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

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A person God turned around many times.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

A spring spouting

“His foundation is in the holy mountains.
The Lord loveth the gates of Zion more than all the dwellings of Jacob.
Glorious things are spoken of thee, O city of God. Selah.
I will make mention of Rahab and Babylon to them that know me: behold Philistia, and Tyre, with Ethiopia; this man was born there.
And of Zion it shall be said, This and that man was born in her: and the Highest Himself shall establish her.
The Lord shall count, when He writeth up the people, that this man was born there. Selah.
As well the singers as the players on instruments shall be there: all my springs are in Thee.” (Ps. 87).

In David’s time and place, to be born in this or that country was to be ruled by their gods. It was to be subjects not only of the king governing them but also of the nation’s pagan religion. Both god and king required the allegiance and a portion of the people’s income for subsistence in return for the protection which they provided the people.

So David uses that theme for Israel and for the king of Israel, Yahweh. In Him the son of Jesse found perfect joy and strength. He was born again in Zion the city of Jehovah. And since he lived there, he had continual joy and strength.

When he said, “All my springs are in thee,” (Ps. 87:7) it was that he had perfect peace of mind there as if he were transported to heaven. The people of the orient likened peace of mind to health of the stomach, since the mind and stomach are interdependent. Isaiah said, “With joy shall ye draw water out of the wells of salvation.” (Is. 12:3).

White Oak Canyon, in the Shenandoah National Park, looks like a fairy land come true. Hike up the wide wooded hollow the day following a period of rain and you enjoy the sights and sounds of a full and strong river with its 4 or 5 cascading waterfalls and innumerable large and small springs of water spouting out of the banks and feeding the river. Truly other worldly! It must resemble David’s vision of the heavenly Mt. Zion with the water of life springing out of it everywhere!

The purest water comes out of the ground in that park and drains into the river purified by its successive falls. Likewise, from atop Mt. Zion flows the “river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb.” (Rev. 22:1). And those who are “born again” there today will have such peace with God that it will be “in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.” (Jn. 3:3;4:14). Jesus knew this peace every day of His life; every minute, every moment.

And He promised us, “‘He that believeth on Me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.’ (But this spake He of the Spirit, which they that believe on Him should receive.)” (Jn. 7:38,39). Here He may have merged Solomon’s words. “The words of a man’s mouth are as deep waters, and the wellspring of wisdom as a flowing brook.” (Pro. 18:4). “The spirit of man is the candle of the Lord, searching all the inward parts of the belly.” (Pro. 20:27). His promise is that we can be possessed by the heavenly agencies, “filled with all the fulness of God.” (Eph. 3:19). This we must take full advantage of while it is available, while is it is still day, while we still have peacetime.

A soul thus kept in possession by the heavenly agencies is impregnable to the assaults of Satan.… The only defense against evil is the indwelling of Christ in the heart through faith in His righteousness. Unless we become vitally connected with God, we can never resist the unhallowed effects of self-love, self-indulgence, and temptation to sin. Desire of Ages, p. 324.

“Seek ye the Lord while He may be found, call ye upon Him while He is near:
Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the Lord, and He will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon.
For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways, saith the Lord.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.
For as the rain cometh down, and the snow from heaven, and returneth not thither, but watereth the earth, and maketh it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower, and bread to the eater:
So shall My word be that goeth forth out of My mouth: it shall not return unto Me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.
For ye shall go out with joy, and be led forth with peace: the mountains and the hills shall break forth before you into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.
Instead of the thorn shall come up the fir tree, and instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle tree: and it shall be to the Lord for a name, for an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off.” (Is. 55:6-13).

The Christian must have the experience of the promised land of rest, the sense of “quietness in his belly,” (Job 20:20) “a land flowing with milk and honey.” (Ex. 13:5). He will “see the rivers, the floods, the brooks of honey and butter.” (Job 20:17). These are promised only to those who seek Jesus: they go to no one else.

“For this shall every one that is godly pray unto Thee in a time when Thou mayest be found: surely in the floods of great waters they shall not come nigh unto Him.” (Ps. 32:6). “The wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy.” (Jas. 3:17). “Her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace.” (Prov. 3:17).

But the time is coming when instead of peace bitterness will fill the earth. The Lord will remove His Spirit of grace. Only those who gratefully partook of it in the time it was offered will have it in that day. Everyone else will suffer the emptiness that Satan will bring into them.

In its absense will come a violent and desperately evil spirit which “descendeth not from above, but is earthly, sensual, devilish. For where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work.” (Jas. 3:15,16).

The prophecy says, “And the third angel sounded, and there fell a great star from heaven, burning as it were a lamp, and it fell upon the third part of the rivers, and upon the fountains of waters;
And the name of the star is called Wormwood: and the third part of the waters became wormwood; and many men died of the waters, because they were made bitter.” (Rev. 8:10,11). They will suffer a horrible, painful darkness and hopelessness devoid of a knowledge of the God of love for man. “And the fifth angel poured out his vial upon the seat of the beast; and his kingdom was full of darkness; and they gnawed their tongues for pain, and blasphemed the God of heaven because of their pains and their sores, and repented not of their deeds.” (Rev. 16:10,11). “God shall cast them out of his belly.” (Job 20:15). And Satan will have full control of them.

“Should a wise man utter vain knowledge, and fill his belly with the east wind?” (Job 15:2). The east wind was a wind with scorching heat from the desert. Here the scripture speaks of those in whom Satan uses knowledge to create a fire that burns in the soul of them who he possesses. And the devil is so devious that he loves to use religion and morality also. “For the congregation of hypocrites shall be desolate, and fire shall consume the tabernacles of bribery.
They conceive mischief, and bring forth vanity, and their belly prepareth deceit.” (Job 15:34,35).

“For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple.” (Rom. 16:18). “For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things.” (Phil. 3:18,19).

“Lest there should be among you man, or woman, or family, or tribe, whose heart turneth away this day from the Lord our God, to go and serve the gods of these nations; lest there should be among you a root that beareth gall and wormwood….” (Deut. 29:18). The coming “time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation” will be a horrible time. It has already begun since around 1850, and will increase as the Holy Spirit is poured out upon all flesh and rejected. (Dan. 12:1;Joel 2:28).

