“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, January 26, 2010

Losing the first love

Christ sent a message of warning through John to the apostolic church.

“Unto the angel of the church of Ephesus write; These things saith He that holdeth the seven stars in His right hand, who walketh in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks;
I know thy works, and thy labour, and thy patience, and how thou canst not bear them which are evil: and thou hast tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars:
And hast borne, and hast patience, and for My name’s sake hast laboured, and hast not fainted.
Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love.
Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent.” (Rev. 2:1-5).

What were the first works? They were the things newlyweds do—they hold long and deep conversations, and go places and do things together. It may not seem so important a matter to have lost the first love to Jesus, but He made it clear that if they didn’t return to that first intimacy, that their light would go out.

Paul warned of another condition happening to that early gospel revival. “Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first…. For the mystery of iniquity doth already work.” (2Thess. 2:3,7). Iniquity, according to Paul is a mysterious force. It takes its place within God’s own camp and works from the inside out.

The work of God’s Spirit is also mysterious. “Without controversy great is the mystery of godliness.” (1Tim. 3:16). What this says is that the controversy between Christ and Satan goes on beyond our awareness. The carnal mind of man cannot comprehend it. But spiritual thing are spiritually discerned, and “the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God.” (1Cor. 2:14). It is only with glasses given by the Holy Spirit that “Satan should [not] get an advantage of us.” (2Cor. 2:11).

So we have two causes of trouble for the apostolic church: 1) loss of the first love and 2) the mysterious incursion of iniquity. But, Christ made a prophetic statement that linked them together. “Because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold.” (Matt. 24:12). The mystery of iniquity is the cause of the fading of the first love. So how does that work?

Iniquity, or in-equity, is injustice, lawlessness, rebellion. Lawlessness can enter in and sneak in quietly without notice or raising the suspicions of the church elders. It can move in under the radar even when the church is active in doing “the work of the Lord” according to Rev. 2:2,3. This would seem inconceivable to many church workers busily doing their jobs. It would seem that if I stay active in the Lord’s work, by teaching, preaching, giving Bible studies, with works of charity, being a good neighbor and brother, spouse, parent, that Satan wouldn’t be able to get his foot in the church or Christian home door.

James gives this explanation. “Every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed.” (Jas. 1:14). We are drawn away from our love for God. Really?! Can this actually happen to love? I thought God’s love was irresistible? It is irresistible for those who keep close watch of it. But if we are casual about what He has done to prove His love, then gradually His love fades away in a glut of this world’s temptations. We live in Babylonian captivity. Unless we obey Christ’s mandate: “Watch ye therefore, and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man,” (Lk. 21:36) we will be overcome.

James says we are drawn away and enticed. Once we have left our connection with Jesus, we’re goners. Without the enchantment of Christ’s fatherly love, the enticements of Satan will grab us and not let us go. Only a desperate cry for help, like Jehoshaphat surrounded by enemy armies or Peter about to drown in the angry waves, will save us from becoming victims to the devil who walks about like a roaring lion intending to devour us.

Not even church work can save us from the enemy of souls if we have no intimacy with Jesus, our everlasting Father and wonderful Counselor. The Jews thought it was good enough to be physically in the presence of the Messiah and rub shoulders with Him. A huge mistake! They spent His whole ministry of 3 1/2 years simply keeping Him at arm’s length instead of getting to know Him. At the end of that time, they were not only non-chalant toward Him, but Satan was able to inspire them with his fury toward Christ. They actually became the Lord’s enemies! This is what happens when we do not obey the command to seek to strengthen our heartstrings to His strong love.

“Strive to enter in at the strait gate: for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able.
When once the master of the house is risen up, and hath shut to the door, and ye begin to stand without, and to knock at the door, saying, Lord, Lord, open unto us; and he shall answer and say unto you, I know you not whence ye are:
Then shall ye begin to say, We have eaten and drunk in thy presence, and thou hast taught in our streets.
But he shall say, I tell you, I know you not whence ye are; depart from me, all ye workers of iniquity.
There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when ye shall see Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, and all the prophets, in the kingdom of God, and you yourselves thrust out.
And they shall come from the east, and from the west, and from the north, and from the south, and shall sit down in the kingdom of God.
And, behold, there are last which shall be first, and there are first which shall be last.” “Many will say to Me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Thy name? and in Thy name have cast out devils? and in Thy name done many wonderful works?
And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from Me, ye that work iniquity.” (Lk. 13:24-30;Matt. 7:22,23).

This is exactly why King Saul was rejected. He received a most wonderful demonstration of the God of peace through His Holy Spirit. But Saul didn’t strive to keep that experience and it left him empty and gasping for hope and peace. Judas saw something good in Jesus, but never pursued the deep friendship John sought after with such ravaging hunger. In his great imperious superiority, Judas towered over young John. But in the end, John was the victor over the conflict of who would be next to Jesus. John only sought that position so that he could make sure Jesus would never leave nor forsake him.

The “first love” experience was allowed to fade away from the apostolic church, and, true to the warning from heaven, they were left wide open to Satan’s temptation of the exalted Roman Empire. After John died, the Shepherd was smitten and Satan scattered the sheep. Soon one Christian philosopher after another wove the sentiments of popular Greek philosophy into church doctrine, Bible hermeneutics, and exegesis. Their candlestick was taken away, just as Christ forewarned.

Many things can move us off of the platform of truth and faith. “The care of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches” can “choke the word,” and it becomes unfruitful. (Matt. 13:22). Therefore the admonition, “Be careful for nothing.” “Casting all your care upon Him; for He careth for you.” (Phil. 4:6;1Pet. 5:7). This goes for worrying about whether we are saved or not. Even that kind of worrying pulls us away from Jesus.

We should not make self the center and indulge anxiety and fear as to whether we shall be saved. All this turns the soul away from the Source of our strength. Commit the keeping of your soul to God, and trust in Him. Talk and think of Jesus. Let self be lost in Him. Put away all doubt; dismiss your fears. Say with the apostle Paul, “I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave Himself for me.” Galatians 2:20. Rest in God. He is able to keep that which you have committed to Him. If you will leave yourself in His hands, He will bring you off more than conqueror through Him that has loved you. Steps to Christ, p. 71.

Last day events can also be a benign sidetrack of the devil’s. We can make it our all-consuming focus. God has authorized nothing else to be all-consuming except one thing—our relationship with Him. Yes, we need to be aware of events around us because they impinge on our connection with heaven, or will one day. They will shake our faith, the faith of those we love, and strangers we meet. We need to warn them of coming danger. But, never should the warning alone be all that we give them. The solution, the way of escape is what they need the most after learning of the approaching trouble. That solution is the joy of the Lord, His mercy, and truth. Reconciled to God by the death of His Son, we can and must be saved by His life of righteousness.

Fear of the tribulation can become a god above the Lord God. When that happens it breaks the first and greatest commandment, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.” And feeding others that same blighting curse of terror breaks the second commandment, “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.”

The good news is that nothing trumps the school of Christ, learning to trust Him as a little child. And nothing is stronger than when we are weak, He becomes our strength. “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). The last shall be first. Let trouble come.

“Fret not thyself because of evildoers, neither be thou envious against the workers of iniquity.
For they shall soon be cut down like the grass, and wither as the green herb.
Trust in the Lord, and do good; so shalt thou dwell in the land, and verily thou shalt be fed.
Delight thyself also in the Lord: and He shall give thee the desires of thine heart.
Commit thy way unto the Lord; trust also in Him; and He shall bring it to pass.
And He shall bring forth thy righteousness as the light, and thy judgment as the noonday.
Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for Him: fret not thyself because of him who prospereth in his way, because of the man who bringeth wicked devices to pass.” (Ps. 37:1-7).

Delight thyself in the Lord. Let His goodness lead you to repentance. Keep watch over a deeper intimacy with your elder Brother and heavenly Father. Guard the edges of the Sabbath as a day of communion with heaven. “Then shall thy light rise in obscurity, and thy darkness be as the noon day:
And the Lord shall guide thee continually, and satisfy thy soul in drought, and make fat thy bones: and thou shalt be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water, whose waters fail not.
And they that shall be of thee shall build the old waste places: thou shalt raise up the foundations of many generations; and thou shalt be called, The repairer of the breach, The restorer of paths to dwell in.
If thou turn away thy foot from the Sabbath, from doing thy pleasure on My holy day; and call the Sabbath a delight, the holy of the Lord, honourable; and shalt honour Him, not doing thine own ways, nor finding thine own pleasure, nor speaking thine own words:
Then shalt thou delight thyself in the Lord; and I will cause thee to ride upon the high places of the earth, and feed thee with the heritage of Jacob thy father: for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it.” (Is. 58:10-14).

Your first love will never leave, or will return if it slips away, and iniquity will not be able to mysteriously make its way in. The mystery of godliness will be yours forever.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Christ the weak

Christ, as strong as He was, was weak. Without His Father, He could not exist. Their tie was so intimate that Jesus never operated on His own resources. He said, “The Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He seeth the Father do: for what things soever He doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise.” (Jn. 5:19). As it is true, that “Without Me ye can do nothing,” (Jn. 15:5) so it was with Jesus to His Father; without His Father He could do nothing. That’s why His Father could show Him everything. “For the Father loveth the Son, and sheweth Him all things that Himself doeth: and He will shew Him greater works than these, that ye may marvel.” (Jn. 5:20).

Jesus, from a toddler, was His heavenly Father’s shadow. Never were they separated. Never was Christ’s mind empty of His Father, His God to whom He looked up. His Father was His Master and Friend. That was all Christ wanted—a friendship from His excellent Father. That’s why the Voice baptized Him in, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” (Matt. 3:17). As His shadow, They went everywhere together, inseparably. And as His Father’s shadow, Jesus looked just like His Father, “gracious, and full of compassion; slow to anger, and of great mercy,” “being the brightness of His glory, and the express image of His person,” “the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.” (Ps. 145:8;Heb. 1:3;Jn. 1:14).

Like Elisha to Elijah, Jesus followed His Father everywhere He went. Elijah told Elisha to stay where they were and Elijah would go on alone. But Elisha said, I will never leave you. “Elijah said unto Elisha, Tarry here, I pray thee; for the LORD hath sent me to Bethel. And Elisha said unto him, As the LORD liveth, and as thy soul liveth, I will not leave thee. So they went down to Bethel.” (2Kings 2:2). Again and again, Elijah said the same to Elisha; and each time Elisha gave the same response. Elisha wanted to follow Elijah and reap the benefits of being in the powerful presence of this redeemed man of faith. Elisha coveted earnestly the gifts God gave Elijah and he was rewarded with a double portion. Likewise, Jesus could not live without His Father’s presence being ever near.

