angels’ messages proclaim in the last message of the New Testament. Who would be able to stand on the Lord’s side with Moses like the tribe of Levi did in the apostasy at Mt. Sinai?

“But who may abide the day of His coming? and who shall stand when He appeareth? for He is like a refiner’s fire, and like fullers’ soap:
And He shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver: and He shall purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer unto the LORD an offering in righteousness.
Then shall the offering of Judah and Jerusalem be pleasant unto the LORD, as in the days of old, and as in former years.
And I will come near to you to judgment; and I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers, and against the adulterers, and against false swearers, and against those that oppress the hireling in his wages, the widow, and the fatherless, and that turn aside the stranger from his right, and fear not Me, saith the LORD of hosts.
For I am the LORD, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed.” (Mal. 3:2-6).

Of interest is the connection between the heavenly Messenger and the Law of God. An earlier part of the Old Testament’s Judgment Day message said, “Ye shall know that I have sent this commandment unto you, that My covenant might be with Levi, saith the LORD of hosts. My covenant was with him of life and peace; and I gave them to him for the fear wherewith he feared Me, and was afraid before My name. The law of truth was in his mouth, and iniquity was not found in his lips: he walked with Me in peace and equity, and did turn many away from iniquity. For the priest’s lips should keep knowledge, and they should seek the law at his mouth: for he is the messengerH4397 [mal’âk] of the LORD of hosts.” (Mal. 2:4-7). The claims of the Law are always restored before the Lord comes close for judgment.

This “messenger of the Lord” is key throughout the whole tenor of Malachi.

John the Baptist was the special son of Levi, who was the ancient messenger of the Lord. John was the ambassador/apostle (“he that is sent”) [G652 apostolos of God] to prepare the way before His Son, Messiah the Prince. Therefore, John the Baptist was more than a prophet. John was Levi resurrected from the dead works and from the atrophied memory banks of the nation. Thus, of all the prophets that had been sent to revive the Law and the memory of Levi, not a greater prophet than John had arisen. The time had come—the accomplishment of the 600 year punishment of Israel’s sins and the time to comfort and redeem the captive Israelites, as it was written in Isaiah 40:1,2. “Comfort ye, comfort ye My people, saith your God. Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her, that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned: for she hath received of the LORD’s hand double for all her sins.”

Israel’s national deliverance, “to finish the transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness” (Dan. 9:24), would be amplified in a larger victory over the adversary of all time. The Jews’ Day of Judgment prefigured a larger Day of Judgment for the whole human race,  involving everyone from the fall of Adam and Eve to the world living at the Second Advent of the Son of God. The Messenger’s judgment was time to fulfill the plan of salvation.

Apart from the context of the whole book, this usage of “messenger” in Malachi 3:1 is confusing because it reuses the title of messenger for both John, “the messenger of Jesus”, and Jesus, “the Messenger of the covenant”. But, the double title makes sense when we see that John was a sub-apostle and sub-priest under the greatest “ApostleG652 and High Priest of our profession, Christ Jesus”, who His Father anointed with “the oil of gladness above [His] fellows.” (Heb. 3:1; 1:9). Christ was one among His fellows, yet His fellows knew He was above them. As the Son of God, they knew He had come out from the bosom of His Father and had been sent as God’s foremost Apostle, and Messenger of the covenant. “For I have given unto them the words which Thou gavest Me; and they have received them, and have known surely that I came out from Thee, and they have believed that Thou didst send Me…. And the glory which Thou gavest Me I have given them; that they may be one, even as We are one…. And I have declared unto them Thy name, and will declare it: that the love wherewith Thou hast loved Me may be in them, and I in them.” (John 17:8,22,26). Jesus’ apostles “are the messengers of the churches, and the glory of Christ.” (2Cor. 8:23).

When the Messiah came, He brought again the great revival of Elijah and Elisha, His revival being reinforced by John the Baptist on His left, and Paul and the other apostles on His right, according to a timeline.

John the Baptist was an apostle as much as Paul and the gospel ministers were apostles. And the apostles were prophets as much as Joh was. But, just as with Elisha following up Elijah with a greater reformation, the gospel work covered a greater area and brought forward a greater and more glorious gift to the world than John did. Just as Jesus was sent by His Father to this world, and the apostles were sent by Jesus throughout Israel, the reception of the apostles and the Son of God determined which souls received God Himself. “He that receiveth you receiveth Me, and he that receiveth Me receiveth Him that sent Me.” (Matt. 10:40). This chain of apostleship also explains the chain of inspiration.

“And I fell at his feet to worship him [Gabriel]. And he said unto me, See thou do it not: I am thy fellowservant, and of thy brethren that have the testimony of Jesus: worship God: for the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.” (Rev. 19:10).

The testimony of Jesus, which we always associate with the gift of prophecy, was not only given to prophets and apostles, but also to angels. In Revelation 19:10 we hear the apostle John being told by Gabriel that he was a fellowservant of the human prophets. Gabriel, an angelic messenger who Daniel called a “man” (Dan. 9:21; 10:18), was a fellow messenger of the human messengers, an angel associate with men.

“The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto Him, to shew unto His servants things which must shortly come to pass; and He sent and signified it by His angel unto His servant John: who bare record of the word of God, and of the testimony of Jesus Christ, and of all things that he saw.” (Rev. 1:1,2).

Present truth originated from God to His Son to Gabriel to John to the church. This is the chain of inspiration and also the chain of command. It is also the chain of messengers of the Lord, the chain of apostleship. Under God they are all fellows, the sheep under the under-shepherds, the under-shepherding prophets a little lower than the angels, and the angel ministering spirits lower than the divine Son of God, the Word of God, the great Spirit of truth who God would send to give His testimony to the apostles, so that they could bear witness to the world (see John 15:26,27; 14:18,19). The Spirit of truth comes from the Father through His only Son begotten of God from the days of eternity, to His angel. 

Then Gabriel and his angelic hosts pass it on to their human counterparts the prophets. And finally, the prophets pass it to other messenger sons of men who, down through the ages, the prophets inspire, marshal, and send out. All are given the power of the Highest to give the strait testimony like Elijah gave it, and are protected from the poison of Satan’s hosts and men. “For the eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to shew Himself strong in the behalf of them whose heart is perfect toward Him.” (2Chron. 16:9). “He doeth according to His will in the army of heaven.” “Are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation?” (Dan. 4:35; Heb. 1:14).

Surrounded by His prophets and teachers and messengers and apostles of both Old and New Testaments, Christ is like fearsome Mt. Rainier with its sky-scraping fellow mountains that sit around it. They are humbled by Rainier’s towering height, yet meekly surrendered to its message of greatness to the world. Not only does Christ’s greatness of divine justice and mercy surpass all His angelic and human fellows, but so does His oil of joy stand head and shoulders above these His fellows.

Who will abide the day of the Messenger’s coming? Who will stand when the strait testimony of the True and Faithful Witness reappeareth? Who will be found merciful and unselfish, the character of Christ which “rejoiceth against judgment” (Jas. 2:13)?

Beautiful testimony of an ex-atheist

I posted this testimony six years ago and felt impressed to post it again. This time at the end of the testimony I made a few comments on phrases that jumped out at me.
 
 
 
How this devout Atheist for 20 years went from hardcore skepticism to hardcore worship of the Savior, Jesus Christ. Testimony of A Former Atheist, A.S.A. Jones

I was a devout atheist for over twenty years. In July of 1998, I finally managed to see the biblical truths that had managed to elude me. The following is an account of how I went from hardcore skepticism to hardcore worship of the Savior, Jesus Christ.