Then, as “the Spirit of the Lord departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from the Lord troubled him,” (1Sam. 16:14) so it will be in the future because “My people would not hearken to My voice; and Israel would none of Me.” (Ps. 81:11). This is the cause of the “great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be.” (Matt. 24:21). “And the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever: and they have no rest day nor night, who worship the beast and his image, and whosoever receiveth the mark of his name. Here is the patience of the saints: here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus.” (Rev. 14:11.12).

“I must work the works of Him that sent Me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work.” (Jn. 9:4). “This is the work of God, that ye believe on Him whom He hath sent.” (Jn. 6:29). Let us burrow deep into the bosom of God as Jesus did it without ceasing. Let us get there (our justification), and abide there (our sanctification), and be sealed in there (our glorification).

“All my springs are in Thee.” (Ps. 87:7).

Monday, December 13, 2010

The Book of Mormon

Recently I had the opportunity to talk with two Mormon elders. They gave me a chance to explain some of Adventism’s doctrines. I immediately explained the sanctuary doctrine and how the earthly tabernacle revealed the whole plan of salvation. I explained other doctrines also and hoped to spark interest in the word of God as the only rule for faith and teaching. I hoped the Bible would appeal to them like it does to me. But alas, I finished my soliloquy and their facial expressions were as stoic and droll as ever. I guess they realized I wouldn’t become a Mormon.

But it gave me a chance to revisit the Book of Mormon. One thing that caught my attention and later struck me was the approximate dates printed at the bottom corner of each page. According to the Book of Mormon, it begins “about 600 b.c.” with a group of Jews leaving Jerusalem, traveling to America, wandering around as a tribe with many wars from close and distant relative tribes, and the book ends “about 421 a.d.”

How interesting these dates are! What does it all mean? This is what it means:

The history of sin is to close when Christ returns in power and glory, as the Bible declares. Just before this happens, God has raised up Adventism to preach the second coming of Christ to the world. In order to ensure its role would faithfully continue to the end, He also raised up a prophet, Ellen G. White, to keep the movement in the way of truth as it is in Jesus. He also gave this Advent movement other insights to protect it from the strong delusion which He would send to the world. “Because thou hast kept the word of My patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth.
Behold, I come quickly: hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown.” (Rev 3:10,11).

Among these insights was a clear understanding of the great Bible prophecies regarding the time of the end. These are found in Daniel and Revelation. The first prophecy of Daniel lays the foundation for the rest of the prophecies of Daniel and Revelation. Daniel’s first prophecy, found in chapter 2, features a high statue made of different medals and its interpretation delineates the four great empires from Babylon to Rome, details concerning Christendom, the final destruction of the world, the establishment of Christ’s eternal kingdom, and the end of sin.

Reassurance comes to the Bible student through this first prophecy because it so wonderfully revealed the God of the Bible and His perfect foreknowledge down to our day. The other prophecies pinpoint other developments in the history of Christianity and Protestantism and how the gospel protects God’s people and prepares them for His coming.

But look at what the Book of Mormon does to this preparation for Christ’s coming through Adventism. It takes its adherents on a journey to America, beginning around 600 B.C., right when the book of Daniel commences. So, before the Mormon or Mormon candidate could see the powerful attraction to Daniel’s earth-shattering prophecies and from those prophecies to a strenthened conviction of the rest of the word of God, they are drawn away into the world of what they call another testament.

And amazingly, this was put in place one year before the Advent movement began. Joseph Smith received his first visit by an angel in 1823, received golden plates in 1827 and finished their translation in 1829. He began his movement in 1830 and met a violent death in 1844; after that followed a period of confusion for the church, and then in 1847 Brigham Young was chosen as president of the church and led it to grow into a strong, isolated, and growing religion.

In 1831, William Miller began his public preaching of Daniel’s prophecies of the Second Advent. When his calculated date of the Advent passed in 1844, a period of confusion followed. But in December 1844 Ellen Harmon had her first vision, which concerned the people of God following Jesus on an upward path to the holy city. Later she married James White and, with a tiny core of ardent believers in Jesus’ soon coming, they garnered a small group of former Millerites to restudy the Bible and the prophecies. By 1848, after much prayer and study in barns and living rooms, the Advent movement picked up and moved on again under new leadership, the only Millerite group to accept the seventh day as the true biblical Sabbath. Ellen White remained the prophetic voice and guide of the Seventh-day Adventists for 70 years. She was 17 when she began her role as a prophet, and at the age of 87 she fell at her home, and broke her hip. She died soon afterward, widely known as a godly, loving, well-studied author and mother in Israel.

In the timing of its establishment, Mormonism is the most ingenious diversion from the preparation for translation and resurrection at the day of Jesus’ coming. But then add the fact that not only did it have a prophet, but also a health message similar to ours, a sanctuary (albeit an earthly one), the claim to be the latter day saints awaiting Jesus’ return; they are missionary minded toward the Protestant denominations and began in the same area of upstate New York. They also have an extra “divine” means to help understand the Bible.

What human organization could have devised this? Who on earth could appear in shining angel form to 14 year old Joseph Smith? At that early era, when the helpless Roman Papacy was still struggling to get out from under her demise which happened in 1798, just 25 years before the angelic visitor, Mormonism couldn’t have been the Church’s invention.

So the LDS church is an impersonation of the SDA church and was permitted by God to test Protestants in their profession of the truth and discernment of the gospel.

Both LDS and SDA have shared the name “cult” from their beginnings. The SDA church tried to placate the World Council of Churches (WCC) in order to lose the cult title, but we are still branded. This is because Christ led us to be utmost faithful with the Bible’s truths, including the Sabbath commandment. But I heard that the Mormon Church has lost its cult title and is accepted as a valid church of Christianity.

This makes me believe that the Roman Church is inspired by the same source of the Mormon diversion of Protestants. Since Mormonism keeps Sunday holy Rome accepts it. The pope chairs the WCC and Sunday is his child. And as long as the SDA’s keep the seventh-day Sabbath they will always be branded a cult.