John the disciple also followed Jesus very intimately. He pushed and nudged into his Master’s presence, intently listening, watching closely, and marveling at the profound things Jesus said; His word was a never-ending stream of beauty and instruction. “I am the Light of the world.” “I am the Bread of life.” “I that speak unto thee am He.” “I am the Good Shepherd.” “I am the Door of the sheep.” “I am the true Vine.” “Before Abraham was, I am.” Awed and attracted, John was drawn into intimate fellowship with his Rabbi. He followed the Lamb of God whithersoever He went. Finally, in the end, he could not help but weave the love of Christ into every conversation; Jesus had become everything to him. “He that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him.” (1Jn. 4:16).

As we, with John, watch and study Jesus, we will become changed. After being filled with all the fullness of God and His love, as seen in His Son, we must follow hard after Him, or abandon His salvation altogether.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Jesus like no other

I hear agnostics say, Jesus was just another nice man, another prophet, another martyr. He’s no better than Gandhi. Socrates died for what he believed in; he was a martyr almost 400 years before Christ died.

I’ve even heard about Christians claiming that Paul was the greatest Christian, the second greatest was miles behind, and there was no third. (Christ wasn’t the greatest Christian, the original Christian?) What would Paul have to say about the acclaim so many well-wishers give him?

“Is Christ divided? was Paul crucified for you? or were ye baptized in the name of Paul? I thank God that I baptized none of you, but Crispus and Gaius; lest any should say that I had baptized in mine own name.” (1Cor. 1:13-15).

“I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who hath enabled me, for that He counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry; who was before a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and injurious: but I obtained mercy, because I did it ignorantly in unbelief. And the grace of our Lord was exceeding abundant with faith and love which is in Christ Jesus. This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief.” (1Tim. 1:12-15).

“I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and Him crucified.” (1Cor. 2:2). Yes, Paul was great, but only because he was willing to be honest about his own real lack of greatness.

Paul was filled with the Holy Ghost, as was Christ, and others. “Then Saul, (who also is called Paul,) filled with the Holy Ghost, set his eyes on him….” (Acts 13:9). Peter was also, and the other apostles. “Then Peter, filled with the Holy Ghost, said unto them, Ye rulers of the people, and elders of Israel….” “and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.” (Acts 4:8;2:4). As was John the Baptist, “thou shalt call his name John…. and he shall be filled with the Holy Ghost, even from his mother’s womb…. And he shall go before him in the spirit and power of Elias.” (Lk. 1:13,15,17). Moses was full of the Holy Ghost. “Then He remembered the days of old, Moses, and His people, saying, Where is He that brought them up out of the sea with the shepherd of His flock? where is he that put His holy Spirit within him?” (Is. 63:11).

“Jesus being full of the Holy Ghost returned from Jordan, and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness…. And Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit into Galilee: and there went out a fame of Him through all the region round about.” (Lk. 4:1,14). So, what makes Jesus different from the others who were also filled with the Holy Ghost?

They were only stones crying out. (Lk. 3:8;19:40). Jesus, the second Adam “was made a quickening spirit.” (1Cor. 15:45). He was filled with the Spirit without measure. “He that cometh from above is above all: he that is of the earth is earthly, and speaketh of the earth: He that cometh from heaven is above all.” (Jn. 3:31). (Jn. 3:34). They were just hammers and saws; Christ was the skilled and intelligent carpenter. Moses was a wonderful servant in God’s house, but Christ was a Son over His own house. (Heb. 3:5,6). “And the servant abideth not in the house for ever: but the Son abideth ever.” (Jn. 8:35).

All the greats of the Holy Scriptures gave wonderful testimonies, set apart from the self-seeking spirit of the world through the spirit of Christ. But Christ’s testimony was infinitely better than Moses’ or Paul’s or Daniel’s or Enoch’s. Christ was God-breathed. The others tasted of that transfiguration and communion with heaven. They knew it on occasion, but Christ knew it non-stop. His every thought was inspired by His Father. Beyond all comparison, He had His Father’s continuous inspiration; “for God giveth not the Spirit by measure unto Him.” (Jn. 3:34). As Mt. Rainier with the mountains which butress its base, Jesus had no peers.

Thus He was the Anointed One—from eternity never had there been a time that the Father and Son were not in a perfect bond of love. This was made visual for us in that at His very conception Christ was holy, (“that holy thing.”). Lk. 1:35. None of the others could say that, not even John the Baptist who was filled with the Spirit at 6 months in the womb, and that solely because the newly conceived “holy Thing” inside of Mary had come next to him when she visited John’s mother, Elizabeth. That “holy Thing” was the imperfect zygote of Mary held in a perfect state by the presence of God, who has been wanting to tabernacle with men again since the fall into sin.

Was it ever said of Paul, “Let all the angels of God worship Him”? (Heb. 1:6). Was it ever said of Abraham, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased”? (Matt. 3:17). As holy as Daniel was, was he the Messiah? No, he trembled before the pre-incarnate Messiah (Dan. 10:5-9); and all Daniel could say then was, “There remained no strength in me: for my comeliness was turned in me into corruption, and I retained no strength.” Compared to the Son of God, Daniel was dust and ashes. Paul needed a heavy dose of humble pie by means of a thorn in his flesh, lest his privilege of so many visions and deep knowledge of God should make him proud and destroy him. Christ needed no such thing; His nature was undefiled by sin and pride. Jesus received unlimited knowledge and constant vision without any danger of it making Him proud. “Butter and honey shall He eat, that He may know to refuse the evil, and choose the good.” (Is. 7:15). He had no fallen nature to contend with. He could be tempted, but after His victory in the wilderness the devil couldn’t get close to Him. “The prince of this world cometh, and hath nothing in Me.” (Jn. 14:30).

Abraham was glorified after passing his great test on Mt. Moriah. Seeing the plan of redemption through that experience so sanctified him that the kings of the land bowed in honor before him, to which he graciously returned the same honor. Yet next to Christ his achievements were nothing. “What shall we say then that Abraham our father, as pertaining to the flesh, hath found? For if Abraham were justified by works, he hath whereof to glory; but not before God.” (Rom. 4:1,2). To the glorified Christ alone did God ever say from His bright cloud of glory, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye Him.” (Matt. 17:5). Jesus, without penalty, gloried before God, being one like the eternal King. “No flesh should glory in His presence” (1Cor. 1:29); that is, except for His Son, Jesus Christ.

Solomon “spake three thousand proverbs: and his songs were a thousand and five. And he spake of trees, from the cedar tree that is in Lebanon even unto the hyssop that springeth out of the wall: he spake also of beasts, and of fowl, and of creeping things, and of fishes.” (1Ki. 4:32,33). And Paul “in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood…. “ (2Pet. 3:16). But Jesus ceaselessly found everything around Him to compare to heavenly things in parables. “All these things spake Jesus unto the multitude in parables; and without a parable spake He not unto them.” (Matt. 13:34). Solomon and Paul in their deep insight couldn’t hold a match to the Messiah, the Holy One, the Anointed of God, the God-breathed One.

Moses walked with the Lord God for 40 years and saw the back of the invisible pre-incarnate Christ (Heb. 11:27). Daniel caught a few features of God’s blinding glory, “who only hath immortality, dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto; whom no man hath seen, nor can see.” (Dan. 7:9;1Tim. 6:16). Yet only the Son saw the Father up close and in perfect detail. “No man hath seen God at any time, the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, He hath declared Him.” (Jn. 1:18). The apostles were sealed by the Spirit of Christ; but Christ alone was sealed by the Spirit of His Father. (Jn. 6:27).

John was a stone crying out—Jesus was God-breathed.

Paul preached the word with power—Jesus was the Word incarnate and spoke from the depths of divinity.

Moses declared the Law of God—Jesus declared His Father, the Author of the divine Law.

Abraham, Moses, David, and company, were just branches—Christ the true vine, in which the branches abode. “For He shall grow up before Him as a tender plant.” “Holy Father….” Jesus lived from His Father’s life and for His Father’s love and glory. (Is. 53:2;Jn. 17:11).

We are all 5 minutes from death. If we were to stop breathing, in 5 minutes we would suffer mental damage, brain death and then full death. Breathing is so innate to life. Likewise was prayer the breath of Jesus’ soul. His life was so fully bound up in His Father, the Ancient of days.

When we are suffocating for air we fight with our entire heart mind, strength, and soul to get air. So Christ struggled and fought to regain His Father when the Father backed away from His Son in Gethsemane and until the cross. The Son of God searched for His Father’s loving eyes, but never could find them. Until the darkness covered the land, He analyzed the characters of everyone around Him, seeking for evidence of mercy and truth, the image of His Father in them. But He found no one to give Him encouragement to meet His deplorable needs, as Satan closed in. The Father had to separate from His Son, and Satan used that opportunity, when the Son was weakest, to amplify His misery and the mental and spiritual agony of an abandoned, fatherless child. The devils inspired the Jewish leaders with just the sentiments to torture Jesus in His most sorrowful point of the plan of redemption.

Jesus suffocated for His Father’s love. All His life He had known the joy of perfect communion with the impeccable God of heaven. In His human form, He had had to constantly strive for that connection, because of the weight of the sinful body He inherited from Mary. During the time between the sweetest inspirations of heaven, He spent yearning for that communion. Normally, when we breathe, we rest in between breaths. But if we were to be trapped in a smoke-filled house, we would gasp for air in that oxygen-starved space. When Jesus waited to connect with His Father, rather than waiting calmly, His soul yearned for communion as if for His very life. This world’s lackadaisical spiritual atmosphere was so foreign to His pure, divine soul.

Jesus suffocated for His Father’s love, especially on the cross, until His life ebbed away as His Father withdrew further and further. “Thou shalt make His soul an offering for sin.” (Is. 53:10). The offering of His soul revealed the Father in the clearest rays ever. Seen was the strength of love that binds the divine Ones into one Godhead. The Lord our God is one Godhead because of love. And They welcome us to join Them in that same bond of love. “The Spirit and the bride say, Come.” (Rev. 22:17). His will can become the breath of our will.

“The law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster. For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus.” (Gal. 3:24-26). Christ becomes our meditation as law is linked to love.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Email to a brother

Hello brother,
I thought about our conversation on the phone. This is the text I referred to. I know you are familiar with it, but I want to emphasize that last little note.

