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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.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

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.

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