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

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A person God turned around many times.

Tuesday, 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

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