“And when His disciples James and John saw this, they said, Lord, wilt Thou that we command fire to come down from heaven, and consume them, even as Elias did?
But He turned, and rebuked them, and said, Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of.
For the Son of man is not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them. And they went to another village.” (Lk. 9:54-56).

It says that Jesus rebuked them, but, we don’t necessarily need to read into that rebuke the thunders of Satan. Christ was disappointed in their response after all that He had tried to teach them in His example of lowliness and childlikeness. He had to set things straight. But He was really rebuking Satan who was speaking through them, as he did through Peter in Matthew 16:22,23. Satan was trying to use the people Jesus loved the most, like he did to Adam through Eve, to steer Him away from the cross. Jesus had to rebuke them, as He had to reprove Israel in the OT, for their own good and to ensure a straight path to our redemption. In the end He could tell them, “Hereafter I will not talk much with you: for the prince of this world cometh, and hath nothing in Me.” (Jn. 14:30).

So, He rebuked His friends, but in a loving way. And after stating the rebuke, that was all He needed to do. So, “they went to another village.” It was as simple as that. No railing. No curses. No accusations or blame or condemnation. He shamed them a little, and no more. Like Paul said, “For though I made you sorry with a letter, I do not repent, though I did repent: for I perceive that the same epistle hath made you sorry, though it were but for a season. Now I rejoice, not that ye were made sorry, but that ye sorrowed to repentance: for ye were made sorry after a godly manner.” (2Cor. 7:8,9). Paul repented that he made them repent!!!! But when he saw that they had turned around, he rejoiced! It must have hurt Jesus to hurt His disciples. But He was so infinitely pure and determined to reveal His Father, that He would never let His pity for us stop Him from saying what needed to be said. Thus it was written, He shall be called the mighty God.

It was in mercy that He wouldn’t back down from speaking the truth. But all His strong language was blended with mercy. Even all through the Old Testament. To believe Jesus is otherwise is to put Him in the class of the “proud” and “brute beasts.”

“He is proud, knowing nothing, but doting about questions and strifes of words, whereof cometh envy, strife, railings, evil surmisings.” (1Tim. 6:4).

“Not rendering evil for evil, or railing for railing: but contrariwise blessing; knowing that ye are thereunto called, that ye should inherit a blessing.” (1Pet. 3:9).

“Presumptuous are they, selfwilled, they are not afraid to speak evil of dignities.
Whereas angels, which are greater in power and might, bring not railing accusation against them before the Lord. But these, as natural brute beasts, made to be taken and destroyed.” (2Pet. 2:10-12).

“Yet Michael the archangel, when contending with the devil He disputed about the body of Moses, durst not bring against him a railing accusation, but said, The Lord rebuke thee.” (Jude 9).

Notice that last rebuke to the devil was not a railing accusation. It was spoken with calm authority. But in doing that He heaped tremendous fury on Satan, who is constantly trying to pull Jesus off the platform of truth. “Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head. Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Rom. 12:20,21). Isn’t Christ under the same law we are? Then He would follow the same example of humility and gentleness. And if He would be gentle yet firm with Satan, He will be infinitely more that way to us.

He will never carelessly rail on His disciples. And, D_____, you are one of His favorites. He encircles you with the arms of His love. You are “one of these little ones which believe in Me,” which “Jesus called ... unto Him, and set him in the midst.” No, you may not feel like that, but, as His ambassador, I can assure you that the great God looks on you like that. Stop seeing yourself from man’s viewpoint, and start looking from God’s view. It’s a much nicer and more protected position to look from.

But even though He died to save the whole world, His provision does us no good unless we believe His love and grace are for us. Otherwise, we are open season with the devil who posed as God when he burned up Job’s sheep. (Job 1:16). We take hook, line, and sinker Satan’s amazing ability to look and sound like God. There is no doubt Satan can spin a real good line. “...and when I saw her, I wondered with great admiration. And the angel said unto me, Wherefore didst thou marvel?” “He shall destroy wonderfully, and shall prosper, and practise,” (Rev. 17:6,7;Dan. 8:24). Satan and his favorite agent on earth even looked golden to the great prophets. But those representations referred to the success Satan would have with the Roman Papacy.

Let’s not be fooled by Satan’s imitation of Jesus. Let’s see Jesus’ tenderness which will always give Him away as the Anointed One, for “He shall grow up before Him as a tender plant.” Jesus is obligated to uphold His Father’s law, but He is always tender-hearted. He is full of grace and truth.

“The Lord, The Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth,
Keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, and that will by no means clear the guilty; visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, and upon the children’s children, unto the third and to the fourth generation.” But His truth and holding the rebels guilty is never done in rage or railing. His justice is always dispensed with mercy. He is touched with the feelings of your infirmities. Believe in His mercy and lovingkindness for you, even for D_____ L_____. :)

Satan is the one described as untouched with our feelings. “The Lord hath broken the staff of the wicked, and the sceptre of the rulers.

He who smote the people in wrath with a continual stroke, he that ruled the nations in anger, is persecuted, and none hindereth.

The whole earth is at rest, and is quiet: they break forth into singing.” (Is. 14:5-7).

Love you a lot, brother,

Friday, January 15, 2010

Jesus, God-breathed

In their great preaching and revivals, John the Baptist and the apostle Paul were just stones crying out compared to Jesus. The Son of God was God-breathed, the Word of God. His life was tentative yet fully in authority; all-powerful, yet needing to be wholly reliant on His Father for His life. Without continual, unbroken back and forth communion, without the flow of love from His Father and back to Him again, Christ’s life would have been snuffed out, as it did get snuffed out on the cross when His Father cut Himself off from His Son for our sake. The Baptist and the apostle, David and Daniel, Abraham and Enoch, creatures as they were, and sinners at that, couldn’t touch the infinite magnitude of dependence the Anointed One had for His Father.

This is how They were Elohim—one. “Hear O Israel, Yahweh Elohim is one Yahweh.” (Deut. 6:4). They were one, like the valence bonds that hold together the atoms which form all matter in creation, so that splitting of that bond releases tremendous power. So the infinite bond between Father and Son could never be broken; nothing could separate their oneness—except our sin. And the splitting of them apart sent peals of thunder from Earth to the distant most bounds of the inhabited universe.

In that bond, the Son knew perfect trust and love. And out of that bond flowed His perfect surrender and vulnerability. We hear it in His last prayer in Gethsemane before the divine separation began, before the One—for the first time in all of eternity—became Two.

“I have glorified Thee on the earth: I have finished the work which Thou gavest Me to do.
“And now, O Father, glorify Thou Me with Thine own self with the glory which I had with Thee before the world was….
“I pray for them: I pray not for the world, but for them which Thou hast given Me; for they are Thine.
“And all Mine are Thine, and Thine are Mine; and I am glorified in them.
“And now I am no more in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to Thee. Holy Father, keep through Thine own name those whom Thou hast given Me, that they may be one, as We are….
“As Thou hast sent Me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world.
“And for their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they also might be sanctified through the truth….
“Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on Me through their word;
“That they all may be one; as Thou, Father, art in Me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in Us: that the world may believe that Thou hast sent Me.
“And the glory which Thou gavest Me I have given them; that they may be one, even as We are one:
“I in them, and Thou in Me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that Thou hast sent Me, and hast loved them, as Thou hast loved Me.
“Father, I will that they also, whom Thou hast given Me, be with Me where I am; that they may behold My glory, which Thou hast given Me: for Thou lovedst Me before the foundation of the world.
“O righteous Father, the world hath not known Thee: but I have known Thee, and these have known that Thou hast sent Me.
“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.” (Jn. 17:4-5,9-11,18-26).

As the first Adam was a living soul, so the second Adam was the same and more. His soul lived only as His Father’s soul lived. Their heart beat in perfect unison. Paul, the greatest Christian and a recipient of many visions, needed a thorn in the side, the messenger of Satan to buffet him, in order to keep from being over exalted because of his sinful nature.

But Christ never needed such a discipline. His nature was spotless. His visions were continuously fed by the Spirit of His Father. “He that cometh from above is above all: he that is of the earth is earthly, and speaketh of the earth: He that cometh from heaven is above all.
And what He hath seen and heard, that He testifieth; and no man receiveth His testimony.
He that hath received His testimony hath set to his seal that God is true.
For He whom God hath sent speaketh the words of God: for God giveth not the Spirit by measure unto Him.
The Father loveth the Son, and hath given all things into His hand.” (Jn. 3:13-35).

And “He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him.” (Vs. 36). He can restore us to be what the first Adam was, living souls. But, Christ “the last Adam was made a quickening spirit.” (1Cor. 15:45). He had to be more than what He could make of us. Upon incarnation, He continued what He had been from eternity past, the Word which had made all things.

By the God-breathed breath of His mouth, “were the heavens made; and all the host of them…. He spake, and it was done; He commanded, and it stood fast.” (Ps. 33:6,9). In the beginning, the one Elohim created the heavens and the Earth.

And, in Their mutual oneness, They will recreate us.

Breathe on me, Breath of God,
Fill me with life anew,
That I may love what Thou dost love,
And do what Thou wouldst do.

Breathe on me, Breath of God,
Until my heart is pure,
Until my will is one with Thine,
To do and to endure.

Breathe on me, Breath of God,
Till I am wholly Thine,
Until this earthly part of me
Glows with Thy fire divine.

Breathe on me, Breath of God,
So shall I never die,
But live with Thee the perfect life
Of Thine eternity.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Ye cannot serve God and mammon

The very fountainhead of sin is pride. And at the very bedrock of pride lies the natural propensity to rely on ones’ own merit.

Everyone hopes in himself, in his merit, instead of his Lord. This was the reverse for Christ, who came forth in complete dependence on His Father, “My God.” “But Thou art He that took Me out of the womb: Thou didst make Me hope when I was upon My mother's breasts. I was cast upon Thee from the womb: Thou art My God from My mother's belly.” (Ps. 22:9,10). “The Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He seeth the Father do: for what things soever He doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise.” “I and My Father are one.” (Jn. 5:19;10:30).

The whole world looks to its abilities or charm or achievements to derive its value. Talent, good looks, ability to make money, possessions, pedigree, and on and on; all are used to determine the worth of a human and where each person sets in the local pecking order. And we even lie about our merits or manipulate their appearance in order to get ahead; thus, the whole world, “measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise,” and “are destroyed for lack of knowledge.” “They loved the praise of men more than the praise of God.” (2Cor. 10:12;Hosea 4:6;Jn. 12:43). And the more merits one can broadcast, the higher up he goes in the world social ladder.