Rational thought replaces the God of my youth
I was raised a Roman Catholic in a home where the name of Jesus Christ and God was never mentioned. I was encouraged to attend catechism and church every weekend, but the concept of God was never made completely real to me. I entertained the notion as any child would, but I just wasn’t into the imaginary friend scene and by the time I was thirteen, I had concluded that God was merely a vicious adult version of the Easter bunny. I abandoned the lie, informed my upset parents that I would no longer be attending church, and began seeking truth.
In the absence of a religious belief to answer life’s questions, I turned my mental energy to science. Science had an awesome track record of solving many problems and its resulting technology had provided tangible benefits to all of mankind. Science was the answer! I reasoned that if we could educate our populations and continue to make advances in medicine, agriculture and energy production, we would one day have the mythical Eden as our reality.
I threw myself into my studies, determined to become a scientific messiah who would one day deliver people from the bondage of disease. At the age of sixteen, my IQ and my grades made me eligible for my high school’s early release program and I began my studies in biology and chemistry at the University of Pittsburgh.

Rational thought replaces my compassion for others

I graduated from college with high honors and my prized science degree, but I had lost any motivation to apply that knowledge. I recalled staring at a swarming mass of termites one sunny day, thinking that, from a comparative distance, there was little difference between them and us. I smashed a few dozen with my shoe and ground them into the dirt. What did it matter if these died? What did it matter if they all died? People died every day. The end result would always be death for both the individuals and, eventually, the species.
Humanity had become nothing more to me than an organized network of molecules and enzymes. I viewed people as mere organisms going through their daily routines of metabolizing nutrients and expelling wastes, ovulating their eggs and ejaculating their semen. I knew the psychology of humans almost as well as their anatomies. The hidden things that pulled them this way and that were very evident to me. They were like guinea pigs, only more predictable, and my chief form of entertainment was to see how skillfully I could manipulate them. I knew that I was supposed to care about them, but I didn’t. I couldn’t. If mankind’s goal was to alleviate its own suffering, a bullet to the head was more efficient and made more sense in my thinking than screwing around with medication or disease control.
What was the point of prolonging any one life? What difference did it make if a girl didn’t live to marry or her mother live to see it? Of what value were temporary emotional experiences? They were simply the biochemistry of the brain reacting to sensory input and, upon that individual’s death, any remaining memory of that experience would be thrown away along with the person who had experienced it. My extreme point of view had reduced people into throwaway metabolic units; I had become as cold and indifferent as the logic that I exalted.
If my education would benefit anyone, it would benefit me. I passed up an offer of a low paying research position for a secure and higher paying job in a chemistry lab. My brain rotted there for 40 hours a week for 10 years.

Rational thought turns from science to philosophy

Science had done nothing to answer the questions that raged in my head. Why should I care? How much should I care? Should I care at all? What is my purpose in life? Is there a purpose? How can I love people? Should I love people? Which people should I love? How can I forgive people? Should I forgive people? Have I done what is right? Have I done what is wrong? Is there a right or a wrong?
I turned to philosophy. I started with Jean-Paul Sartre’s "Being and Nothingness". This man had won a Nobel Prize for basically taking white and logically demonstrating how it was really black. I tried several other atheist philosophers who tried to assign meaning to a life created by chance and I decided that they were all full of crap. If our life is the result of randomness and chance, it is meaningless, no matter how we try to convince ourselves otherwise.
That was fine with me. I was prepared to live my life by this truth and discovered that the prospect of a life without meaning can be a very freeing experience. I set out to take advantage of moral relativism and effectively destroyed any of my remaining conscience. Friends, let me tell you, I fell far, far away, but I didn’t know it. I busied myself with one diversion after another, trying to fill my life with meaningless activity in order to forget how meaningless it was. In my desperation, I grew self-righteous and indignant. I was secretly envious of the morons who seemed blissfully unaware of their own meaninglessness. I wanted to shake them awake and get them to see how worthless their lives really were.

My philosophy turns anti-Christian

The worst idiots were the Christians. I hated them because, in their ignorance of naturalism, they failed to see that there was no reason for the rest of the world to believe in their god, live by their standards or give a damn about what they had to say, yet there they were, acting as if they had a copyright on truth. Their pretentiousness sickened me, despite my being equally pretentious toward them. After all, I was justified in my pretentiousness! At least I could give logical reasons for not believing in the supernatural. I would challenge them to give reasons for believing in something that couldn’t be seen and they would reply, "You can’t see the wind but it’s there." I would then try to explain to them that wind was created by differences in pressure and that there was plenty of scientific proof for the existence of wind but none for their god. Even the most intelligent Christians I knew had a difficult time articulating their reason for faith.
Most of the explanations I heard rested on the Bible’s authority. "The Bible says... the Bible says... the Bible says." Who cared what the Bible said? I certainly didn’t. "It’s all a bunch of made up, superstitious baloney. Can’t you see?" and I would then go into pagan origins, etc., and try to demonstrate that Jesus was a manufactured myth. I ended up knowing the Bible inside and out just to be able to debate against it.
My anti-Christian arguments became my ultimate diversion to a hopeless life. I learned that religious debate wasn’t as much about truth as it was about language and presentation. I began seeing flaws in my own logic while trying to demonstrate certain instances of Biblical errancy, but that didn’t keep me on the bench. To justify my desire to destroy Christianity, I had to find reasons to discredit it. I railed against its hypocrisy, the behavior of its followers, the wars fought in its name and I questioned the motives of its bloody god and the religion’s effective outcome. In short, I began seeing it as the supreme evil, despite the fact that my own view of moral relativism did not permit a logical defense of the concept of evil.


The paradox of Biblical jabberwocky


One night, I was very tired and alone in my study. I didn’t reach, as I usually did, for a book of religious argument. I grabbed Lewis Carroll’s "Through The Looking Glass", plopped myself down in a comfy chair and sleepily began reading. I skimmed through the pages and stopped at Humpty Dumpty’s explanation of ‘Jabberwocky’ to Alice. A thought occurred to me that if I were to read ‘Jabberwocky’ the same way I read the bible, it wouldn’t make any sense at all. I put Carroll’s book aside, folded my hands and stared at the wall, lost in thought.
The Bible didn’t make sense to me. But why did it make sense to others? What were they seeing that I didn’t? Did they so desperately want there to be a God that they had deluded themselves into thinking that there was one? It was New Year’s Day, 1998. I made a resolution to read the entire Bible again, only this time I was going to read it as I would poetry or fiction, and not as a proposal of fact.
In the months that followed, I kept my resolution and I began noticing a change in my way of interpreting the Bible. Intellectually, I found that my mind could logically accept two very different interpretations of almost everything I was reading. One interpretation of any verse or passage would render the whole story as nonsensical. But the other interpretation allowed the whole story to make sense.
If my mind was capable of accepting interpretations that allowed the whole book to make sense, then what was it in me that wanted it not to make sense? This book was reading me as surely as I was reading it. Every time I found fault with its god, I ended up finding a fault of my own. What was I doing when I condemned this god for commanding Moses to kill? Was I arrogantly making my morality superior to that of the being who allegedly authored all of morality? Was I condemning the actions of an entire nation, which was trapped in a kill or be killed situation? What was it in me that wanted to express outrage at Jesus Christ for telling me that I had to give away everything to be considered worthy to follow him? Was it my own selfishness?
For weeks, I was on a high, the type of high that comes about by feeling that one is on the edge of making some sort of profound discovery. I wasn’t sure what I was discovering but my perception of this world was changing. In July, I read these words of Jesus Christ, understanding them for the first time after having read them for years; "Who do you say I am?"


