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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.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

In His presence the fullness of joy

An analysis of the story of Balaam shows the effect that the Holy Spirit will have on anyone who draws near to God and places himself under the redeeming influence of God’s presence.

Balaam had been a faithful servant of the Lord. He had had a long career as a representative for Christ and as His willing tool. And time spent with God was telling on his character. His outward life and confident words, as recorded in Numbers 22:13 and 18, still retained the refinement of Jesus’ own graces. Even when Balaam departed from God, and, due to unique circumstances he found himself again being recalled by God to work for Him and being drawn back into His life-giving presence, Balaam’s prophecies reveal the blessedness that attends possession by the Lord God of love.

“And he took up his parable, and said, Balaam the son of Beor hath said, and the man whose eyes are open hath said:
He hath said, which heard the words of God, and knew the knowledge of the most High, which saw the vision of the Almighty, falling into a trance, but having his eyes open:
I shall see Him, but not now: I shall behold Him, but not nigh: there shall come a Star out of Jacob, and a Sceptre shall rise out of Israel….” (Num. 24:15-17).

Balaam could have resisted God. Anyone has the freedom of choice with God. But here we see a man thrilling with the glory of God and freely expressing faith and love. There is no greater liberty than when filled with all the fullness of God and insights into His holy character. Thus Balaam experienced, “Let me die the death of the righteous, and let my last end be like his!” (Num. 23:10). Nothing, not even mortal life itself compared to the divine vigor pumping through Balaam’s being.

Yet, despite being, as it were, transfigured in prophetic utterance, Balaam returns to his people and leaves behind him heaven’s enthralling presence. The old life of self-indulgence, which he had been drawn into, beckoned him again, and he walked away from the office of worker for God the last and final time. The next time we see Balaam Satan has him totally under a devilish power; he is fully captivated at Satan’s will.

What does this say? Is it true or not that God is able to keep us from falling? See Jude 24. Can the gospel of God’s grace work in us as “the power of God unto salvation” or not?

We see the same thing with Saul of Gibeah. Blessed with that same singular gift of God’s salvation, he is given “another heart” and becomes a new man in Christ. See 1 Sam. 10:6,9. He experiences, through prophecy, what it means to be in the presence of the God of mercy and truth. Suddenly, Saul is revived and reformed with a confidence in God never before seen in him. A nominal Christian becomes a great leader in spiritual things. So great was the distinction between the old and new Saul that it turned peoples’ heads and invigorated their hope and faith in God.

But we see Saul’s genuine experience with God dwindle and the flame finally go out. And afterward, like Balaam, we find the spiritual and psychological condition of King Saul worse than before his conversion and inspiration by the Holy Spirit. But how could this happen? How can God allow such catastrophes? Can’t the powerful Spirit of God inspire us enough to keep us from turning away from Him? Can’t He keep us sufficiently interested?

Everything depends on the action of the will. The freedom to choose must be held infinitely sacred. And God holds it so sacred that He forces that issue, even when we would prefer him to be slack on it. No, God forces us to decide for Him or against Him by putting our resolve to the test. Constantly, we must exercise our choice of hanging on to faith in Him or abandoning it for the lures of Satan. For this reason He kept Satan in existence after his rebellion in heaven, to be a catalyst in our decision making. By God infinitely suffering initially with sin and the ruin of His children, He ensures that His post-controversy kingdom will have only those who really, truly wanted Him in this world of temptation and sorrow. No half-hearted elect can enter the kingdom made new; affliction must not arise the second time.

The path to God and eternal life is littered with many, many greats who knew a one-time faith and grace. Their carcasses lay as a warning to all those who will fear God and tremble at His word. All the Judas Iscariots, the Ananias's and Sapphiras who “tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come” (Heb. 6:5); all those like D.M. Canright, who was greatly used by God as an SDA evangelist in the 1860’s and ‘70’s, but fell from that gracious gift, all have sounded their fearful messages to God’s people in every dispensation of time.

That dread-filled message being that only those who strive and continue to strive to keep knowing God better and better, to abide in Him and have His words abide in them; that only those who will fight the fight of faith, will overcome the natural human slide away from God into Satan’s snares and, will in the end, be worthy to hold the title to heaven. Yearning for God’s presence until faith lays hold of Him; battling with self as convicted by the word of God until Christ is formed within; stretching all the powers in the warfare to hold fast what God has given us so that Satan may not take our crown.

“For we are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence stedfast unto the end.” (Heb. 3:14). Never can we accept Satan’s applause as Solomon did, or run madly after this world’s rewards of recognition as Balaam and Elder Canright, and all the rest. We must always be able to admit to being the chief of sinners. Only by losing our self will we save ourselves in the end, and every step of the way. We must accept the discipline and correction that heaven sends us to keep us humble. If we’ve known the blessedness of faith and experience with God, let us strive to receive it again, and again. If we’ve been used by God to speak or write or do for Him, let us glory in that as a gift and seek to become worthy to serve in future opportunities. Let us yearn for the fullness of God, and then fear to do “despite unto the Spirit of grace” through glaring nonchalance at the infinite condescension of His Majesty. (Heb. 10:29).

Satan walks about to steal us away from our One who died to have us forever; so let us walk soberly and circumspectly. Through the drawing influence of the Lord’s gentleness and goodness, we gain heaven by our own effort and force, and then by thrilling in every precious experience we have with the Spirit of grace.

Heaven is waiting with bated breath to receive us into a kingdom made new. It is ours to claim. Through our continued interest and focus and service heaven will come within our grasp. We are well able to go up and take it.

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