The sinner finds no better pastime than parading self. We exalt self because if you have merit, you might as well show it off. We pity self when no one is recognizing our merit. We serve self as merit deserves to be indulged. We justify self because we refuse to be shamed; besides, our merit ranks us high by human standards.
“In lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves.” (Phil. 2:3). “So likewise ye, when ye shall have done all those things which are commanded you, say, We are unprofitable servants: we have done that which was our duty to do.” (Lk. 17:10).

We can only avoid excuses for our failures and weaknesses if we are detached from the world’s philosophy that our merits determine our worth. An excuse for sin would never come to mind if we hated to esteem ourselves. Boasting would benefit self nothing and would be looked upon as a virus needing to be destroyed. Self-worth based on merit kills the conscience and destroys the character and prohibits faith in Jesus. Contrary-wise, worth based on Christ’s love for us builds character, illuminates the conscience, and invites truth in our best Friend.

The people who commit suicide have previously realized that they could no longer rely on any merit of their own. And it leaves them feeling utterly valueless. So why live? they think. What human being can exist without an iota of self-worth based on its merits? If only the person with suicidal ideations could hear Christ’s offer of life regardless of our own ability, he would be cured from any further desire to die. The happiest people are those who don’t use their own merits to determine their value. Maybe their parents loved them unconditionally, maybe their children love the unquestionably. So they get to stand down from the clashing and one-upmanship of society’s competitions and parades.

But even those “happiest” people on earth have some predisposition to rely on self-merit. Jesus’ call to the world was, “Whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Matt. 16:25,26). No one, without depending on Jesus’ merits, can let go of his own; no one can of himself stop hoping in self’s abilities. Nobody can crucify himself. And, even with God’shelp, arriving at giving up hope in self’s abilities can require a sizable chunk of a person’s lifetime. Nevertheless, heaven counts giving up on self as a huge milestone, worthy of celebration (Lk. 15:7). They have a birthday party up there! “There is joy in heaven” over one person who gives up on its own merit and looks at the merits of Him who will stand in for him before God.

Here lies the crux of life and death—our salvation now or our ultimate damnation later. Will we give up on our dependence on self, and reliance on our good looks, charm, money, et cetera, and look to Jesus who made Himself of no reputation? Will we swallow the kind of meritless humility He stands for? Everything hinges on this decision. Multitudes turn away from it because it is a “hard saying” (Jn. 6:60), yet, what Jesus has to offer in eternal life with the God of love is contingent on the giving up on our self in order for us to receive Him. Renunciation of merit is the stumbling block for an entire world of sinners. It is taking up our cross and being crucified with Christ; its the “strait gate,” and “few there be that find it.” Before we can accept God’s unconditional acceptance we must lay down our own conditions. “It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing” (Jn. 6: 63).

But today’s Christianity has lost this fundamental concept. It refuses to divest itself of its own merit. Christianity’s devotees do not renounce their meritolatry and bring it to the altar of God. God’s religion of entire self-renunciation is too spartan and unpalatable. Yet the holy God will not share the heart’s throne with this abomination. Self-absorbed pride can never be His fellow. Satan alone will share that place of worship. By allowing humanity to worship themselves and their accomplishments, the devil is assured they can’t be God’s. Thus, the secular and religious world, Christian or otherwise, pass on without their Creator and remain under Satan’s dominion.

The devil has some real genius. He has convinced the world that the blessings of life come because God is happy with their performance. “He helps those who help themselves.” If they market their skills and looks and intellectual inheritance wisely, then they are blessed by God. Satan tells them, God is obviously blessing their achievements because “every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights.” (Jas. 1:17). Right? So, with the good Book backing them, religionists become the boldest sporters of pride and self-sufficiency. And what can anyone say against their proud lives and moral re-inventions of the law of love? They seem to have God as their defender. Therefore the dissenter against proud religion is a heretic and worthy of death. It was His exposure of merit religion that caused Christ’s crucifixion. And Satan will fight with his utmost zeal all further exposure of his single-most pet delusion.

We cannot hope to serve God and mammon. We must relinquish hope in our merits before we can lay hold of Jesus. And when we do, the Bible and life open up and make perfect sense. This will require a humility we do not naturally possess. It comes solely from above. It comes as a gift. Self cannot even enter here. Deliverance from self must completely be a gift. And we can only receive it as we study the merits of Jesus—His love and His righteousness. Persevering study, importunate asking, persistent searching, tenacious knocking, will allow the Holy Spirit to bring Christ’s beautiful character into our view. His life and selflessness, and His death in our place will forever cement our renunciation of self. Converted and owning a child’s trusting heart of love we will no longer use our own merits. Jesus enamored, “which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled,” “the chiefest among ten thousand” whose “countenance is as Lebanon, excellent as the cedars” will attract our faith to God. “His mouth is most sweet: yea, He is altogether lovely. This is my Beloved, and this is my Friend.” (1Jn. 1:1;Song 5:10,15,16).

The search for love

The search for love will bring us to God. If we look for it in all the wrong places, but we keep looking for it, we will eventually find it. Providence will guide the seeker for love into God’s love. His Spirit will instruct us to not be satisfied with human, selfish love. Once we have obtained a taste of unselfishness through many and varied instances in the life, when we see in others human pride break down and they demonstrate helplessness and trust, the Spirit of God says, “That’s the kind of love you are searching for. That’s what you want to have all the time, for the rest of your life. Study that. Contemplate it. Relish the meditation of it.”

Eventually that person follows the divine lead into Christ’s pure, undying love. This was how Abram found God in a world given over to idolatry and licentiousness and pride. His longing for a child ultimately led him to the unknown God without him knowing that he was finding Christ. After decades of wanting to love a human whom he could see, God broke into his mind and revealed a love from a Person Abram couldn’t see. Then after proving himself faithful to God and trusting Him, God could safely give the gift of Abram’s longing, Isaac.

Abram was satisfied with Ishmael, his half son, who reserved half his love for his unconsecrated, selfish mother. Yet, this was satisfactory for Abram, so long as he could rejoice in his son. But God had a better plan for his servant and friend. A son who would love him with all his heart even as Sarah did, was God’s plan for Abram. Perfect love is God’s plan for us all.

It was this love that lived in David’s heart. His brothers looked at tending their father’s little flock as the most inglorious chore. But, David took up the responsibility because he saw gentleness and helplessness in the sheep. He felt so at home in their company. So he became their defender. It was love for them that honed his slinging skills. It was love for them that gave him the courage to standup against a lion and a bear when they came to steal one of his lambs. He not only pelted each one with stones, but he “went out after him, and smote him, and delivered it out of his mouth.” And when the angered beast arose against him, David said, “I caught him by his beard, and smote him, and slew him.” (1Sam. 17:35). For fear and love for his flock, he fully forgot himself.

And we also can have that same fearlessness. “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” (2Tim. 1:7). “When the enemy shall come in like a flood, the Spirit of the LORD shall lift up a standard against him.” (Is. 59:19).

In the work of redemption there is no compulsion. No external force is employed. Under the influence of the Spirit of God, man is left free to choose whom he will serve. In the change that takes place when the soul surrenders to Christ, there is the highest sense of freedom. The expulsion of sin is the act of the soul itself. True, we have no power to free ourselves from Satan’s control; but when we desire to be set free from sin, and in our great need cry out for a power out of and above ourselves, the powers of the soul are imbued with the divine energy of the Holy Spirit, and they obey the dictates of the will in fulfilling the will of God. Desire of Ages, p. 466.

“Then went Samson down, and his father and his mother, to Timnath, and came to the vineyards of Timnath: and, behold, a young lion roared against him. And the Spirit of the LORD came mightily upon him, and he rent him as he would have rent a kid, and he had nothing in his hand.” (Jud. 14:5,6). With the strength of Samson, love will bring us to life again and compel us to throw off a mountain of depression and darkness. This is God’s purpose for the whole world. “[He] was the true Light, [who] lighteth every man that cometh into the world.” (Jn. 1:9). “In Him was life; and the life was the light of men.” (Vs. 4).

But, too often sinners don’t recognize love when they see it. “And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not…. He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not.” (Vs. 5,10). However, Jesus has a backup plan to slow the blood-letting away of our life until help can arrive. That alternative divine contingency was the use of law and law enforcement. Love cannot be forced; nor can it be legislated. But law can be used as a tool for teaching love through regimentation, if the Abram-like search for love is not voluntarily forthcoming.

Abram’s discipline under God’s direction was not solely of mercy. Justice was mixed into it also. Each time he lied, the Lord made sure he was caught in the lie, and shamed. When he chose to listen to Sarah’s advice to go into her servant, Hagar, in order for them to have a son, Hagar conceived immediately and a daily grief and conflict for Abram began that day which has remained to our 21st century. So justice and correction were given to Abram. But he saw Gods’ love in it all and accepted the gracious offer. He bowed in repentance because love humbled his pride. So there was justice; but there was also extra heapings of mercy that eventually far exceeded the justice.

In God’s alternate plan, however, justice must necessarily exceed His mercy. Mercy is not excluded from the program, but it lags the enforcing of law because the people like it that way. They aren’t seeking love so they don’t desire mercy; mercy doesn’t figure into their mentality. And if they don’t give mercy they don’t receive any, either. But, because they don’t want to stretch their heart too much they are perfectly fine with a grace-free existence.

So, we see Israel coming out of Egypt fully corrupted by the idolatrous, sensual, self-indulgent lifestyle and worship to Satan there. The Israelites were dogs that had been beaten and abused until they were bitter and mean. Grace was not a concept they comprehended. So God gave them what they would comprehend—justice, forced righteousness. But mercy was mixed in, just not in the proportion that He would prefer.

He gave them a chance for mercy in the deliverance from Egypt and at the Red Sea, but they threw it all away ten times on the way to Sinai. And then in the face of His thunder and fiery clouded Sinai, they threw out His grace when they threw a party to Satan, and really went out in a blaze of glory. So, rather than give them grace which they will simply trample on and be led to dare Him to kill them, He gives them what they need and what they can conceptualize. Then, with some mercy slowly but surely brought into the mix, they have the best chance of being rehabilitated and redeemed.

But rehabilitation assumes a present depravity of will-power and moral worth. Will they accept that character assessment by the omniscience God, or will an almighty pride refuse it? For 40 years the increase of mercy was refused again and again. The bitterness and meanness was clung to rather than admitting to the need for rehabilitation. One by one, they grew old and were buried in the desert sands without ever giving up the pride or bitterness. All their life, they never surrendered to mercy and thus never knew surrender to love.