I see it!


What I had to say about who Christ was, said more about me than it did about Him.
At this moment, I saw it. I saw what the truth of the Bible was! And I was humbled. More than humbled, I was broken. The truth wasn’t about cud chewing bunnies or how much precipitation fell during Noah’s flood. It was the truth about human nature and our efforts to rise above it! It was the truth about human spirit being led by divine spirit! It was the truth about each of us, imperfect in our love for one another, needing to be made complete by the perfect love of God! The truth was about how one man, without sin, had died for us so that we could live! The truth of the Bible was and is JESUS CHRIST!
The moment I was made aware of my despicable nature, I realized that Jesus had died for me. I never had recognized sin and, therefore, thought that Christ had died for nothing. But this man was able to see the horrible nature present in all of humanity and yet he had sacrificed himself to save us from ourselves. In a very real sense, my sinful nature had caused the death of an innocent man. I never believed in hell prior to this, but one of my first thoughts, after seeing how hellish a person that I was, was that I deserved to be in it.

A new creature

I had been a fool. I had paraded around, thinking myself to be the sophisticate, oblivious to the trail of toilet paper clinging to my shoe. For the first time in my life, I became aware of my soul and how dirty it was when the light of Christ fell upon it. My accusing finger turned around and pointed right back at me. I sucked! Christianity wasn’t what was wrong with the world! A lack of education wasn’t what was wrong with the world! I was what was wrong with the world. I began praying for forgiveness to a god whose existence I had thought was intellectually indefensible. But He was very, very real. Within days, almost every viewpoint I had once so loudly announced, changed. I could no longer justify my advocacy of abortion, homosexuality or pre-marital sex because I recognized these options for what they were, that being selfishness. I couldn’t enjoy television because much of what it offered was an offense to the god I had discovered. But the most astounding change that took place in me was that I was freed from my cold indifference in matters of the heart. My atheistic philosophy had allowed me to lose my compassion for others. I no longer had the ability to love anyone, not even myself. I had become apathetic to life itself. For years, I had been dead, but because I continued to walk and talk, I didn’t know it. But now, I was born again and the spirit that was in me, which had allowed me to understand spiritual things, connected with the glorious and perfect higher consciousness of Jesus Christ. He restored my heart and my conscience. Christians speak of this as a veil being lifted, but, for me, it was more like the iron curtain was being torn down. For the first time in my life, I was seeing the world as it really was. I no longer saw people as a sum of their components or this life as a meaningless exercise, but I now saw both as something more valid than my rational thought had allowed. I had spent most of my years examining life, crouched over and focused on the microscope of logic, incapable of seeing the Big Picture that was going on around me.
The more I emptied myself of myself, the clearer the truth became. It had been my own selfish sin that had kept me from seeing it before. Jesus Christ became my God and my grand obsession, and for many months, I spent hours with my mind locked in meditation, trying to connect with Him in a more tangible way. I wasn’t disappointed. There is a point that one can reach in prayer where there is nothing at all left of oneself, and it is in that moment that God makes Himself known.
For me, Biblical truth wasn’t verified through historical accuracy, inerrancy or reliability of the Gospels, because my initial assumptions didn’t include these things. I saw divine inspiration in the actual content of the words attributed to Jesus Christ. The fact that I, or anyone, was capable of understanding spiritual matters became my evidence for the soul.
Learning the things of the spirit dramatically changed my attitude and my outlook on life. It wasn’t that the information available to me had changed, but that my perception had changed and as a result, I was changed. I was dead, but Christ woke me up! He saved me from my selfish self and I have given myself to Him because I am thankful for that which He has given me and hopeful for that which He has promised.
 
 
My anti-Christian arguments became my ultimate diversion to a hopeless life.” When the human is empty of faith and love it needs an outlet either intellectually or physically. It needs something to consume the mind and distract the soul from its misery, “the chastisement of our peace” (Isa. 53:5).
 
 Jesus Christ…restored my heart and my conscience.” How can anyone argue with that? They may try, but experiential religion is impervious to arguments against it. “Who is he that condemneth?” It is God that justifieth.” (Rom. 8:34,33). The highest authority in the universe has let A.S.A know that the past sinfulness is not recognized by all heaven. If God says you are forgiven, no one can argue it.
 
The more I emptied myself of myself, the clearer the truth became.” “There is a point that one can reach in prayer where there is nothing at all left of oneself, and it is in that moment that God makes Himself known.” Isn’t it so true that the more cleansed Christ makes us, the less and less murky morality gets and the more efficiently we can see and accept higher standards, and obey the Law of God? His Spirit makes our moral and spiritual development all possible.
 
I saw divine inspiration in the actual content of the words attributed to Jesus Christ.” I was His words, "Who do you say I am?" that spoke directly to A.S.A. Jesus spoke to A.S.A. straight out of the Bible.
 
Christianity wasn’t what was wrong with the world! A lack of education wasn’t what was wrong with the world! I was what was wrong with the world.” Humbled and teachable.
 
The moment I was made aware of my despicable nature, I realized that Jesus had died for me.” Amazing divine psychology! Only when our sinfulness appears exceeding sinful do we need a Saviour, that is, a Saviour from sin. And a Saviour from sin is the only read Saviour. If Christ cannot be a Saviour from sin, He’ll be no Saviour at all.
 
It wasn’t that the information available to me had changed, but that my perception had changed and as a result, I was changed.” We change when our concepts of God and His requirements change.
 

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

The filthy, the tempted, the disciples, and the holy

“He that is unjust, let him be unjust still: and he which is filthy, let him be filthy still: and he that is righteous, let him be righteous still: and he that is holy, let him be holy still.” (Rev. 22:11).

Four groups will comprise humanity when Jesus returns. 1) They are those who knowingly and lustfully come under sin; 2) those who are tempted into sin; 3) those who Jesus encourages, cajoles, woos, intercedes for to leave and stay away from sin; and, 4) “them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.” (Heb. 5:14).

Until the close of probation, God weighs between those who premeditatedly dive into sin, and those who are tempted into sin. There is a difference. Adam and Eve were tempted, but Lucifer was not. He tempted himself and deceived himself. Lucifer knew God and who He was, yet he placed evil before himself. The highest covering cherub, who intimately knew the God of humility and purity, gladly threw his Creator’s gift of power against his Creator. He loved the gift more than the Giver. “Yea, Mine own familiar friend, in whom I trusted, which did eat of My bread, hath lifted up his heel against Me.” (Ps. 41:9).

“For it was not an enemy that reproached Me; then I could have borne it: neither was it he that hated Me that did magnify himself against Me; then I would have hid Myself from him:
But it was thou, a man Mine equal, My guide, and Mine acquaintance.
We took sweet counsel together, and walked unto the house of God in company.
Let death seize upon them, and let them go down quick into hell: for wickedness is in their dwellings, and among them.” (Ps. 55:12-15). Lucifer had no one tempt him to spread every conceivable lie about God in order to steal from Him His throne in the hearts of His creation. He deceived himself. He sought to usurp from God His “first dominion” (Mic. 4:8).

And through the manipulations of the Godhead’s adversary, not only through the occult, but beginning with all who partake of the goodness of God yet refuse to give Him their love, honor, and obedience in return, eventually become His outright, avowed enemies and open, determined lovers of every form of lust. “They set their heart on their iniquity” (Hos. 4:8).