But that’s not all bad. “Blessed are ye, when men shall hate you, and when they shall separate you from their company, and shall reproach you, and cast out your name as evil, for the Son of man’s sake.… Woe unto you, when all men shall speak well of you! For so did their fathers to the false prophets.” (Lk. 6:22,26).

In the meanwhile, the Advent message is successfully crowded out of Protestantism and our voice is muted by the clamor surrounding Mormonism or the acceptance of it, and by Mormonism’s subsequent diversion from Daniel’s prophecies.

St. Jesus the Great, the seven-headed monster

“And there appeared another wonder in heaven; and behold a great red dragon, having seven heads and ten horns, and seven crowns upon his heads.
And his tail drew the third part of the stars of heaven, and did cast them to the earth: and the dragon stood before the woman which was ready to be delivered, for to devour her child as soon as it was born.” (Rev. 12:3,4).

I am reading Luke’s gospel again and this time with different glasses. I am seeing the reason I didn’t enjoy it the first time. On the surface without digging below the surface, in my perverted mind I saw Jesus as a show-off with His miracles, an instigator of trouble with the official rabbis, argumentative, one who loved to embarrass His opponents, one who loved to talk back, who did this purposely to trap His rivals, who lived to humiliate the religious leaders, and who spoke with authority and power for the sake of gaining authority and power; one who was an agitator. He was more a devil than a savior. And I did this as a church member in good standing, and desiring to be like Jesus.

In my flesh-based thinking I misinterpreted the gospel. I saw an illusion in my own flawed mind. My imagination painted a flawed picture based on its perverted predisposed prejudices from my original fallen human nature.

Where was the loveliness of Jesus, His meekness, love, and care? It didn’t jump out at me as I read. Where was the redeeming power of the gospels to break my heart and show me a Friend I could trust in? I couldn’t see His lamb-like attributes.

Thus, instead of being saved by His matchless love, all I had was the great works of a superhuman hero. My focus on Jesus was hero worship, saint worship—St. Jesus—the “holy” tool of Satan to “smite the people in wrath with a continual stroke,” and “[rule] the nations in anger.” (Is. 14:6). It was the condemning Law, and only the Law, in human flesh. St. Jesus, like all the other “holy” cannonized saints, was Mr. Great, but I was Mr. Nothing, Mr. Hopeless, without faith and without God.

But the Spirit of the true Jesus gives us the tools to unravel the simplicity of His ministry and self-sacrifice which our natures complicate. Christ’s own key to recognize Him—that the least are the greatest, and the last are first. Unless we see Him living for love from His Father and from us, He can’t be least and therefore great—otherwise, if He is only great, then we have the false Jesus. He has to be the least in order to be great. If we see Him only as a hero god, our fallen natures make Him a hated competitor who quickly sinks into insignificance in our proud minds. But for Him to become world-renowned, He must have been more than popular and forceful and talented. He must have met the needs of the heart. He must have been a friend, the very best. While He kept a tight ship and His look might freeze your blood, He also gave evidence of a quick thaw and warming up again.

But where is the faith of Jesus revealed in the gospels? Where is His beauty and friendliness? Do we look for it? Do we interpret His words and acts by His faith as products of a heart crucified with His Father, a born-again heart, embedding Himself in His Father and relying on His Father to regenerate His heart every morning? Do we question Christ’s motives in the gospels? Are we allowed to do this? Yes, we are; and we must.

Our Elder Brother invites His whole human race, “Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord.” (Is. 1:18). “Produce your cause, saith the Lord; bring forth your strong reasons, saith the King of Jacob.” (Is. 41:21). “Bring all your arguments against Me. Let’s see if your assumptions about Me are true. Be fair and give Me a chance to clear My sullied reputation.” Searching for His motive of love is the first work in Bible study. It’s the first work in getting to know God.

Be as bold as Abraham, “That be far from Thee to do after this manner.… Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?” (Gen. 18:25). And Moses, “Lord, why doth Thy wrath wax hot against Thy people, which Thou hast brought forth out of the land of Egypt with great power, and with a mighty hand?
Wherefore should the Egyptians speak, and say, For mischief did He bring them out, to slay them in the mountains, and to consume them from the face of the earth? Turn from Thy fierce wrath, and repent of this evil against Thy people.” (Ex. 32:11,12).

Not only must we be bold, but we must admit to our own possibility of misunderstanding Christ as He might appear in the gospels; we must check ourselves for possible misperceptions, and examine ourselves to see whether we are in the faith. It is not blasphemy to question Christ’s motives. “Prove Me now…, saith the Lord of hosts.” (Mal. 3:10). Let’s not to be bashful. He commands us to put Him to the test to see if He is true and faithful. He commands it; so, let’s keep His commandments.

“Moreover the Lord spake again unto Ahaz, saying,
Ask thee a sign of the Lord thy God; ask it either in the depth, or in the height above.
But Ahaz said, I will not ask, neither will I tempt the Lord. And [Isaiah] said, Hear ye now, O house of David; Is it a small thing for you to weary men, but will ye weary my God also? Therefore the Lord Himself shall give you a sign….” (Is. 7:10-14).

How would there ever be faith in God if it were not for the evidence in His works, warnings, and promises? What was Ahaz’s dilemma? What is the psychology here? He didn’t want a blessing. Why? What makes us miss blessings? Our natures act quicker than our brains. Our sub-conscious self-centeredness overrules our conscious decision-making ability.

What governs the sub-conscience? Can we get a grip on our self-centered sub-conscience? Can we man-handle it into submission to our will? No, we can’t. And Christ doesn’t expect us to. That’s the domain of Christ or the devil. But, daily, we choose to place ourselves in the environment which each has provided. Then we surrender to their control, either to godliness under Christ’s control or sin under Satan’s. “Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness?” (Rom. 6:16). “Choose you this day whom ye will serve.” (Josh. 24:15).

So I come to the Bible if I want the Holy Spirit to wash my mind and bring me to freedom in Jesus, looking for those precious promises like gems hidden in the ground. Or I spend time ingesting the images and corruption from the television and the hypnotic rhythms and rhymes from the CD player and radio which pervert my mind further and further until I am brought to slavery to Satan. I can indirectly control my sub-conscience and willpower to do good or bad by my choice of which resource I open my soul to day by day.