But there have been some down through the ages who have accepted their condition and discipline. “Thine own wickedness shall correct thee, and thy backslidings shall reprove thee: know therefore and see that it is an evil thing and bitter, that thou hast forsaken the LORD thy God, and that My fear is not in thee, saith the Lord GOD of hosts.” (Jer. 2:19). “But before faith came, we were kept under the law, shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed. Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith.” (Gal. 3:23,24). Most of us use this method, unfortunately. We come out of the fray between Christ and Satan missing body parts (Matt. 5:29,30), or like Jacob, we walk with a limp from the biggest spanking known to mankind. (Gen. 32:25,31). “Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby.” (Heb. 12:11). “After that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster. For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus” (Gal. 3:25,26).

So, in all the law-enforcement, all the punishment, all the guilt and shame, all the depression and helplessness, we can be hopeful. But we need to be patient and keep looking for love. We may not be as susceptible to it as were Abram and David and Moses, but in time its appeal will melt our cold hearts like the sunlight shining on the icy crystals that cling to the window pane. Despite their determining to resist all attempts to change their state, they melt suddenly and easily flow down.

All that God has even done was for us and motivated by love. His overtures will create in us trust in Him. And in that faith sin and Satan will retreat. This is the gospel truth. “For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith.” (1Jn. 5:4).

The merit controversy, pt. 4

But in the third dispensation a knowledge of grace shone brightly in the earth. Reconciliation to God through Christ’s merits; justification by grace through faith in His righteousness alone; “By the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in His sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin.” (Rom. 3:20). Sanctification most clearly came through repeated justification, by looking to Christ’s life of holy love.

But once again, Satan, who exposed his real character when he personally got involved in the destruction of the Son of God, refused to cede to Christ. Quickly he moved the youthful church to get involved in a meritorious service to God. “I know thy works, and thy labour, and thy patience, and how thou canst not bear them which are evil: and thou hast tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars: and hast borne, and hast patience, and for my name’s sake hast laboured, and hast not fainted. Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love. Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent.” (Rev. 2:2-5). But further and further the church detracted from pure grace. The official religion of Rome had crossed over from Egypt and blended with one from Persia which closely resembled Christianity. Christianity existing among Rome’s pagan religion began to borrow its practices and sentiments and merit-centered philosophy.

Even in the apostle’s day was seen this mysterious enchantment redirecting the beloved revival established by the Messiah. See 2Thes. 2:3-12;2Tim. 3:1-5;1Tim. 4:1-3;Acts 20:28-30;2Pet 2;1Jn. 2:18,19;4:1. Once again, the grace-based worship and salvation would come under attack and for centuries flee from the merit-loving enemy’s armies. See Rev. 12.

But 1,500 years of Satan’s warring against Christ’s revival of salvation by faith in His merits alone, the Lord raised up the great Protestant Reformation to make one last preparation before the end of the 3rd dispensation, the final showdown before the finale of the great controversy between Christ and Satan.

But once again, as with the first two revivals of Noah and Ezra, this Protestant revival has lost its former underpinnings and repudiated its charter of Christ’s gracious merits alone without our own merits involved with our acceptance with God. Today Jesus, His life and death, are not the subject of conversation or preaching. The study of His character is not our mainstay. Christ is not made unto us wisdom and righteousness, sanctification and redemption. Sports, news, world problems, local church issues, television shows, fictional books and movies, et cetera are the subject of communication and sermons. Idle sermons and conversations are in; and Christ is left out.

But at the end of the previous two dispensations, there sprang up a revival of grace that would sanctify and reconcile the heart to God’s law, and likewise, we will see this again in our generation. Beginning the first of this 3 era sequence Adam and Eve quietly left the garden under the hush of paradise. 2,000 years later Abraham made his way onto the stage in relative quietness among the barbarous tribes of ancient Canaan. Another 2,000 years and Christ and His apostles came with more activity of the Holy Spirit and clashes with Satan’s Roman Empire. And 2,000 years again we will witness the most turbulent engagement between the hosts of light and darkness, a jubilant merit-free seed of the Spirit of God, and a bitter merit-laden seed of the Dragon.

We will know the Latter Rains that will exceed the great Early Rains of the Holy Ghost in the Apostolic age. That downpour of the Spirit of God, in expectation of the end of the controversy and the final establishment of His eternal kingdom, will be heard by the entire world. The Ephesians’ complaint regarding the work of the apostles was: “These that have turned the world upside down are come hither also.” (Acts 17:6). That upsetting of their world was small time compared to the global revival coming our way. And the resistance to it will be even greater as Satan gathers all his forces to crush the spread of the gospel of grace as a gift of God without our own merits atoning for anything.

The furious storm that meets the last display of divine appeal to Earth will create waves that reach the remotest corners of the world. Everyone taking part in the Latter Rain will be sanctified by the message of mercy they bear to the world, and prepared to act the part of Abel in the hands of Cain. Great trouble will be suffered by thousands who have learned total rest in God’s love and surrender to His will. Nothing else will matter to them than letting God be glorified in the things He allows. Like Paul they will say, “The Holy Ghost witnesseth in every city, saying that bonds and afflictions abide me. But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry, which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God.” (Acts 20:23,24).

Finally the conflict will reach it climax as a global Sunday law is enacted to forever silence the dissenters of merit-founded religion. During the time awaiting the enforcement of the decree, the saints of the Lord will be crying out from their cells or hiding places night and day. But their experience in the mighty Latter Rain and in the great time of trouble must continue in order to prepare them for the day Christ returns.

Without these two preparatory undertakings they couldn’t pass through the time when He leaves the Most Holy Place; both the Latter Rain and the great time of trouble are required to endure Jacob’s troubles. And without taking part in these three events and their incremental challenges of faith to God’s people, the final phase of a glorified Christ actually appearing would totally destroy their faith and hope. Ten thousands of His brilliant warrior hosts and millions of blazing meteorites and asteroids will strike hopeless terror in Earth’s inhabitants. “For the powers of heaven shall be shaken.” (Lk. 21:26).

In light of where we are today, on the tale end of the Early Rain of the Holy Spirit, and on the very verge of His Latter Rain and the Time of trouble such as never was since there was a nation, will you show mercy for no other reason than for the sake of learning God’s mercy? Will you serve others primarily for the purpose of being able to learn Jesus’ merits, to help yourself conceptualize the sacrifice of self Jesus experienced every day of His life here, and finally through His death in our place? Will you dispense with every other reason to be a servant other than this one? Comprehending His goodness is the only way the Holy Spirit can lead us to renounce our naturally incombent merit-based service, and escape the dungeon we create for ourselves when we rely on our own abilities and talents, our intelligence and good looks and bank accounts, house, cars, clothes, religious service and behavior, ad infinitum.....

The merit controversy, pt. 3

The succeeding centuries would be divided up into 2 millennia segments, each with its own apparent victory by Satan, and the final product that would exalt the character of God. After the expulsion from sinless, meritless paradise, the human race adopted the system of self-glorification to prop itself up. This is first seen with Cain and Abel.

Both brought up in the home of converted parents, each son chose different systems to seek acceptance by God. Both learned the true heaven-given convention for sinners to approach their gracious but holy Creator. The death of an innocent animal, far removed from their sinful heart and faulty behavior. No matter how painful the slaying of the baby animal, either it must die, or the sinful rebel must. Either retain that corrupt stiff-necked and imperious attitude without an expiatory beast, or be slain with the animal in the blood-soaked hands of the sinner and lose that hard heart.

Being broken in heart is a hard thing for the sinner when obstinately determined to stay mad at God. Admitting to guilt and shame is a crucifying experience for the willful heart not prepared to break. This is the category Cain fell into. Providentially, in order to teach all generations the contrast, Abel fell into the other category. Cain chose self-made religion and Abel chose the self-denying form of worship instituted in Eden.

Cain was a farmer, and a good one at that. So he thought to offer to God symbols of his own achievements. He attempted to approach God on his own terms with vestments of his own devising, the fruits of his hard labor. He had sweated in obedience to Adam’s God-given orders, and now he would present the production of his great management and skill. His strife, his travail, his grit to please God. The sheep deserved to live as much as he did; besides, he was above killing animals.

Abel simply took the best and well-beloved of his flock, slew it and was slain together with it, his tears mingling with its blood.

Both brothers stood away and asked divinity to flash from heaven and accept them. Cain to boast his greatness, and Abel to be assured of God’s love and continue presence. The fire fell, but only for Abel. The result, Abel cherished the loyalty and peace from the Holy Spirit, and he continued growing in grace and in the purity and innocence of the lambs that were slain. But, without the innocent example of the baby animals to placate his empty soul, a root of bitterness sprung up in Cain’s heart. He had worked so hard to get God to endorse him, but was snubbed. All that labor and hard earned produce, and God doesn’t even care! All these sentiments Satan pushed on him.

In the end, Cain became so merit oriented and so much like Satan, and Abel so fully surrendered his merits and demerits for Christ’s, reflecting the image of the great God; that Cain did to Abel what Satan wanted to do to God. Cain had refused to slay, but now became the slayer; Abel had slain in accordance with the divine command, and now humbly submitted to being slain, as he had witnessed from so many of his sacrificial victims.

Merit-centered religion looks clean and bloodless and socially acceptable. But, there are no sincere tears and contrite heart, which result with firm renunciation of sin and obedience to Gods express commandments. The best it can produce is outward morality and behavior modification. The sin-loving multitudes join together in stoical praise to the ceiling and high praise to one another. It’s a system of forgetting God that passes for remembering Him. Built upon human effort, the soul is locked down in its spiritual strait jacket. The blessing comes from no higher authority than another human; and a human cannot touch the soul, no matter how many badges and ribbons and flowing robes he wears.

The truly high praise comes from being convinced that respect for righteousness, obedience to the God of heaven and being His beloved child is of greater worth that rubies.

Under the influence of the Spirit of God, man is left free to choose whom he will serve. In the change that takes place when the soul surrenders to Christ, there is the highest sense of freedom. Desire of Ages, p. 466.

The age of patriarchs exhibited the two strains of sinners, the seed of Seth and the seed of Cain. Cain’s boastful heritage got the head start on Seth’s, and together already with the natural human propensity to rely on human merit, the world became overrun by merit-focused mindsets and religion. Traditions abounded to explain away the reality that the curse of God laid heavily on the earth because of disobedience. The true worship of God withdrew into the higher elevations and distant places, as meritolatry spread over the land. Over time, the reclusive Sethites grew scanter due to its own apostates who deserted the religion that appeared to them to be a forgone defeat to the burgeoning prosperity of the self-indulgent Cainites.