But, Eve and all her children are sinners because they have been tempted. God therefore blends His justice upon them with mercy. “For the creature was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of Him who hath subjected the same in hope.” (Rom. 8:20). Each child born into this world will have 70 years of probation to find out who will come to his senses and hope in something better than this sinful and temptation-filled world. God has lowered them all down into the pit of this hell, yet only partially. But, if after 70, 80, 90, 100 years, they never surrender to the fear of God and His Law, so that He could give them to His Son (see John 6:37; Galatians 3:24), then they have proven beyond any doubt in heaven that however politely they turned down His righteousness, their ethics and politeness were only a thin veneer of rebellion. When they lay down into death, their mercy ends. They will come up in the resurrection of the wicked. They were as good and polite as King Saul, who wanted nothing to do with God and His holy kingdom. Even if they had thoughts and desires to come to Jesus, temptations kept them buried in sin. Even if they were “not far from the kingdom of God” (Mark 12:34), they never entered into it.

The third group is comprised of all who have surrendered to the Law of God and to the grace of His Son. But, God cannot have them back into His pure home if they never pass the baby stage of their Christian walk. They can still die in infancy. Jesus loves to keep them in His bosom, but if they stop growing in grace, then they have stopped being His friend and feeding from His life. “He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life.” (1Jn. 5:12).

And “the path of the just is as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day.” (Prov. 4:18). If we are truly connected to the vine, then we will grow and eventually produce fruit. If we don’t grow, or if we don’t produce fruit, this is sure evidence that we were not connected to His Spirit, the soul of His life. If we examine ourselves daily, dying to self by accepting the conviction from the Spirit of truth, then we will keep coming back to our High Priest for grace. We become dependent on Him like a child does its parent and we grow into the fourth group.

“Now there was leaning on Jesus’ bosom one of His disciples, whom Jesus loved.” (John 13:23). This disciple had in Christ what Isaac had in Abraham. Love.

“And He said, Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest.” (Gen. 22:2).

John was the youngest disciple of Christ, and the one who most fully understood Him. John was the first to stand in awe of Jesus, the foremost disciple to fear Him and the first to come under the sanctifying power of His love. But, John had had serious defects of character that could not permit His eternal entrance into heaven.

“Even John, the beloved disciple, the one who most fully reflected the likeness of the Saviour, did not naturally possess that loveliness of character. He was not only self-assertive and ambitious for honor, but impetuous, and resentful under injuries. But as the character of the Divine One was manifested to him, he saw his own deficiency and was humbled by the knowledge. The strength and patience, the power and tenderness, the majesty and meekness, that he beheld in the daily life of the Son of God, filled his soul with admiration and love. Day by day his heart was drawn out toward Christ, until he lost sight of self in love for his Master. His resentful, ambitious temper was yielded to the molding power of Christ. The regenerating influence of the Holy Spirit renewed his heart. The power of the love of Christ wrought a transformation of character.” Steps to Christ, p. 73.

“God takes men as they are, with the human elements in their character, and trains them for His service, if they will be disciplined and learn of Him. They are not chosen because they are perfect, but notwithstanding their imperfections, that through the knowledge and practice of the truth, through the grace of Christ, they may become transformed into His image. Judas had the same opportunities as had the other disciples. He listened to the same precious lessons. But the practice of the truth, which Christ required, was at variance with the desires and purposes of Judas, and he would not yield his ideas in order to receive wisdom from Heaven.” Desire of Ages, p. 294.

Eventually though, we see John cuddled next to Jesus, as the twelve lay inclined on cushions on the floor, forming a circle around the supper table. This customary arrangement caused one’s neighbor to his right to be placed such that his neighbor’s head came up to his belly or chest, and his head did the same to the neighbor on his left. Thus, John’s head was on (in) Jesus’ bosom, and Jesus’ head was on (in) Judas’ bosom. There was nothing impure or sexual about this ancient, middle-eastern custom, any more than dancing hand-in-hand in a circle of people holds anything illicit. Homosexuality was horrifically disdained by the Hebrew people. The social eating and dancing circles were a time of fellowship and brotherly love, especially with the God of love among them. The same tightly knit friendship between John and Jesus was a replica of the tight bond between Jesus and His heavenly Father. Jesus’ apostles never lost the tight bond of pure love that they gained from their discipleship, sealed in the bosom of Jesus and in the righteousness of God. But, eventually Judas’ first love for Jesus would ebb away as he fell behind in the training to overcome self. The fullest love for Jesus faded before Judas became a full-fledged apostle.

“Thou lovest righteousness, and hatest wickedness: therefore God, Thy God, hath anointed Thee with the oil of gladness above Thy fellows.” (Ps. 45:7). “They joy before Thee according to the joy in harvest, and as men rejoice when they divide the spoil.” (Isa. 9:3). Jesus’ disciples, His fellows, joyed before Him as He joyed before His Father. It was from the context of His dwelling in His Father’s bosom that Jesus made the following statements:

“I proceeded forth and came from God” (John 8:42).

“For the Father Himself loveth you, because ye have loved Me, and have believed that I came out from God. I came forth from the Father, and am come into the world: again, I leave the world, and go to the Father.” (John 16:27, 28).

“And now, O Father, glorify Thou Me with Thine own self with the glory which I had with Thee before the world was…. For I have given unto them the words which Thou gavest Me; and they have received them, and have known surely that I came out from Thee, and they have believed that Thou didst send Me.” (John 17:5,8).

“I and My Father are one.” (John 10:30).

While Jesus remained on earth in His weakened, human nature, He was all in all to John, just as a mother is to her young. But when Jesus left and was exalted in heaven, John matured into an adult follower of Christ, an apostle. He then joined the fourth group. When Jesus was glorified, He became the authoritative voice of a father to John, and under that powerful authority was His disciple sealed. “I beheld, and, lo, in the midst of the throne and of the four beasts, and in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb as it had been slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God sent forth into all the earth.” (Rev. 5:6). The Spirit, which was the power radiating from the glorified Son of God which was no longer being hidden in a fallen Adam’s finite body, spoke to the apostles throughout the book of Acts in the same strong authority that the Son had spoken to the Old Testament prophets. His infinite, pre-incarnate Spirit (see Revelation 4:5) restored, the Son was the same yesterday, today, and forever. No longer in the third group, His disciples graduated into apostleship, the fourth group.

While John loved to abide in Jesus’ bosom, under His loving view, and although the close bond entered into by Jesus and John turned John into the truest representative of Christ, formed perfectly in His image, the days were coming when all the joy of this fellow of Christ would be put to the test. “And Jesus said unto them, Can the children of the bridechamber mourn, as long as the Bridegroom is with them? but the days will come, when the Bridegroom shall be taken from them, and then shall they fast.” (Matt. 9:15).

Visible separation from Jesus, persecution, trial, suffering would harden into his character the loving memories of his discipleship. Although John was the last of the original twelve to die, the seal, which he had set to his heart that God was true, remained in his forehead to keep the commandments of God and the testimony of Jesus.

“Because he hath set his love upon Me, therefore will I deliver him: I will set him on high, because he hath known My name.” (Ps. 91:14). The love that existed between the Prince of princes and this favorite of His favorites, kept John protected in the bosom of Jesus, as Jesus Himself “the only begotten of the Father” (John 1:14), “the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father” (John 1:18) had been protected by all the hosts of heaven. “Thinkest thou that I cannot now pray to My Father, and He shall presently give Me more than twelve legions of angels?” (Matt. 26:53). “The Father loveth the Son, and hath given all things into His hand.” (John 3:35).