When I come to the Bible I must come with a desire to know God. And He commands me, “Ask, seek, knock.” Question, search, be strong before God. “Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might.” (Ecc. 9:10). Like I was told when they sat me in front of a new computer, “Go ahead and play with it. You can’t break it.” We can’t break God or His determination to save us by reverently, lovingly, yet boldly asking Him questions about His motives.

How did Christianity become so weak before a rebellious world today? I believe that the Protestants ceased to be as bold with God and tenacious in seeking for His mercy and love as were the reformers. I think they felt that personally questioning Jesus was blasphemy; so Satan was able to slip in his impersonation of Jesus, and they took the beating of St. Jesus, the greatest saint of the Roman pantheon. He is the saint who beat their souls to powder and ground the faces of the poor.

Why would the Protestants not question God’s motives in the Bible? Possibly many reasons. Perhaps they feared to do so; that doing so was irreverent and dishonoring to God and disloyal to the Reformation. Perhaps the slavery of the Dark Ages of forced, brutal religion kept them from breaking free from old traditions of men into the glorious liberty of the sons of God. But perhaps the simple fear of standing apart from the group, thinking differently, also prevented them from looking for a warm and loving Jesus, and caused them to lose the ever-advancing torch of verity. So they took the gospels at face-value only and never tried to sound out the depths of God’s word. They did not obey the Bible.

“Search the scriptures; ...they are they which testify of Me.” “Look unto Me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none else.” “All day long I have stretched forth My hands unto a disobedient and gainsaying people.” “And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto Me.” (Jn. 5:39;Is. 45:22;Rom. 10:21;Jn. 12:32).

If we will take up the work of the Reformers, “not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God, of the doctrine of baptisms, and of laying on of hands, and of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment,” we will move forward to reform other shortcomings in the faith that were lost from the original doctrine of Christ. (Heb. 6:1,2). Let us dig and search for the humanity and mercy of Jesus which He had for those who were quietly seeking God in their suffering. Free Jesus from the stigma of St. Jesus, the god who is perfect in behavior but empty of, and who shows no mercy to sinners.

Let us flee from the monster with seven heads and ten horns—St. Jesus—who looks holy and sacerdotal, but never really frees us from sin through the love of God. He may look splendidly god-like and holy, but he only uses religion for his ultimate entrapment into devil-possession. As it is written,
“And I stood upon the sand of the sea, and saw a beast rise up out of the sea, having seven heads and ten horns, and upon his horns ten crowns, and upon his heads the name of blasphemy….
If any man worship the beast and his image, and receive his mark in his forehead, or in his hand,
The same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture into the cup of his indignation; and he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb:
And the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever: and they have no rest day nor night, who worship the beast and his image, and whosoever receiveth the mark of his name.” (Rev. 13:1;14:9-11). Everything called holy is not heavenly.

Ignatius de Loyola studied under St. Jesus, and became as cruel and “holy” and “saintly” as St. Jesus, the Great, the seven headed beast. If Martin Luther had not discovered the Bible, his badgered conscience would have driven him into that vast and growing army of St. Jesusites, soon to encompass the whole world.

Let the true Jesus out of the box we contrive. He was to be more than an instigator of theological argument or a genius at debate. He was to be more than a showy miracle worker. And since He dodged being praised or honored at every move (Matt. 12:19-21), then let us peer into the mind of Christ, let’s find His real motives and see the real humility and purity and self-forgetfulness of His character.

Then He will unmask the mysterious work of the devil in trying to add Christ to his pantheon of Roman gods. “But unto the wicked God saith, What hast thou to do to declare My statutes, or that thou shouldest take My covenant in thy mouth?
… Thou thoughtest that I was altogether such an one as thyself: but I will reprove thee, and set them in order before thine eyes. Now consider this, ye that forget God, lest I tear you in pieces, and there be none to deliver.” (Ps. 50:16,21,22).

Jesus is not another mythical hero. He showed His greatness in His servitude and crucifixion, “Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give His life a ransom for many” (Matt. 20:28), and His great love, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.” (Lk. 23:34).

He shall not strive, nor cry; neither shall any man hear His voice in the streets.
A bruised reed shall He not break, and smoking flax shall He not quench, till He send forth judgment unto victory.
And in His name shall the Gentiles trust.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Choose life and blessing

“I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live.” (Deut. 30:19).

We all have lessons to learn. Life will be full of them until we die. Learning is the work of a lifetime. We are forced to learn the big lessons of life. No one can say, “Stop the world, I want to get off.”

This world is full of prisoners. Captivity is a pandemic. We are prisoners to consequences to all the wrong choices we’ve made.

We are prisoners here. There are the obvious penitentiaries for criminals. But there are also the not so obvious prison houses—substance abuse of all kinds, financial indebtedness, bad marriages, indulgence of all type of appetites, etc. Our Creator has offered His sources of guidance to teach us to love the right and to eschew the wrong. But His Law has gone unheeded en masse. In His Law (His word) He has mercifully provided His creatures the path of unlimited blessing.

But the tastes and inclinations of our sin-filled race take a disliking to the purity and love of the Law of God. Neither is it popular. So each sinner that knows what is right but doesn’t do it gambles that God is wrong about the consequences which He predicts. And so they go on in the direction of wrong choices, hoping for the best and laughing to themselves that God is outdated and old-fashioned, and that they outsmarted Him. But “He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh: the Lord shall have them in derision.” (Ps. 2:4).

Finally the day of chagrin will arrive. The game of sex results in an unwanted, extra-marital pregnancy, or bears fruit in an incurable STD; the thrill of theft or dealing drugs ends in years of incarceration; the careless spree of spending and borrowing descends into a lifetime of repayment and poverty; after years indulging every form of appetite, nature breaks down and cancer and disease stand at the door and knock.

Long-time anger, resentment, and revenge damage the sensitive brain, and senility finally sets in; lessons from the first marriage are refused, and after having one family following another, the promising family life is ruined as both partners are mired in a confusion of multiple ex-spousal issues and children run amuck; a Christian who wants to serve God chooses a career that promises the good life, and after years of having “pitched his tent toward Sodom,” the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches choke that original desire for God so that he is no longer a Christian, and he loses his place in the book of life.