When all looked lost, Noah was chosen by Christ and he accepted the challenges. Noah was a descendent of those who sought grace from God. This separated them in mind, character, and body from the idolatrous world. Once converted and cleansed, Noah was commissioned to begin preaching and building. He defeated the whole Cainite seed. God gave 1,500 years for man to return to true worship, but at the end there was no evidence that man’s conscience would ever capitulate and humble himself before the eternal law of love. Noah restarted the human race; the flood reset the race between Satan and Christ, to avenge a merit/demerit-founded kingdom, by a meritless, selfless kingdom.

By the end of the first di-millennial dispensation, 500 years after the flood, the world looked as wicked as the antediluvian race had. Yet, out of that hopeless confusion arose a figure that would deny Satan and all his power. Abram came forth different from everyone, even different from his idolatrous father and siblings. He had a spirit that recognized the need for something more than merit-centricity could offer. Although that paradigm seemed universally set in stone, Abram needed more than it had to offer, and began a lifelong search for more. In that search he stumbled onto the voice of the Holy Spirit to his heart.

In that voice he found grace and acceptance of himself solely based on the fact that he had rejected and detested the merit-bound style of civilization. This grace was the remedy for his heart-longing. Soon enough, that gracious voice called for him to separate from his idolatrous family. This he did with his idolatrous father and brother and his family. They moved away from the heavily populated centers but his father did not have the will to leave the sparsely civilized trade route of the Fertile Crescent. So Abram waited there with him. But after Terah’s death, the voice from heaven called again to go into uncharted territory. And Abram went though not knowing where he was going, so long as he could stay in the presence of the God of grace and peace.

For the next two millennia Abraham’s family kept alive the true system of merit free religion. “Speak not thou in thine heart, after that the LORD thy God hath cast them out from before thee, saying, For my righteousness the LORD hath brought me in to possess this land: but for the wickedness of these nations the LORD doth drive them out from before thee. Not for thy righteousness, or for the uprightness of thine heart, dost thou go to possess their land: but for the wickedness of these nations the LORD thy God doth drive them out from before thee, and that He may perform the word which the LORD sware unto thy fathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Understand therefore, that the LORD thy God giveth thee not this good land to possess it for thy righteousness; for thou art a stiffnecked people.” (Deut. 9:4-6).

“He hath not beheld iniquity in Jacob, neither hath He seen perverseness in Israel: the LORD his God is with him, and the shout of a King is among them.” (Num. 23;21) “The LORD bless thee, and keep thee: The LORD make His face shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee: The LORD lift up His countenance upon thee, and give thee peace.” (Num. 6:24-26). They were born a nation full of rebellion, yet He stayed with them despite their adulteration from Egypt and the surrounding nations of Canaan. He punished and disciplined, but never departed from them.

“The Redeemer shall come to Zion, and unto them that turn from transgression in Jacob, saith the LORD. As for Me, this is My covenant with them, saith the LORD; My spirit that is upon thee, and My words which I have put in thy mouth, shall not depart out of thy mouth, nor out of the mouth of thy seed, nor out of the mouth of thy seed’s seed, saith the LORD, from henceforth and for ever.” (Is. 59:20,21). “For the mountains shall depart, and the hills be removed; but My kindness shall not depart from thee, neither shall the covenant of My peace be removed, saith the LORD that hath mercy on thee.” (Is. 54:10).

When Israel became so decrepit that Providence must put them into Babylonian captivity, He crowded them with a barrage of Noah-like preachers, a great swelling of prophetic voices, full of warning, admonition, and promises. Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Micah, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, refrained not from foretelling the coming calamity of captivity and its consequential effect on earth until Messiah. After 1,500 years of repeated warning to repent and renounce idolatrous, merit-driven religion and inconsideration of a different alternative sent to them through heaven’s best and most beloved men, the Lord pronounced Israel’s rebellion incurable. Nothing could convince them otherwise except the point of the sword. And even then most would refuse to believe God that could not accept their merits, at the least, in combination with His own.

Following Nebuchadnezzar’s raids, the survivors should have been shaken to the core and begun reassessing God’s disposition toward their religion. During those hard years in Babylon, some did reconsider their religion and begin taking a relook at their holy scriptures. The Lord rose up Ezra, “the priest, the scribe”; “he was a ready scribe in the law of Moses, which the LORD God of Israel had given.” (Neh. 8:9; Ezra 7:6). Ezra revealed the grace of God, hidden under a mountain of human tradition built up to heaven to repair the failing system of propitiating God through religious merit and behavior.

The effect of grace had its typically powerful affect. “And Nehemiah, … and Ezra the priest the scribe, and the Levites, … said unto all the people, This day is holy unto the LORD your God; mourn not, nor weep. For all the people wept, when they heard the words of the law.” (Neh. 8:9). Victory through grace by faith! What a breakthrough! This revival could have grown through the following 490 years till the Messiah, but, as with Noah’s revival reformation, it died out quickly. Once that first love fervor was lost, it never returned. Humanistic traditions which had been picked up in Babylon drowned the small revival of grace, and Satan rode the idolatrous nation into oblivion.

“Except the LORD of hosts had left unto us a very small remnant, we should have been as Sodom, and we should have been like unto Gomorrah.” “For though thy people Israel be as the sand of the sea, yet a remnant of them shall return: the consumption decreed shall overflow with righteousness. For the Lord GOD of hosts shall make a consumption, even determined, in the midst of all the land.” (Is. 1:9; 10:21,22). Once again, as in the courts of heaven and in the pre-flood world, “An host was given him against the daily sacrifice by reason of transgression, and it cast down the truth to the ground; and it practised, and prospered.” (Dan. 8:12). At the 69th prophetic week given by Daniel, the nation of Israel was far from ready to survive the great shaking they had been forewarned of. See Isaiah 24:13;8:22;11:1-4.

The Anointed one came and “set judgment in the earth.” “He was in the world, and the world was made by Him, and the world knew Him not. He came unto His own, and His own received Him not.” (Is. 42:4;Jn. 1:10,11). His great revival overthrew the merit convention imported into Judaism from Babylon. He taught them, “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have eternal life. For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” (Jn. 3:14-16). Salvation as a gift through simple trusting in the Gift-giver was His message to the world. He openly attacked the merit system. “Then said they unto Him, What shall we do, that we might work the works of God? Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on Him whom He hath sent.” (Jn. 6:). Coming to Him and trusting in Him was all that God required. “All that the Father giveth Me shall come to Me; and him that cometh to Me I will in no wise cast out.” (Vs. 37). All our own merit to recommend ourselves to Him He flatly condemned. “God sending His own Son...condemned sin in the flesh.” (Rom. 8:3). All human righteousness, accomplishment, methods to build self-esteem, all are heaven’s detested refuse, and completely discounted. “It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life.” (Vs. 63). Only the merits of the Messiah, His matchless charms, could change our hearts and make our lives acceptable to God and man.

We must bring some merit to propitiate God; something is required. “Come unto Me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you, and learn of Me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For My yoke is easy, and My burden is light.” (Matt. 11:28-30).

But that offering to God must never be the human’s corrupted sinful merits. Our own goodness and glory are defiled with selfishness to the core. But we can and must find, seek, cry out for, and strive with every fiber in our being to see and gather the merits of Jesus, His lovingkindness, as exemplified in His life and death for us. If we do not look to the Lamb, the peace-gift of God, we will never get to God; we will never know the merits of Jesus to bring as our mediation to buffer God’s condemning presence. “He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him.” (Jn. 3:36).

The coming of the Messiah and His abasement of self on Calvary’s cross brought down the greatest windfall of God’s approval ever recorded in history. The message of God’s grace became the keynote of the rapidly growing revival. “Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt. But to him that worketh not, but believeth on Him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.” “And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then it is no more grace: otherwise work is no more work.” “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.” “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast.” “Even as Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness…. But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for, The just shall live by faith.” (Rom. 4:4,5;11:6;8:1;Eph. 2:8,9;Gal. 3:6,11).

All the new resurrection of the greater gift of grace-centered acceptance by God through Christ came out of the previous dispensation’s precious grace-founded laws. Yet, it was a greater revelation also due in part to the preparatory heavy yoke placed on Israel by God through the law and prophets throughout its history, and the final necessary 500 year limited captivity of the remaining three empires, which the Lord used to dampen the effects of His grace for the Jews. The Israelites seemed blind and deaf to the gospel offered them from Moses; so the Lord had no other choice than to give them what they wanted—the hard life of the heathen world. Yet, all during the Abrahamic dispensation, everyone who chose to genuinely, determinedly heeded Moses’ law and the divinely-consuming prophets would have arrived at a knowledge of their corrupted merits, and thus would have unfalteringly sought out God for a remedy, as their father Abraham had done.

Finally, in the last 500 years of Israel as God’s favored nation, all those who did not desire to hear the Spirit’s voice over their friends or overbearing leaders would never cast off the merit-based religion of Satan, and never know the true God. They might live in a flush of national pride because of the Maccabees, but they would never know grace and peace and rest.

The principle that man can save himself by his own works lay at the foundation of every heathen religion; it had now become the principle of the Jewish religion. Satan had implanted this principle. Wherever it is held, men have no barrier against sin. Desire of Ages, p. 35.

The merit controversy, pt. 2

The new couple instantly and constantly found their love for their Creator expressed in perfect obedience to Him. They had no cause to do differently. As a newborn comes from the womb without concern for any wars happening in the world, the first couple were brought forth completely unbiased with regard to the controversy in heaven. Love molded their every thought and desire and action to fulfill every command the Son put upon them, and humility gave them perfect freedom to adhere to the guidance of the angelic visitors and teachers. Witnessing this brought a wave of relief to the nursing angel hosts. They saw, in a new way, that God was righteous, perfectly fair. All the allegations against the Father, though not completely answered, were satisfied in the new Garden of Eden.

Satan’s attempt to impugn God character was thwarted; the tables turned on him. He was now left out in the cold and in his camp there was much weeping and gnashing of teeth. But the gifts God bestows upon His intelligent creation remain with them forever. As long as His creatures exist, He gives abundantly to them and keeps giving. Thus, God kept in Lucifer his original powerful attributes. His power of choice would remain ever before him, and his dynamic and forceful persona could not back down from defending itself to the very end. He encouraged and re-invigorated his followers with a new zeal to avenge themselves of their right to design their own kingdom built upon self-achievement and self-defense and self-exalting affiliations toward one another. In this perfect government no one could ever be blamed for wrong because each was his own standard. Grace would play no part here in any operation if no one ever did anything wrong.