In those days the fourth group, the children of Jesus would become of full age, and “as arrows are in the hand of a mighty man…they shall not be ashamed, but they shall speak with the enemies in the gate.” (Ps. 127:3-5).

“Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings hast Thou ordained strength because of Thine enemies, that Thou mightest still the enemy and the avenger.” (Ps. 8:2). While the apostles would speak and think like men, their hearts would forever retain the childlike love from their Mother of all living, their Parent now passed into the heavens to live in the bosom of the Father.

Fearlessly they spoke “with the enemies” of God. Fearlessly they dealt with the invasion of Satan’s infiltrators, “them which say they are Jews, and are not, but are the synagogue of Satan”, “them which say they are apostles, and…found them liars.” (Rev. 2:9; Rev. 2:2).

No longer a disciple cuddled by the Saviour, each must carry the burden that their Master had carried for them. “Greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto My Father.” (John 14:12). Each must stand alone in God, averse from temptation, as “the soul that is yielded to Christ becomes His own fortress, which He holds in a revolted world, and He intends that no authority shall be known in it but His own. A soul thus kept in possession by the heavenly agencies is impregnable to the assaults of Satan.” Desire of Ages, p. 324. They are made to fly without a mother eagle carrying them. They must sink or swim, drown under the storms or walk on water. This is what the Spirit of Christ did with King Hezekiah. “God left him, to try him, that He might know all that was in his heart.” (2Chron. 32:31).

“Those who are living upon the earth when the intercession of Christ shall cease in the sanctuary above are to stand in the sight of a holy God without a mediator. Their robes must be spotless, their characters must be purified from sin by the blood of sprinkling. Through the grace of God and their own diligent effort they must be conquerors in the battle with evil. While the investigative judgment is going forward in heaven, while the sins of penitent believers are being removed from the sanctuary, there is to be a special work of purification, of putting away of sin, among God’s people upon earth. This work is more clearly presented in the messages of Revelation 14.” Great Controversy, p. 425.

They are no longer tempted because Jesus has sealed them into righteousness. They are “in Him” (Eph. 1:10), strong to fear the Lord; and the “the angel of the LORD encampeth round about them…and delivereth them.” (Ps. 34:7). They are lost in His love, surrounded by His arms of infinite love, “to the praise of the glory of His grace, wherein He hath made [them] accepted in the beloved.” (Eph. 1:6). Therefore He “is able to keep [them] from falling, and to present [them] faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy.” (Jude 24).

They are the full-fledged “children of God” (Matt. 5:9), “the children of the living God” (Rom. 9:26), “the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus” (Gal. 3:26). “And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ.” (Rom. 8:17). They are the purified “sons of Levi, …as gold and silver, that they may offer unto the LORD an offering in righteousness.” (Mal. 3:3). They abide forever in Their bosom, joint-heirs with the Heir of God “dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto” (1Tim. 6:16). They are the earthly complement of the angelic armies, and they love the holy rivalry with the angels, and their godly saber-rattling and jousting with the sword of the Spirit keeps each other and the whole redeemed race wholly loyal to the Law and love of God. They are the 144,000 army of the living God, mature in Christ, able-bodied and ever ready to defend His kingdom. “From twenty years old and upward, all that are able to go forth to war in Israel.” (Num. 1:3).

Jesus is their commander, “the God of the armies of Israel” (1Sam. 17:45), “captain of the host of the LORD” (Josh. 5:14) to thwart any possibility of another Goliath adversary to defy the God of Law and love. They are His special guard contingent to never again lose “the first dominion”. (Mic. 4:8). “Therefore are they before the throne of God, and serve Him day and night in His temple: and He that sitteth on the throne shall dwell among them” (Rev. 7:15), finally at peace in His kingdom that is strong again.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

The opposite of an opposite isn’t always the opposite

The opposite of error isn’t necessarily the truth. Two wrongs don’t make a right.
 
Never does Satan use pure error. He is a deceiver, and he will always mix in truth; or he wouldn’t be the father of lies. Even into spiritualism he brings a little bit of truth. He will use the names of God, Christ, the Spirit, the cross, sacrifice, and even Bible excerpts. But, the substance behind the names are gutted. The devil used the Holy Scriptures to overthrow Christ in the wilderness. But, Jesus exposed his chicanery.
 
“Then the devil taketh Him up into the holy city, and setteth Him on a pinnacle of the temple, and saith unto Him, If Thou be the Son of God, cast Thyself down: for it is written, He shall give His angels charge concerning Thee: and in their hands they shall bear Thee up, lest at any time Thou dash Thy foot against a stone.” (Matt. 4:5,6).
 
But, what did the Bible really say?
 
“For He shall give His angels charge over Thee, to keep Thee in all Thy ways.
They shall bear Thee up in their hands, lest Thou dash Thy foot against a stone.” (Ps. 91:11,12). Where was the deceiver’s deviation from the truth? Two places. First, he omitted “to keep Thee in all Thy ways”, that is in the way of obedience to the God of truth, the only true God.
 
The Lord knew the full intent of the scriptures. “He restoreth my soul: He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.” (Ps. 23:3). “For the commandment is a lamp; and the law is light; and reproofs of instruction are the way of life: to keep thee from the evil woman, from the flattery of the tongue of a strange woman.” (Prov. 6:23,24).
 
Secondly, Satan added the phrase “lest at any time” to “…Thou dash Thy foot against a stone” (Ps. 91:12). Jesus knew His Father and He knew the ways of His Father. God promises to protect us from suffering, but that doesn’t presume that He will protect us from all suffering. Living in the devil’s territory, pain is best for us. Pain was even good for the holy Son of God on the cross.
 
“Who in the days of His flesh, when He had offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto Him that was able to save Him from death, and was heard in that He feared; though He were a Son, yet learned He obedience by the things which He suffered; and being made perfect, He became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey Him.” (Heb. 5:-9).
 
Satan couldn’t tempt Jesus because Jesus knew the truth. In communion He had sat at His Father’s feet every day of His life and learned of Him. Jesus was the fulfillment of the prophecy: “Butter and honey shall He eat, that He may know to refuse the evil, and choose the good.” (Isa. 7:15). Jesus knew the scriptures too well for the mastermind of deception to mislead Him.
 
“Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.
In all thy ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct thy paths.
Be not wise in thine own eyes: fear the LORD, and depart from evil.” (Prov. 3:5-7).
 
“Yea, let none that wait on Thee be ashamed: let them be ashamed which transgress without cause.
Shew me Thy ways, O LORD; teach me Thy paths.
Lead me in Thy truth, and teach me: for Thou art the God of my salvation; on Thee do I wait all the day.” (Ps. 25:3-5).
 
The same will be for all who sit at the Son’s feet. They will know the Son and the Father who sent Him to be their almighty helper. Their Comforter is the Spirit of truth, and will keep them from Satan’s many traps of error and the paths of sin.
 
“Then they that feared the LORD spake often one to another: and the LORD hearkened, and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before Him for them that feared the LORD, and that thought upon His name.
And they shall be Mine, saith the LORD of hosts, in that day when I make up My jewels; and I will spare them, as a man spareth his own son that serveth him.
Then shall ye return, and discern between the righteous and the wicked, between him that serveth God and him that serveth Him not.” (Mal. 3:16-18).
 
“Thou wilt shew me the path of life: in Thy presence is fulness of joy; at Thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore.” (Ps. 16:11).
 