And then the sinners hear God say, “Wasn’t I right at the beginning? Will you listen to Me now?” But the prisoners bristle, “No! Never!” So the prison sentence becomes an intolerable torment. A similar scene happened to Israel at their first entrance into Canaan after deliverance from Egypt.

They had grumbled about the conditions the Lord put them in since leaving the iron furnace at the Nile. The eleven day journey to Canaan had taken two years. That had been two years of heat, manna, and camping—not living a dream come true. It brought out the bad habit of ingratitude and cantankerous discontentedness in many hearts, and finally, they are on the southern border of Canaan and their spies come back to say that the land was impossible to conquer.

Having all the memories of the Lord’s great victory over Pharaoh and his army, the Israelites continued the self-centered nagging and complaining. It was wrong. They had heard God’s voice from Sinai calling them to be a holy nation. They couldn’t stop His words from entering their conscience, “I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate Me.” (Ex. 20:5). Yet they kept pressing the envelope of God’s patience, pushing far beyond His threshold of forbearance.

This last grumbling affair was the last of Satan’s taunt at God the Father. The Son of God declared that if they feared to go in, they weren’t ever going in. He told Moses, “All those men which have seen My glory, and My miracles, which I did in Egypt and in the wilderness, and have tempted Me now these ten times, and have not hearkened to My voice;
Surely they shall not see the land which I sware unto their fathers, neither shall any of them that provoked Me see it.” (Num. 14:22,23).

“Say unto them, As truly as I live, saith the Lord, as ye have spoken in Mine ears, so will I do to you:
Your carcases shall fall in this wilderness; and all that were numbered of you, according to your whole number, from twenty years old and upward, which have murmured against Me,
Doubtless ye shall not come into the land, concerning which I sware to make you dwell therein, save Caleb the son of Jephunneh, and Joshua the son of Nun.
But your little ones, which ye said should be a prey, them will I bring in, and they shall know the land which ye have despised.
But as for you, your carcases, they shall fall in this wilderness.
And your children shall wander in the wilderness forty years, and bear your whoredoms, until your carcases be wasted in the wilderness.
After the number of the days in which ye searched the land, even forty days, each day for a year, shall ye bear your iniquities, even forty years, and ye shall know My breach of promise.” (Num. 14:28-34).

But if they had grumbled before, now their rage knew no bounds. Forty years of wilderness?! Die wandering? And never see the land of luxury? “And they rose up early in the morning, and gat them up into the top of the mountain, saying, Lo, we be here, and will go up unto the place which the Lord hath promised: for we have sinned.” (Vs. 40). “We have sinned.” Was this repentance—was it sorrow for sin? Or the refusal of consequences?

Nevertheless, they would still try to prove God wrong. Moses warned them “I wouldn’t do it!” “But they presumed to go up unto the hill top…
Then the Amalekites came down, and the Canaanites which dwelt in that hill, and smote them, and discomfited them, even unto Hormah.” (vs. 44,45).

A forty year sentence in a hot, paltry Arabian prison, eating manna, and being preached to by the man they despised the most. He got them into this mess. It was all his fault they were given this totally unreasonable forced labor and pain and eventual death. But they had no way to get back to Egypt; they didn’t know which direction in this desolate land to strike out for. The only water for miles was what came bubbling out of the ground at Yahweh’s command; and there were no clouds except the one covering their camp wherever the pillar of cloud went.

At the people’s realization that their forty year death sentence was inescapable, there was much weeping and gnashing of teeth; their brains were boiling with grinding wrath and bitter hatred toward their heavenly Prosecutor. They were learning that many are called, but few chosen. And they were not the few who were worthy of the land flowing with milk and honey.

Forty years could be enough to rehabilitate the rebels, if they would bend. But, we don’t surrender easily. Pride can take many decades to back down and submit to authority, and sometimes we run out of time before pride surrenders. The cure for rebellion is hard, and rare. It took lock down and solitary confinement of the nation, but with God dwelling among them, suffering right alongside them. Jehovah was suffering from them as much as they were suffering from Him.

Unbeknown to them, Satan controlled the angry adults. They served Jehovah in name only. His Spirit of peace did not reign in their hearts. The enemy of souls had won their natures over to sensual religion and pagan lifestyles, and had whipped insolence into their wills through the taskmasters. The older generation leaving Egypt was incurable. But if their children would learn from the mistakes of their parents, the next generation would go in.

Christ has faithfully preserved this event for all later generations. His grand intention from the beginning has been, “As truly as I live, all the earth shall be filled with the glory of the Lord.” (Vs. 21). We can learn truth two ways—the easy way, and the hard way.

We can choose the easier way of the two. We can open the Law and the testimonies (Is. 8:20), and let their conviction do radiation treatment on our cancer of sin. It will soon give us a hunger for grace and bring us to a Savior from self. He promises us that with Him by our side, our disciplining will be easy and light. We won’t be alone. His companionship will make all the difference in our prison sentence because we will see Him suffering with us. No matter which sentence we get, they are all similar and all doable if we let Him do it with us.

Or we can choose the harder route, the way of imprisonment under harsh conditions and much misery. But the warning is loud and clear about this method. “Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God.” (Heb. 3:12).

“And…if any man worship the beast and his image, and receive his mark in his forehead, or in his hand,
The same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture into the cup of His indignation; and he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone…
And the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever: and they have no rest day nor night, who worship the beast and his image, and whosoever receiveth the mark of his name.” (Rev. 14:9-11).

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Confessions of an Ex-Atheist

With the surge of militant atheism and the numerous books by atheists hitting the bookstores these days, this confession of an ex-atheist is more important than ever. This account by one ex-atheist who sought to find meaning and hope through science and secular humanism will open your eyes to the spiritual bankruptcy and emptiness faced by atheists.
Atheism today is not just a belief by some that there is no God and that our lives are merely a product of randomness and chance. Atheism has become a militant, angry, and arrogant denial of God and a condemnation of religious people and Christians in particular.