And Satan had another plan—to use planet Earth to prove that his government style of meritorious exaltation was superior. He would introduce to the new inhabitants his own principle of life and see if they would agree to it. If they did, Christ’s great argument against him would be disproven, and the king and queen of Earth would be the next to accept the new system of superior governance.

Another brilliant morning broke as the dew left by the dense mist amplified the glory shining from leaf and fruit and flower. The beasts freely roamed, subdued and gentle, all species in a wonderful menagerie in harmony and peace, and Adam conscientiously worked the easy ground to promote the growth of the abundant perennial greenery. His perfect companion, the joy of his life, wanders off in her own quest to improve on the delightful garden home given by the royal Son.

She finds herself standing near the Tree of Life, that vitality renewing tree, heavy with its produce. Also, close by stands the forbidden tree, which she beholds with a shudder. “Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?” Startled, Eve looks up and sees a beautiful, fire-glittering serpent moving from branch to branch.

Instead of running away to the arms of Adam, she is curious and inquisitive of an animal possessing the ability of speech, the first that she has ever heard. It is so dazzling with the sunlight flashing off its scales as it glides about the tree, its small wings fluttering in a blur. And it even has an intellect beyond any animal she has ever crossed; a subtlety and clearness of thought that is so different from the other lower beasts. She is entranced and magnetized to its fascinating words.

So she answers its introductory challenge. “We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden: but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die.” Having gained her full curiosity and trust, the serpent deploys a line of thought that brings her to the edge of normalcy. “You will not really die. For God knows that in the day you eat of this fruit you will gain new advantages. You will be as wise as God Himself.” And it bit some fruit in her sight as proof that death would not occur.

Becoming more obvious to Eve, the serpent had discovered what the others hadn’t. This was plain to see with its ability to think and analyze and communicate in the highest form. She deliberated on eating the fruit herself, not now from the perspective of holy consecration to her Creator, as before in her holy state; but in a state of unbelief. She was locked in a trance and viewed life in a whole new light. She could advance herself and Adam far beyond what God had provided them. She sized up the tree and fruit; it looked perfectly benign, and even greatly beneficial. The old life was in the past, nothing except good could come out of a knowledge of good and evil mixed. God had given them only half of the world of knowledge. He had been secretly sparing after all. She craved for knowledge and wisdom. A knowedge of good was OK. But she deserved more, and in her own right to self-improvement, she would take full advantage of this amazing offer. She took and ate. Its intoxicating flavor thrilled every fiber of her being. So this is perfect wisdom! This is infinite knowledge! She felt the universe was at her fingertips.

A rush of self-exaltation brought a grin to her mouth. Soberness disappeared and an imperious look of drunkenness took hold of her face. This was infinitely better than that mundane life they had had up till now. She picked more fruit and ran to give Adam the good news. When Adam saw her coming, screaming with delight, he immediately knew a great trouble had occurred. This was not the quiet, even-keeled Eve of his deep affection. There she stood, giddy with electric exuberance. The woman of his pure fondness had committed the unpardonable sin! Unbelievable as it could be, there she was offering him the forbidden fruit and exhorting him to try it. Out of her head, she went on and on about its benefits, how she was so much wiser than before! How she could see truth for miles and miles and miles and miles and miles and miles and miles and miles!

Adam, speechless, his large frame swayed in painful disbelief and anxiety before her. How cold his be happening? But Eve was still just as delicate and radiant as before and the ties of his ardor for her were just as strong as ever. So he quickly took the fruit before he would have to weigh these heavy issues any longer, and ate. Now both travelled together in the realms of the astral planes. There, empty of holy thoughts and incapable of morality, Satan filled them with the innervating thrills of knowledge and wisdom devoid of righteousness and love. He fed them volumes of his self-made truth strained of any connection with reference to their beloved Christ.

When the deluded spouses land again they are totally familiar with another existence—one that introduces godlessness. They are polluted and violated. They have lost their single focus on heavenly things. Gone were the beautiful lessons dancing on every leaf and blade of the garden, and radiating from every wonderful beast of the field. The glory of quiet Eden was eclipsed by the blinding barrage of communications that had taken possession of them. Gone also was their garb of light.

Suddenly naked, they ran for the bushes. The loss of the vision from the forbidden fruit left a horrible emptiness, a paranoia, a painful anxiety. They were dying! They had been fooled by the very enemy their angel friends had been warning them of! They had been warned that he would strike, but no one knew how or when. Regardless, they must save themselves more harm and embarrassment. First, use their skill of invention to fashion clothes. Then, use their prowess to act non-chalant about the whole matter. If they acted like they had before, when the daily visits by the royal Son and His entourage arrived, they could pass as still loyal and He would not need to destroy them as enemies of God’s government. They could let all this pass as if it never happened, continue to eat of the Tree of Life, and ignore the forbidden tree forever; forgetting those things which were behind, they could go on in their garden home as if this terrible tragedy had ever happened. That was their plan; those were the terms of their secret covenant. Perfectly reasonable.

The familiar blast of a falling asteroid screamed from above as the Son of God arrived. Despite their previous resoluteness, the unholy pair abandoned all fortitude and poise, and fled for their lives. “Adam, Where art thou?” Adam heard those words cringing with fear and sorrow. How that voice had come with such celebration and joy. But now all was gone. Now he must save himself from the terror of the Avenger of all His Father’s enemies. What should he say? How would he answer Him? The voice was closing in on him. Finally, when he could hide no longer, Adam bravely stood out from behind his tree. “I heard Thy voice in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself.” That was a good answer. It made perfect sense. So hopefully this walk together could be like all the others and the incident could be overlooked and forgotten, never to be resurrected.

“Who told thee that thou wast naked?” Adam felt himself crashing and burning. Then the second round of artillery hit menacingly. “Hast thou eaten of the tree, whereof I commanded thee that thou shouldest not eat?” The Son was no longer his mentor and wonderful counselor. Now He was his antagonist and adversary. Emboldened self-defense rose up in Adam. “The woman whom Thou gavest to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat.” Eve, no less defiant and self-preserving said the same but blamed the serpent.

Marshalling the fiery flying serpent front and center, He commanded and it stood fast. As He would speak through Peter many millennia later to warn off Satan, now He speaks to His sworn enemy through one of His most gorgeous creatures. On its belly it would traverse the earth—on this planet alone would Satan be allowed to dwell, until the Offspring of the Holy Spirit would one day crush Satan to death. The adversary might be instrumental in hurting His majesty the Son of God in the battle, but ultimately Satan and his self-exalting, merit-based Kingdom would be destroyed. Making use of what was on hand with Adam, Eve and the serpent, Christ spelled out the plan of salvation in object lesson format.

The results of a meritorious, ambition-laden lifestyle—accepting the complicated life built up from their own achievements, instead of the simple life of dependence on God—had just demonstrated itself and its fruit. Now for the antidote. “Eve, bring Me those ewe lambs and those kid goats over there. Adam, bring Me those heifers.” “Now, break their necks.” (Neither can do it.) “Break their necks, so they die!” (Looks of, Do we have to?) “Yes, you must!!” “You will do it now!”

In the dying cries of those animals, the proud ambitions of the rebel couple disappear, and lingering remnants of Satan’s spell breaks. Humility, once again takes the throne of their reason, and Eden resumes its original warmth and beauty. But the animals have perished and the blood is still on the murderers’ hands. A word from the Son, and the skins flay off the victims. He gives them to the supplicants, and they wrap themselves in them, forever a reminder that high treason is unpardonable, but traitors can be.

They are cast out of their garden home but Jesus is not mad at them. God is far removed; His voice is rarely sensed, but by the sure word of the Son of God, their forever friend, their base behavior to God would be covered by the daily sacrifice and the reconsecrating of their broken hearts to God. They would have to live in a bleak new world that would remind them of their fallen character and evil hearts, and they would be more open to the devious Satan than ever before. But God promised His acceptance and a future return to the garden paradise, as they promised to faithfully obey His commandments.

It was the new desire for recognition and great cerebral accomplishments that destroyed Satan and led him to do the same with out first parents. Existing on the merits of mental capacity, self-worth based on intelligence and intellectualism began Earth’s fall into sin. And through grace came its ever so gradual climb out of it, through the patience and mercy and strength that comes with a knowledge of God.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

The merit controversy, pt. 1

The Garden of Eden reveals to us the principle of dependence on God’s merit instead of our own. And its paradise is also a promise of the future glory dispelling the dark stain clouding our access to God because of sin. Both first and last Edens show the heavenly government prior to the change in the heart of Lucifer.

God’s kingdom thrilled in love and perfect trust under the reign of utter self-renunciation. The angels whom Jesus said “do always behold the face of My Father,” (Matt. 18:10) found it their unending appetite to call out “Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, which was, and is, and is to come.” (Rev. 4:8). By beholding Him, His character and pronouncements charmed the depths of their souls. Their highest joy was to obey His commands. Their will was His will, they chose to serve Him because His righteousness kept them humbled and thankful. With a will honed into voluntary submission, they dispatched His will with lightning quickness. See Ez. 1:14.

Because the Father’s merits were the center of focus in that beautiful galaxy of heaven’s throne, all rested in peace and joy. But would it last forever? Who would want it to end? Yet, God Himself must put His wonderful Kingdom to the test. Out of His own sheer self-deprecation, the building which He designed must be put under the forge’s blistering heat. For everyone’s sake, of the whole inhabited universe, the adversary of self-sacrifice must arise abruptly and noisily, rather than steal its way into the realm unnoticed infecting the whole kingdom. His creatures were not without weakness, nor were they machines; they had freedom of choice. But, this very combination held a dynamite threat to its own existence, and must lead to an inevitable standoff against a kingdom of selflessness, such as God’s was.

Lucifer, like Saul of Gibeah, had come forth from the hand of the Creator inheriting exceptional beauty. Since love is beautiful, he was chosen to represent the God of love. Living directly in God’s presence, he was slowly transformed into a new being. Latent faculties and dormant talents came to life and developed Lucifer into a most splendorous example of a Christian. Decked with the characteristics of Him in whose presence he continually dwelled, a spectrum of varied abilities shone out in many colorful hues of light, flashing forth like fire from an internal glory endued him by his Lord and King.