The path to hell lies right next to the path to heaven. This is not so because God made it that way, but because we live in Satan’s territory and he has made it that way. Satan keeps his path to hell right next to the path to heaven as long as he can. Nevertheless, God has left it that way for our sakes. It would keep His true children from indolence, which is the inheritance of sin.
 
The track of truth lies close beside the track of error, and both tracks may seem to be one to minds which are not worked by the Holy Spirit, and which, therefore, are not quick to discern the difference between truth and error.” Selected Messages, bk. 1, p. 202.
 
“As truth and error appear so near akin, minds that are not guided by the Holy Spirit will be led to accept the error and, in so doing, place themselves under the power of Satan’s deceptions.” Christ Triumphant, p. 324.
 
359.999° is not the opposite of 180°. It is close, and in pure math it sometimes might suffice. But, the apparent opposite of a falsehood is not necessarily the truth. 000° is the only true opposite of 180°.
 
Over time, over the eons, the difference of 0.1% is enormous. Fly a spacecraft out millions of miles and 0.3° deviation could miss the Sun. Likewise, keep an error regarding the character of God or the Godhead for thousands of years and you could miss the Son when He comes near. It has been done. He came to reveal His Father’s character, and as a result it revealed to us His own character, which was the Father’s character. But, after 2,000 years of waiting for the Son, wrong expectations of His character caused the waiting people to completely mistake Him when He showed up. We can’t afford to miss the next appearing of the Son of God. We can’t afford to misjudge God or the Son. Neither can we afford to misjudge the truth about Them.
 
“And I saw another angel fly in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach unto them that dwell on the earth, and to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people, saying with a loud voice, Fear God, and give glory to Him; for the hour of His judgment is come: and worship Him that made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and the fountains of waters.” (Rev. 14:6,7).
 
Missing the highest point in history has already happened once before. But, an even bigger event, and higher point in history has yet to come. All that Christ accomplished came the first time, which brought God the Father infinite release, was to set the stage and prepare the case for the even bigger atonement, and final closure of sin and suffering in the great controversy. To be deceived and miss the soon-coming, highest of all events in history is to call for the mountains to fall on us.
 
“And when He [the Comforter] is come, He will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: of sin, because they believe not on Me; …of judgment, because the prince of this world is judged.” (John 16:8,9,11). Many will fail in the coming conviction of the world when the Lamb of God returns because they would not trust in Him to help them overcome their idols; and because they would also fail to know God, whose exoneration in judgment condemns His adversary, the father of idols and lies.
 
The bigger atonement unveils the full disposition of God upon sin and Satan, and upon all who persist in clinging to sin and loyalty to Satan’s regime. The final judgment will be on all who refused to trust in the Son of God, after all that He did to win their trust away from this world that Satan rules, and to receive them to Himself if they could trust Him. His cross prepared for the final showdown between a holy generation and a completely depraved race of men.
 
Knowing a counterfeit doesn’t overcome the counterfeiter. Only knowing the true catches the counterfeiter in the fraud. And only the one, true God opens the windows of heaven to throw light upon the great deceiver. Only His power and unvarnished truth can undeceive our charmed flesh.
 
All who are lost in the end would not turn away from the fun and games, toys and entertainments, self-exaltation and self-indulgence offered from the god of this world. “Babylon … made all nations drink of the wine of the wrath of her fornication.” (Rev. 14:8).
 
Are we close to Jesus’ return in judgment? Will I be destroyed in this global Gomorrah when Jesus destroys it at His coming? Or, will I come out of Sodom and never look back? God’s gift of the Protestant Reformation is nearing its close. Satan has conquered the denominational institutions. The glory of the one true religion has departed; the crucifixion and heavenly ministry of “the Apostle and High Priest of our profession” (Heb. 3:1) are taken away and supplanted by a funeral to Nimrod, the apostate high priest of spiritualism, and his resurrection to the Sun.
 
“The glory is departed from Israel: for the ark of God is taken.” (1Sam. 4:22). The heavenly kingdom, whose foundation is the just Law of God and its throne a mercy seat, has disappeared from our sermons, our Sabbath Schools, and our minds. Without justice bonded to mercy and righteousness kissing peace, who can be converted and saved? No one. The eternal union of justice and mercy, or truth and grace, are the womb in which wispy hope births the true substance of real faith, strong trust in a real Person, the only begotten Son of God. When the Son of man cometh will He find real, substantial faith in us? During this investigative judgment, this is His question to us that we are to be afflicting our souls to answer. Not social or scientific or political issues are to be our main focus. The chief issue must be Christ and His perfect righteousness imputed and imparted to us so that we obtain His character before the great Time of Trouble arrives.
 
The human solution to a wrong concept is often another wrong concept. Another good example of this is that the solution to spiritualism is Spiritual Formation. But, spiritualism and Spiritual Formation are one and the same, although the first is 100% darkness and the other is 99.999% darkness. The first is for bad witches and the second is for good witches. Satan advertises the black magic as evil, then he hands us the good magic, which is just as evil. But, divine spirituality and Spiritual Formation both sound spiritual, don’t they? Rather, they serve two opposite and opposing spirits, the Spirit of our Creator and the spirit of the destroyer. Not a trace of Jehovah’s union of justice and mercy into divine love and redemptive spirituality can be found in Spiritual Formation any more than it can be found in spiritualism. Yet, multitudes upon multitudes are flocking to Spiritual Formation to find God. And “God” is talking to them. But, this “God” is not putting the Law into their inward parts because that is the last thing this “God” would ever want.
 
But, we have the hope that “when the enemy shall come in like a flood, the Spirit of the LORD shall lift up a standard against him. And the Redeemer shall come to Zion, and unto them that turn from transgression in Jacob, saith the LORD.” (Isa. 59:19,20). The Lord will win this war in the end, along with His army of overcomers who have turned away from sin.
 
The opposite of a sin isn’t always the cure. The opposite of error isn’t necessarily the truth, and two wrongs don’t make a right. Man-made taboos and sacred cows never put their finger dead on the issues of sin. Only the pure righteousness of Christ’s words and actions can expose and overthrow rebellion, pride, deception, temptation, darkness, and every other weapon in Satan’s arsenal.
 
“Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption.” (1Cor. 1:30).

Monday, November 14, 2016

The ant object lesson


“Go to the ant.” (Prov. 6:6).

Among other lessons from the ants, their size speaks to us.

Not all ants are created equal. Some are bigger than others where we live. In Africa and South America some are gigantic like the 1 inch long, Dinoponera australis. But, others are eensy weensy.

They all have a mind of their own. They don’t think exactly like we do, but they are individuals and God has given them life.

But, no matter how much bigger one ant is compared to another, we tower over them. We could step on them and squash any one of them. We don’t want to do that just because we are bigger, but we could.

One ant can’t boast if he is twice or ten times the size of another ant. All it has to do is look up and see the larger world, the bigger picture. Likewise, I might be stronger than you, you might be richer than the next person, he might be smarter than me, but none of us can gloat because there is a world that makes this eensy weensy world compare to nothing, even less than nothing.

Yet, all heaven went into emergency mode to deliver us from destruction. Even the greatest of all, the Father, the Almighty, the Ancient of days, He who Michael the Prince said, “is greater than I” (John 14:28), who “liveth for ever and ever” (Rev. 5:14), died to ensure we could be legally and experientially saved.

“Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? of works? Nay: but by the law of faith.” (Rom. 3:27).