A.S.A. Jones


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


I was raised a Roman Catholic in a home where the name of Jesus Christ and God was never mentioned. I was encouraged to attend catechism and church every weekend, but the concept of God was never made completely real to me. I entertained the notion as any child would, but I just wasn't into the imaginary friend scene and by the time I was thirteen, I had concluded that God was merely a vicious adult version of the Easter bunny. I abandoned the lie, informed my upset parents that I would no longer be attending church, and began seeking truth.

In the absence of a religious belief to answer life's questions, I turned my mental energy to science. Science had an awesome track record of solving many problems and its resulting technology had provided tangible benefits to all of mankind. Science was the answer! I reasoned that if we could educate our populations and continue to make advances in medicine, agriculture and energy production, we would one day have the mythical Eden as our reality.

I threw myself into my studies, determined to become a scientific messiah who would one day deliver people from the bondage of disease. At the age of sixteen, my IQ and my grades made me eligible for my high school's early release program and I began my studies in biology and chemistry at the University of Pittsburgh.


I graduated from college with high honors and my prized science degree, but I had lost any motivation to apply that knowledge. I recalled staring at a swarming mass of termites one sunny day, thinking that, from a comparative distance, there was little difference between them and us. I smashed a few dozen with my shoe and ground them into the dirt. What did it matter if these died? What did it matter if they all died? People died every day. The end result would always be death for both the individuals and, eventually, the species.

Humanity had become nothing more to me than an organized network of molecules and enzymes. I viewed people as mere organisms going through their daily routines of metabolizing nutrients and expelling wastes, ovulating their eggs and ejaculating their semen. I knew the psychology of humans almost as well as their anatomies. The hidden things that pulled them this way and that were very evident to me. They were like guinea pigs, only more predictable, and my chief form of entertainment was to see how skillfully I could manipulate them. I knew that I was supposed to care about them, but I didn't. I couldn't. If mankind's goal was to alleviate its own suffering, a bullet to the head was more efficient and made more sense in my thinking than screwing around with medication or disease control.

What was the point of prolonging any one life? What difference did it make if a girl didn't live to marry or her mother live to see it? Of what value were temporary emotional experiences? They were simply the biochemistry of the brain reacting to sensory input and, upon that individual's death, any remaining memory of that experience would be thrown away along with the person who had experienced it. My extreme point of view had reduced people into throwaway metabolic units; I had become as cold and indifferent as the logic that I exalted.

If my education would benefit anyone, it would benefit me. I passed up an offer of a low paying research position for a secure and higher paying job in a chemistry lab. My brain rotted there for 40 hours a week for 10 years.


Science had done nothing to answer the questions that raged in my head. Why should I care? How much should I care? Should I care at all? What is my purpose in life? Is there a purpose? How can I love people? Should I love people? Which people should I love? How can I forgive people? Should I forgive people? Have I done what is right? Have I done what is wrong? Is there a right or a wrong?

I turned to philosophy. I started with Jean-Paul Sartre's "Being and Nothingness". This man had won a Nobel Prize for basically taking white and logically demonstrating how it was really black. I tried several other atheist philosophers who tried to assign meaning to a life created by chance and I decided that they were all full of crap. If our life is the result of randomness and chance, it is meaningless, no matter how we try to convince ourselves otherwise.

That was fine with me. I was prepared to live my life by this truth and discovered that the prospect of a life without meaning can be a very freeing experience. I set out to take advantage of moral relativism and effectively destroyed any of my remaining conscience. Friends, let me tell you, I fell far, far away, but I didn't know it. I busied myself with one diversion after another, trying to fill my life with meaningless activity in order to forget how meaningless it was. In my desperation, I grew self-righteous and indignant. I was secretly envious of the morons who seemed blissfully unaware of their own meaninglessness. I wanted to shake them awake and get them to see how worthless their lives really were.


The worst idiots were the Christians. I hated them because, in their ignorance of naturalism, they failed to see that there was no reason for the rest of the world to believe in their god, live by their standards or give a damn about what they had to say, yet there they were, acting as if they had a copyright on truth. Their pretentiousness sickened me, despite my being equally pretentious toward them. After all, I was justified in my pretentiousness! At least I could give logical reasons for not believing in the supernatural. I would challenge them to give reasons for believing in something that couldn't be seen and they would reply, "You can't see the wind but it's there." I would then try to explain to them that wind was created by differences in pressure and that there was plenty of scientific proof for the existence of wind but none for their god. Even the most intelligent Christians I knew had a difficult time articulating their reason for faith.

Most of the explanations I heard rested on the Bible's authority. "The Bible says... the Bible says... the Bible says." Who cared what the Bible said? I certainly didn't. "It's all a bunch of made up, superstitious baloney. Can't you see?" and I would then go into pagan origins, etc., and try to demonstrate that Jesus was a manufactured myth. I ended up knowing the Bible inside and out just to be able to debate against it.

My anti-Christian arguments became my ultimate diversion to a hopeless life. I learned that religious debate wasn't as much about truth as it was about language and presentation. I began seeing flaws in my own logic while trying to demonstrate certain instances of Biblical errancy, but that didn't keep me on the bench. To justify my desire to destroy Christianity, I had to find reasons to discredit it. I railed against its hypocrisy, the behavior of its followers, the wars fought in its name and I questioned the motives of its bloody god and the religion's effective outcome. In short, I began seeing it as the supreme evil, despite the fact that my own view of moral relativism did not permit a logical defense of the concept of evil.


One night, I was very tired and alone in my study. I didn't reach, as I usually did, for a book of religious argument. I grabbed Lewis Carroll's "Through The Looking Glass", plopped myself down in a comfy chair and sleepily began reading. I skimmed through the pages and stopped at Humpty Dumpty's explanation of 'Jabberwocky' to Alice. A thought occurred to me that if I were to read 'Jabberwocky' the same way I read the bible, it wouldn't make any sense at all. I put Carroll's book aside, folded my hands and stared at the wall, lost in thought.

The Bible didn't make sense to me. But why did it make sense to others? What were they seeing that I didn't? Did they so desperately want there to be a God that they had deluded themselves into thinking that there was one? It was New Year's Day, 1998. I made a resolution to read the entire Bible again, only this time I was going to read it as I would poetry or fiction, and not as a proposal of fact.