As God’s visible ambassador, he came from face to face communication with God to proclaim his Master’s truth and grace to the whole congregation of angelic hosts. He was God’s front man; His high priest. “Thou hast been in Eden the garden of God; every precious stone was thy covering, the sardius, topaz, and the diamond, the beryl, the onyx, and the jasper, the sapphire, the emerald, and the carbuncle, and gold: the workmanship of thy tabrets and of thy pipes was prepared in thee in the day that thou wast created. Thou art the anointed cherub that covereth; and I have set thee so: thou wast upon the holy mountain of God; thou hast walked up and down in the midst of the stones of fire.” (Ez. 28:13,14). His brilliance exceeding the glory of the ranks of resplendent ministers of fire, he stood head and shoulders above their huge frames. To him they brought their concerns and difficulties; from him they received sound counsel and authoritative direction. He perfected their desire to praise their divine King by organizing their voices to blend in harmony. With innocent adorations they happily anointed their noble and benevolent mentor. Fellowship, service, order, leadership characterized the family of heaven. And God saw that it was very good. It pleased Him well, but He knew that a crook in the design would develop into a behemoth problem of universe-sized proportions. That innocent praising of Lucifer would go awry.

Even with the continual admonishment by the Ancient of Days to His covering cherub to look to His character supremely and to none else, the practice of perfuse lauding of Lucifer continued. The high priest of angels could have staunched it, but he permitted it instead. Eventually it awakened within him the habit to acknowledge his own features of character. This no one noticed, for at first it occurred deeply in his mind. But God knew of it. And His Spirit began to press harder the warnings against such allowance of feelings. In the most balanced and loving ways, the Designer and Molder of the ministering spirits appealed to His highest angel to cease this practice of considering his own talents, his own merits. But all of this divine remonstration went less and less heeded. Lucifer was caught in the grip of a practice of his own making; he had deceived himself. “Thine heart was lifted up because of thy beauty, thou hast corrupted thy wisdom by reason of thy brightness.” “Thou wast perfect in thy ways from the day that thou wast created, till iniquity was found in thee.” (Ez. 28:17,15).

The Son of the King did not sport the embellishments that enshrouded Lucifer. The Son’s glory was simple and unattracting. Though heir to the throne, He stayed by His Father’s side, above the actual operation of the galaxy of convoked hosts. Yet He faithfully made His rounds. Though without the flashing vestments of Lucifer and his commanding form, the Son mingled among the hosts, sharing with them the deep truths He learned from His Father. These profound teachings had always caused great rejoicing and wonder in the hearts of the heavenly hosts. While Lucifer repeated the word of God verbatim as he heard it, and the glory of God attended that word, the Son had a fuller, more winning way, a natural freedom and depth in the expression of the truths of His Father which Lucifer could not produce. And the response of the angels toward the Son’s deeper wisdom and charm was quite pronounced compared with that toward Lucifer.

“But this is to be expected,” beseeched the loyal angels to him, “the Son, as one with the Father, is the truth! and the angels, even Lucifer, are created beings. No one but the Son of God can perfectly represent the fountain of truth. Don’t let it disturb your heart. No one can do like the wonderful Son of God, not even the mighty Lucifer; it is simply impossible.” But Lucifer swept that notion to the side. He would be the truth; his own truth. Blinded to reality, his visions of self began to make a dramatic uncontrolled growth within his soul. Like a blossoming cancer, envy appeared in his heart. Jealousy of the special kinship that the hosts had toward the Anointed one, he blamed on the Heir. The royal One, he felt, was purposely instigating these harsh feelings in him.

After long dealing with the heart of Lucifer, finally, the Father convoked the kingdom together. There, in the sight of all, He declared His Son to be as honored as He was. So that to see the Son was to see the Father. Lucifer would manage the office of high priest among the angels, but the Son of God was their true representative to the Father. Lucifer would be a faithful servant in God’s house, but the Son was ruler over the house. Then the myriads of heavenly hosts accepted this and happily worshiped Father and Son, and Lucifer was caught up in the general thrill of the ethereal praise. But, the feelings of jealousy were never completely renounced, and he pondered it once again.

Now, the great controversy between Christ and Satan which had begun in the heart of the covering cherub voiced itself. Lucifer the Great, began his own campaign of charm to compete with the Anointed one for the affections of the kingdom. Their lauding him he subtly drew from them. With their friendships he became unduly familiar, stroking their innocent pleasure in his dynamic presence and awakening in them a loyalty due only the Creator, planting a seed of disaffection toward the Father and Son. This new kind of love and excitement they accepted wholeheartedly, as he had ever been a trustworthy servant of the divine throne. With that trust he artfully wove his seeds of envy and unbelief. His hints of another government spread far and wide fully shrouded by the abounding affection he had for his brethren.

But this was the case only for a minority of the angelic populace. Many discerned in that overtly friendly devotion something unaccountable, and potentially and dangerously in competition with their service to their beloved God. The infinite One had been continually unfolding His love from their very beginning, and new causes for their praise to Him, new springs of joy toward Him, had been ever arising. But those new gifts from God had all had one component in common—the wonderful excluding of self and the facilitation of a merit-denying acceptance by Him. Acceptance—wholly apart from their performance—made heaven so happy and inviting. God’s unearned acceptance was what made them perform and achieve and accomplish great things; because they were doing them for Him.

This new arrival of ostentatious love by Lucifer was different from what had been. And while God was strangely silent toward it, it seemed aberrant to the character of the kingdom. At the very foundation of God’s will, this new excitement clashed in the hearts of many angels. Lucifer, holding the high office that he did, legitimized the new form of familiarity, and this encouraged the angels to let Lucifer take God’s place at the center of their hearts. On the tail of this new show of friendliness rode intimations of an improved government. Charmed by the great covering cherub these changes in the divine Constitution seemed plausible. But the beguiled didn’t see that self-defining merit would constitute the new government.

Slowly the apostasy grew and spread until it broke out into full view. Out in the open, it continued to spread until almost half of the ministers of God took part in it. “And an host was given him against the daily sacrifice by reason of transgression, and it cast down the truth to the ground; and it practised, and prospered.” (Dan. 8:12).

Confusion reigned until the Son of God came forth and again exemplified true love, reverently holding love to His Father and His Law supremely, and then love to one another secondary. He righted the reversing of these two precepts, which Lucifer had turned upside down. Long had the Father and Son born with Lucifer. Now, for the safety of His Fathers’ kingdom the Son must openly rebuke Lucifer and the angels who had come under his delusive control and who had dared to dishonor their infinitely loving Creator. No improvement to His Father’s government could be made. “He is the Rock, His work is perfect: for all His ways are judgment: a God of truth and without iniquity, just and right is He.” Now, Lucifer fiercely defended his newly proposed principles of government.

Lucifer put up a strong fight. He halted the accusations of the loyalists by declaring “secrets” about God’s motives that no one else knew but Him. With steady poise he declared that having been immediately in the divine presence, he had observed purposes in God that he believed to be secretly self-gratifying, self-indulgent. “For God doth know that your praising Him exalts His pride. He made His government like it is, He worketh all things after the counsel of His own will, and who art thou that repliest against God? We have been programmed to please God’s self-seeking nature. Not only do we satisfy His selfishness, but He is fundamentally a tyrant. We, as willing servants are happy to do His bidding, but in the grand scheme, is this conundrum—He corrects us when not perfectly in His will, but who higher than He can correct Him? Where is His internal affairs office? He never provided one. By His own negligence He has sentenced Himself guilty of totalitarianism under the guise of righteousness and freedom. And no one can perfectly obey the will of another, anyway. God is irresponsible and unreasonable in laying such a burden on His creation. Follow me in a truly honest and righteous government. We may be chased out of the bliss of heaven, but our firm conviction is that the formation of a new government is in order. You will see what I’m saying about God. My accusations are grounded in truth and fact. In time your eyes will be opened too, as mine were. Don’t be fools and wait too long to join my righteous revolution.”

One word from their beloved Master moved the angels loyal to the original government of heaven to vanquish the followers of the rebel. There was war in heaven as brother fought against brother, friend against friend. But the angels inspired by the balanced love of God overwhelmed those empowered by the trite and shallow infatuation inspired by Lucifer.

The war completed and the loyal majority united again around the throne found the great upheaval of God’s kingdom of peace and joy expressed in their own broken hearts and heaving breasts. They missed their brethren, and even the beloved Lucifer. And what to do about the charges against God? Original and unexplainable, they couldn’t possibly be true, could they? The peace of heaven was greatly marred. God stood on trial not only by the rebels, but also by the loyal hosts. Intelligence was now felt to be an unexpected curse. Even the holy angels could not erase from their memories the possibilities opened by Satan’s remarks on his way out.

The Father was locked up in house arrest. No one in heaven, among the unfallen worlds, not even Satan himself could undo what he had, and open the dead bolts that sealed God in. Until a trial by jury it must remain this way. So, the Father stepped aside from center stage, and allowed the Heir Apparent to sit in His place. The Father, the epitome of self-abnegation, appealed to advocacy in His Son, the only one who truly knew Him.

In all this the Father had never overstepped the law of love; even in the appointment and development of Lucifer at the beginning. The loss of His fallen children weighed infinitely heavily upon Him, but the God of love is also a warrior when it comes to protecting His children. He cannot rest satisfied with a kingdom of love until it is tried and proven forever true. Let the charges against Him be waged; in time His Son would prove His purposes to be unblemished, His character trustworthy. The Father would allow an attack by His own creatures and a jury of His own children to show His fairness and His willing to condescend. He unveiled Himself in a new way to the surviving angels and unfallen worlds. They saw in Him an example of supreme sacrifice of self. In His silence during the apostasy He had never made recourse to self-justification or self-preservation. Trust and joy began to rebound in the Kingdom; although, an ugly worry still lingered.

Their Commander gathered His hosts and went over to a spot not far from His Father’s front door. There on an insignificant planet in a regular star system He created a new thing. This small, plain marble in space would teach a most wonderful object lesson about His Father. More than any other inhabited world, this one would teem with an inestimable variety of life. In six days, with angelic assistance, He accomplished this over-the-top display of infinite wisdom and skill. Hidden in the endless array of flora and fauna were lessons that decoded the mysteries of His Abba. God was in Christ painting a unique multi-dimensional parable of Himself.

The crowning work was a being unlike any known in the universe—a corporeal manifestation of God’s love—a living, breathing soul. Man, made in God’s image, and his soul mate, who represented God’s Spirit, found their new home to be beyond expression.

In the lyrics of As It Was (So It Shall Be) by Don Francisco,
The man looks round in wonder
At the world that’s now his own
And everything that’s touched
And seen is beauty yet unknown
With a joy that has no bounds
And knows no fear of end
Every evening in its coolness
He walks there with his Friend