Without knowing what God has done to have us  safely in His home again, we naturally look around on our level and compare/contrast ourselves to others. We boast and we sink in dejection; yet either way we are being destroyed. But when the Spirit of God can put aside all our petty earthy mindedness and we let Him open our eyes to bigger and better things than this little world speaks of, faith will never let us gloat about how great we are, or worship another human and praise him for how great he is. “With every truly converted soul the relation to God and to eternal things will be the great topic of life.” Great Controversy, p. 463.

What does it profit a man if he gains the highest place in the human pecking order, and lose his place in eternity.

“As it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love Him.” (1Cor. 2:9).

“For since the beginning of the world men have not heard, nor perceived by the ear, neither hath the eye seen, O God, beside Thee, what He hath prepared for him that waiteth for Him.” (Isa. 64:4).

Friday, November 11, 2016

From crown of thorns and infinite cursings to crown of horns and infinite blessings

Thorns and thistles stood in symbolic opposition to the butter and honey of God’s justice and mercy character. The Garden of Eden had no stickers because the Father filled Adam’s world with beautiful grace and beautiful obedience to His Law. But, the rebellion of Adam and Eve resulted in a permanent infestation of their world with painful pricks to remind them of their rejection of God. Yet, Christ had redeemed them and they gladly accepted those prickly and painful spiritual reminders as the true characterization of their new fallen nature. But, without His redemption and the impartation of His Spirit of peace, the thorns and thistles would bring Adam and his descendants exhausting aggravation and anger until each soul must decide to fall in repentance and confession of God’s righteous punishment, or shake its fist at Him forever.

“Wherefore the LORD brought upon them the captains of the host of the king of Assyria, which took Manasseh among the thorns, and bound him with fetters, and carried him to Babylon.” (2Chron. 33:11).

Dragging Manasseh through the agonizing bramble was a perfect reflection of God’s perspective upon his reckless and destructive life. Yet, his father’s earlier training, combined with the torture he endured by his heavenly Father’s thorns and briers, turned him around. Thank God for His merciful justice! His mercy endureth forever.
 
“If they shall confess their iniquity, and the iniquity of their fathers, with their trespass which they trespassed against Me, and that also they have walked contrary unto Me; and that I also have walked contrary unto them, and have brought them into the land of their enemies; if then their uncircumcised hearts be humbled, and they then accept of the punishment of their iniquity: then will I remember My covenant with Jacob.” (Lev. 26:40-42).

But, most do not turn around at the visitations of God’s judgments. Manasseh’s was a rare conversion. Most resist the strong convictions of their wrongs, which “the Father of mercies” (2Cor. 1:3) and truth presents to their conscience, conviction of sin which He combines with assurances of forgiveness and the blessedness of His promised, restored Spirit. Convicting consequences of our own sin is the only method that our Schoolmaster, “the God of all comfort” (2Cor. 1:3), can provide to create repentance in His people (see Acts 5:31). Yet, with many their uncircumcised hearts will not let them accept the punishment for their iniquities. As the interesting prophecy of Isaiah revealed:

“Therefore the Lord Himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel.
Butter and honey shall He eat, that He may know to refuse the evil, and choose the good.
For before the Child shall know to refuse the evil, and choose the good, the land that thou abhorrest shall be forsaken of both her kings.
The LORD shall bring upon thee, and upon thy people, and upon thy father’s house, days that have not come, from the day that Ephraim departed from Judah; even the king of Assyria.
And it shall come to pass in that day, that the LORD shall hiss for the fly that is in the uttermost part of the rivers of Egypt, and for the bee that is in the land of Assyria.
And they shall come, and shall rest all of them in the desolate valleys, and in the holes of the rocks, and upon all thorns, and upon all bushes.
In the same day shall the Lord shave with a razor that is hired, namely, by them beyond the river, by the king of Assyria, the head, and the hair of the feet: and it shall also consume the beard.
And it shall come to pass in that day, that a man shall nourish a young cow, and two sheep;
And it shall come to pass, for the abundance of milk that they shall give he shall eat butter: for butter and honey shall every one eat that is left in the land.
And it shall come to pass in that day, that every place shall be, where there were a thousand vines at a thousand [pieces of silver], it shall even be for briers and thorns.
With arrows and with bows shall men come thither; because all the land shall become briers and thorns.
And on all hills that shall be digged with the mattock, there shall not come thither the fear of briers and thorns: but it shall be for the sending forth of oxen, and for the treading of lesser cattle.” (Isa. 7:14-25).

Looking carefully at this prophecy we see that the “butter and honey” diet of Jesus was the diet of other Israelites, but not for most of them. The northern kingdom’s apostasy away from the redemptive covenant of the God of their father Abraham ended in Israelite hearts filled with the spirit of Satan and possessed of his bitterness, “briers and thorns”. As the Lord’s prophetic song to Moses foreknew:

“For their vine is of the vine of Sodom, and of the fields of Gomorrah: their grapes are grapes of gall, their clusters are bitter: their wine is the poison of dragons, and the cruel venom of asps.” (Deut. 32:32,33).

Paul gave a detailed description of every child of Adam who Satan controls.

“Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers, backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, without understanding, covenantbreakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful: who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them.” (Rom. 1:29-32).

Another description of the Roman world by Paul supplements the one above, and is commented on by Ellen White: “Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.” (Gal. 5:19,20). “The senses, the nerves, the passions, the organs of men, were worked by supernatural agencies in the indulgence of the vilest lust.... Rebellion had struck its roots deep into the heart, and the hostility of man was most violent against heaven.” Desire of Ages, p. 36.
 
At their crucifixion of the Son of God, the people shook their fist at Jesus just as they had always been shaking their fist at God and at each other. They providentially adorned the head of the Prince of peace with a visible metaphor that represented their own malignant minds. Each thorn of the bramble crown screamed the anger and hatred, the pride and revenge enthroned in those outraged hearts of Satan’s possession. Once again, at the height of Roman prosperity, “the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and…every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” (Gen. 6:5). Every thought of their wicked minds they projected onto the Son of God. And, by the crown of thorns, their animosity toward Himself Providence displayed mercifully in parable form for them all to learn from.

Without the manifestation and conviction of their hostility toward the world’s best Friend, Jesus could not be their Saviour. He must not only share in their affliction from Satan, He must take it away from them. He must absorb their abusive hostility toward God and release them from it. Jesus became the present focus of Jew and Gentile, the good and the bad, the “holy” Sanhedrin and their “righteous” execution of a Criminal, and the vulgar Romans and their aggressions against everything holy. In complete, glad submission to the forbearance and love of God toward a world that the Godhead came to regain, Jesus said, “Surely they are My people, children that will not lie: so He was their Saviour.” (Isa. 63:9).

“In all their affliction He was afflicted.” (Isa. 63:9). Jesus felt their pain because He came for the very purpose of letting them unleash all their pain upon Him; and His infinite charity bore it all. “In His love and in His pity He redeemed them; and He bare them, and carried them all the days of old.” (Isa. 63:9). He let them cast all their abuses upon Him, because He knew that without their unburdening the gall and wormwood from their Beelzebub-controlled minds, they could never be delivered from Satan’s control. He did for them what they couldn’t do for themselves. They must witness, for the first time in their lives, someone who would take all their godless, venomous, inner wrath, but would not and could not throw it all back on them in greater measure. Only the goodness of the divine One toward their worst vengeance could bring them to repentance.

This was His method and His goal. “They shall look upon Me whom they have pierced” and “I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplications.” (Zech. 12:10).