In the months that followed, I kept my resolution and I began noticing a change in my way of interpreting the Bible. Intellectually, I found that my mind could logically accept two very different interpretations of almost everything I was reading. One interpretation of any verse or passage would render the whole story as nonsensical. But the other interpretation allowed the whole story to make sense.

If my mind was capable of accepting interpretations that allowed the whole book to make sense, then what was it in me that wanted it not to make sense? This book was reading me as surely as I was reading it. Every time I found fault with its god, I ended up finding a fault of my own. What was I doing when I condemned this god for commanding Moses to kill? Was I arrogantly making my morality superior to that of the being who allegedly authored all of morality? Was I condemning the actions of an entire nation, which was trapped in a kill or be killed situation? What was it in me that wanted to express outrage at Jesus Christ for telling me that I had to give away everything to be considered worthy to follow him? Was it my own selfishness?

For weeks, I was on a high, the type of high that comes about by feeling that one is on the edge of making some sort of profound discovery. I wasn't sure what I was discovering but my perception of this world was changing. In July, I read these words of Jesus Christ, understanding them for the first time after having read them for years; "Who do you say I am?"


What I had to say about who Christ was, said more about me than it did about Him.
At this moment, I saw it. I saw what the truth of the Bible was! And I was humbled. More than humbled, I was broken. The truth wasn't about cud chewing bunnies or how much precipitation fell during Noah's flood. It was the truth about human nature and our efforts to rise above it! It was the truth about human spirit being led by divine spirit! It was the truth about each of us, imperfect in our love for one another, needing to be made complete by the perfect love of God! The truth was about how one man, without sin, had died for us so that we could live! The truth of the Bible was and is JESUS CHRIST!

The moment I was made aware of my despicable nature, I realized that Jesus had died for me. I never had recognized sin and, therefore, thought that Christ had died for nothing. But this man was able to see the horrible nature present in all of humanity and yet he had sacrificed himself to save us from ourselves. In a very real sense, my sinful nature had caused the death of an innocent man. I never believed in hell prior to this, but one of my first thoughts, after seeing how hellish a person that I was, was that I deserved to be in it.


I had been a fool. I had paraded around, thinking myself to be the sophisticate, oblivious to the trail of toilet paper clinging to my shoe. For the first time in my life, I became aware of my soul and how dirty it was when the light of Christ fell upon it. My accusing finger turned around and pointed right back at me. I sucked! Christianity wasn't what was wrong with the world! A lack of education wasn't what was wrong with the world! I was what was wrong with the world. I began praying for forgiveness to a god whose existence I had thought was intellectually indefensible. But He was very, very real. Within days, almost every viewpoint I had once so loudly announced, changed.

I could no longer justify my advocacy of abortion, homosexuality or pre-marital sex because I recognized these options for what they were, that being selfishness. I couldn't enjoy television because much of what it offered was an offense to the god I had discovered. But the most astounding change that took place in me was that I was freed from my cold indifference in matters of the heart. My atheistic philosophy had allowed me to lose my compassion for others. I no longer had the ability to love anyone, not even myself. I had become apathetic to life itself. For years, I had been dead, but because I continued to walk and talk, I didn't know it.

But now, I was born again and the spirit that was in me, which had allowed me to understand spiritual things, connected with the glorious and perfect higher consciousness of Jesus Christ. He restored my heart and my conscience. Christians speak of this as a veil being lifted, but, for me, it was more like the iron curtain was being torn down. For the first time in my life, I was seeing the world as it really was. I no longer saw people as a sum of their components or this life as a meaningless exercise, but I now saw both as something more valid than my rational thought had allowed. I had spent most of my years examining life, crouched over and focused on the microscope of logic, incapable of seeing the Big Picture that was going on around me.

The more I emptied myself of myself, the clearer the truth became. It had been my own selfish sin that had kept me from seeing it before. Jesus Christ became my God and my grand obsession, and for many months, I spent hours with my mind locked in meditation, trying to connect with Him in a more tangible way. I wasn't disappointed. There is a point that one can reach in prayer where there is nothing at all left of oneself, and it is in that moment that God makes Himself known.
For me, Biblical truth wasn't verified through historical accuracy, inerrancy or reliability of the Gospels, because my initial assumptions didn't include these things. I saw divine inspiration in the actual content of the words attributed to Jesus Christ. The fact that I, or anyone, was capable of understanding spiritual matters became my evidence for the soul.

Learning the things of the spirit dramatically changed my attitude and my outlook on life. It wasn't that the information available to me had changed, but that my perception had changed and as a result, I was changed. I was dead, but Christ woke me up! He saved me from my selfish self and I have given myself to Him because I am thankful for that which He has given me and hopeful for that which He has promised.

This testimony can be found at

This testimony was written by A.S.A. Jones who runs a website dealing with issues such as Christian Apologetics, Religious Debate, and Christianity vs. Atheism. The website can be found at Ex-Atheist

The God of love and war

We said that the Lord is a man of war. (Ex. 15:3). Can we be glad for this? Yes. If He is only a warrior toward our enemies. But what if He turns on us? Has He ever been known to do this? Does the Bible record Him doing this to His people? Yes.

Then how can He be a God of love? This very issue has created millions, even billions of agnostics, atheists, and skeptics through the ages. Listen to them talk and you hear them bring up all the killing and death in the Bible, and then the question of Jehovah as a God of love.

Can you trust someone who might hurt you? Even if he claims to be doing it for your own good? Even if you can intellectually agree that punishment is good for you, can you trust God if He hurts you? It may or may not be much consolation to hear that He has been good to you. What if He changes His mind? Or His mood?

“Thou wilt say then, The branches were broken off, that I might be graffed in.
Well; because of unbelief they were broken off, and thou standest by faith. Be not highminded, but fear:
For if God spared not the natural branches, take heed lest He also spare not thee.
Behold therefore the goodness and severity of God: on them which fell, severity; but toward thee, goodness, if thou continue in His goodness: otherwise thou also shalt be cut off.” (Rom. 11:19-22). Whoa! God is good? Yes. Assuredly, He is very good to us shameless and despicable rebels.