God’s living parable in His providential crown of thorns represented the thorny hearts of the Jewish and Gentile world and their barbed epithets which He was absorbing through His Son, though now with His Father’s ear no longer near to weep into He could not have their aggressions all washed away from His memories. All the world’s offensive sins adorned the Son of God until sin was all that His offended Father could see. The Son was a captive in the eye of a hurricane of hate, anger, and evil that pricked and ripped Him by both human and demonic personalities. Thus, the Father made Him to be sin for us, in our place and for our sakes. The crown of thorns symbolized the Son caught in the crosshairs of  the world’s concentrated resentment toward God and irritation toward His holy will.

“Satanic agencies were incorporated with men. The bodies of human beings, made for the dwelling place of God, had become the habitation of demons…. The very stamp of demons was impressed upon the countenances of men. Human faces reflected the expression of the legions of evil with which they were possessed.” Desire of Ages, p. 36.

Faith and mercy had departed from the world. And, day after day, all that the expressions of those assaulting, angry hearts ever received from everyone around them came from other platonic, violent, fallen natures in their brothers, neighbors, soldiers, and the state. Earth had become a world where each man’s hand was against everyone around him (see Genesis 16:12). No mercy was accorded to humanity in its frustrations and emotional suffering derived from the lack of unending love and affection. Without a Saviour who was filled with supernatural love, all the venomous wrath of human hearts could only be expressed in more tumultuous venom reflected back on them by others like themselves. Cursed is the man who trusts in mankind! Blessed is the man who trusts in the omnipotent love of the unchanging God! Unrelenting, pure justice without mercy is the foundation of Satan’s kingdom, and that was the inescapable, tormenting enslavement in which the despotic Roman Empire trapped its people during their  70 year human existence.

By rejecting service to God and His eternal, selfless and self-denying Law, they must serve Satan and his abritrary, selfish and self-indulgent laws. Humanity was serving under their possession by hell because they had unanimously voted for hell to reign over them.

“When they knew God, they glorified Him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened…. And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient; being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers….” (Rom. 1:21,28,29).
 
These are the wretched and miserable, thorny character traits that filled the world in Christ’s day and which was demonstrated by the thorny crown jokingly platted and mercilessly and carelessly jammed upon His head. On Christ alone could they heave unrestrained fury with all their insults, and hear in return the only feeling aroused in Him, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34). Yet, without all the hatred that they could unfurl abounding upon their Victim, without the unlimited railing expressions of the violence that raged in their unholy hearts toward God, Jesus could not regain their trust and stanch their violent hatred, “nailing it to His cross.” (Col. 2:14). His willing absorption of everything they could throw at Him was their only victory over Satan; and it was God’s only victory also. And under the same conditions our High Priest is still wrestling with His murderers today until He can gently remove the knife out of our repentant and surrendered hands.

For some who Satan could fully imbue with his self-exaltation and vehement belligerence, Christ’s absorption of their rage made them even angrier, emboldened to do more evil. But, for others the stark difference between the world’s wicked norms, and the muted love streaming from the blood running down Christ’s head, struck their conscience with lightning force. They saw Him as the precious berry in the wretched bramble. To them the infamous laurel of thorns became the famous diadem of His omnipotent Spirit of grace and supplication, as seen in Revelation 5:6. “Lo, in the midst of the throne and of the four beasts, and in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb as it had been slain, having seven horns… which are the seven Spirits of God sent forth into all the earth.”

The mercy and faith of self-sacrificing love displayed in the crown of thorns loudly preached the effort and message from Jesus and His Father. Humanity’s unforgettable, undeniable demonstration of its wickedness upon a Victim possessing unforgettable, undeniable forgiveness was the only powerful reality that could overthrow the corrupted norms from Satan and present to mankind a new paradigm of loving and being loved. If they could taste and see the difference between all that earth has to offer contrasted with all that heaven offers, they would receive an irresistible drawing to righteousness and holiness. Messiah’s willingness to sacrifice Himself to deliver us from our angry torments condemned their haughty self-righteousness which was against humanity, “which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way.” (Col. 2:14).

“That which beareth thorns and briers is rejected, and is nigh unto cursing; whose end is to be burned.” (Heb. 6:8). In the parable from Isaiah, the promise was that world empires would subjugate Israel until all the Israelites could see their worthless Baal-Ashtoreth, self-made righteousness as God sees it— being thorny to themselves and to everyone around them, irritating, upsetting, unsettling, abrasive, destructive to others as well as self-destructive.

“And it shall come to pass in that day, that every place shall be, where there were a thousand vines at a thousand [silver pieces], it shall even be for briers and thorns. With arrows and with bows shall men come thither; because all the land shall become briers and thorns. And on all hills that shall be digged with the mattock, there shall not come thither the fear of briers and thorns: but it shall be for the sending forth of oxen, and for the treading of lesser cattle.” (Isa. 7:18-25).

Each Israelite would become caustic and abrasive, just like the pagan.  “He will be a wild man; his hand will be against every man, and every man’s hand against him.” (Gen. 16:12). And the reality of Assyrian punishment would declare to each Israelite conscience their thorny character that dishonored God. But, some who, like their Saviour, ate of the milk and honey that surrounded them in God’s earthly resting place found that the approaching world empires would give them an increasing need to drink deeper of the sweetness and fatness of God’s gracious mercy and truth. By faith through the sacrificial and ceremonial system that Jesus gave them they continued to see the glorious offering of their God to save them from satanic oppression. They were “enlightened, and…tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, and…tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come.” (Heb. 6:4,5). Of them Paul could use the similitude, “the earth which drinketh in the rain that cometh oft upon it, and bringeth forth herbs meet for them by whom it is dressed, receiveth blessing from God.” (Heb. 6:7).

Likewise, the Messiah would come ever feeding on an exalted, princely, heavenly diet of His Father’s butter-and-honey Law and grace, “meat to eat that ye know not of.” (John 4:32). His mental, spiritual, emotional food, was far different from the forced, abrasive, painful, enervating and unsatisfying diet from Baal and Ashtoreth that harassed the world’s hearts every moment with a constant jab.  “You worthless idiots! You should have never been born.”

“This I say therefore, and testify in the Lord, that ye henceforth walk not as other Gentiles walk, in the vanity of their mind,
Having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart:
Who being past feeling have given themselves over unto lasciviousness, to work all uncleanness with greediness.
But ye have not so learned Christ;
If so be that ye have heard Him, and have been taught by Him, as the truth is in Jesus:
That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts;
And be renewed in the spirit of your mind;
And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.” (Eph. 4:17-24).
 
The crown of thorns probably did not have the excessive spikes that Hollywood has shown in movies. Nevertheless, a more accurate crown of bramble is still “nigh unto cursing”. It was designed to add to the torment of the “King of the Jews”; and it still is the reversed picture at Calvary which Jesus gave to win a thorny, rebellious humanity back to His Father’s righteous requirements. Won’t we go to ground zero of our redemption —Calvary— where the greatest battle was ever fought against our Lord, with all the “contradiction of sinners against Himself” (Heb. 12:3)? Won’t we see our Lord driven to endure everything unclean that comes with an eternal ministry to win and sanctify the world God so loved in order to “fetch home again His banished” (2Sam. 14:13)? “I will be surety for him; of My hand shalt Thou require him: if I bring him not unto Thee, and set him before Thee, then let Me bear the blame for ever” (Gen. 43:9). Won’t we see the joy from “the eternal Spirit” (Heb. 9:14, cf Zech. 6:13) that compelled the Son to take up His cross, “despising the shame” (Heb. 12:2)? Won’t we survey the wondrous cross where One “was marred more than any man... more than the sons of men” (Heb. 12:2)? Won’t we see “the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2Cor. 4:6)?