“Ye shall do no unrighteousness in judgment: thou shalt not respect the person of the poor, nor honour the person of the mighty: but in righteousness shalt thou judge thy neighbour.” (Lev. 19:15). “For there is no respect of persons with God.” (Rom. 2:11). Can we trust Him for being fair? What He does to the wicked, He does to His children if they act wickedly. Fair enough? Reasonable?

I’ve heard it said in jest, “I don’t play favoritism. I hate everyone equally!” Is this what we think of God? Is this why we fear to trust Him implicitly? Trust is the settling of nerves and perfect peace with someone. Its knowing the person to be a friend that won’t let you down, ever. Trust must be proven. Trust is earned. “Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?” (Matt. 7:16).

But can a sinner ever trust someone who hurts them? Even if the sinner was only hurt once, can he ever trust again? Can a sinner forgive and forget? Negative. Sinners remember a slight, even the slightest slight forever and a day, even for ever and ever. As long as they have a brain with memory, they cannot forget. So if God ever allows a sinner to be damaged in any way, God can’t be trusted, never. But we see some who have come to trust God. Then they must have forgiven Him for the troubles He allowed them to go through in life.

But we said sinners don’t do that. Then they must have stopped being unforgiving sinners. They must have become saints. Only saints can forgive and forget. Justification by trust?

God has made a lot of threats and He has executed many of those threats. “See now that I, even I, am He, and there is no God with Me: I kill, and I make alive; I wound, and I heal: neither is there any that can deliver out of My hand.
For I lift up My hand to heaven, and say, I live for ever.
If I whet My glittering sword, and Mine hand take hold on judgment; I will render vengeance to Mine enemies, and will reward them that hate Me.” (Deut. 32:39-41). Is God a fiend? or a friend? Can you see either here? This strong language can’t possibly be good for relationships. Or can it? Can we really trust God as a friend? But, still, what if He turns on you?

No one can trust God unless they have spent time seeing Him work. We must know Him by His fruits before we can trust Him. Right? Can we receive His punishment and learn to trust Him? Could this ever be possible?

Yes. But how?

When we wait until He has finished His discipline for us. “Blessed are all they that wait for Him.” (Is. 30:18). If we stick with Him until He is done disciplining, then we comprehend the fullness of His love. We see how much we needed the discipline. We see how much we needed Him. Then we trust in Him. And we really trust Him.

He wounds, yes. But He only—only—wounds to heal. This is the key to knowing Him! Forever and a day, His sole purpose in wounding us is to break our pride and heal us of sin, permanently! As broken bones must be reset to truly heal, which is very painful, in order for us to healed of self-centeredness we must first experience tremendous sorrow and tragedy, which seems counter-intuitive to our self-indulgent natures.

He made a beautiful promise to Egypt (of all places!) “And the Lord shall smite Egypt: He shall smite and heal it: and they shall return even to the Lord, and He shall be intreated of them, and shall heal them.” (Is. 19:22). You mean, Yahweh loved Egyptians, too?! He sought to save them? This was His message from Israel. There is hope for us all!

But, what is it that the father wounds when he must spank his dear child? The pride, the rebellion. A spank doesn’t make the parent abusive. It corrects pride, which is a blessing for the child, especially later in life. It also makes a way for his love to enter that child’s mind blocked with self-centeredness. The source of all misbehavior is the partial or complete lack of love.

The Bible teaches the psychology of all misbehavior, bad habits and practices, even crime. The absence of being loved, accepting love, responding and returning it. Can we see love in God’s actions throughout His auto-biography, His personally recorded history in His Bible? Can we discern His care for us in His discipline. Is it possible for the consequences of your mistakes, which He allows, to be motivated by love for you? If it is possible, will you look for love to know that He does love you? Will you talk to Him and ask Him if its true that He loves you? He promises that if you ask Him, you will receive; if you seek His love you will find it, when you seek Him with all your heart. Will you look long and hard for His motive of love?

He says, “For thus saith the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy; I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones.
For I will not contend for ever, neither will I be always wroth: for the spirit should fail before Me, and the souls which I have made.
For the iniquity of his covetousness was I wroth, and smote him: I hid me, and was wroth, and he went on frowardly in the way of his heart.
I have seen his ways, and will heal him: I will lead him also, and restore comforts unto him and to his mourners.
I create the fruit of the lips; Peace, peace to him that is far off, and to him that is near, saith the Lord; and I will heal him.” (Is. 57:15-19).

Will you soften your stiff neck and loosen our brass brow? Will you let your hard heart crumble and let His goodness lead you to repentance?

“Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.
If ye be willing and obedient, ye shall eat the good of the land:
But if ye refuse and rebel, ye shall be devoured with the sword: for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it.” (Is. 1:18-20). Come unto Me all you that labor and are heavy laden. And I will give you rest. Just come.

“And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely.” (Rev. 22:17).

“Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear My voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with Me.” (Rev. 3:20).

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

The old prophet's lie

This true account, providentially directed and recorded, gives another evidence of the heavenly origin of the Bible. Lying is wrong. It is not ordinarily in God’s plan to lie. Normally a liar lies to save himself from shame and punishment for his sins and mistakes. But, here we see a prophet who bears all the fruit of the Spirit, purportedly speaking an untruth in God’s stead. How can this be of God?

It wasn’t a lie. As Moses made a representation of Christ in the form of a serpent, so the older man wielded testing truth that took the form of a lie. The veiled communication should have been enough to scare the backsliding young man. It would prove his great blessing had he the least communion with heaven and had detected the veiled warning, or his ruin, if he were sitting there totally overcome by unbelief.

But the scripture says he lied. “He said unto him, I am a prophet also as thou art; and an angel spake unto me by the word of the LORD, saying, Bring him back with thee into thine house, that he may eat bread and drink water. But he lied unto him.” (1Ki. 13:18). The scripture also says that Saul spoke to Samuel when the witch of Endor called into her magic ball. “And when the woman saw Samuel, she cried with a loud voice: and the woman spake to Saul, saying, Why hast thou deceived me? for thou art Saul.
And the king said unto her, Be not afraid: for what sawest thou? And the woman said unto Saul, I saw gods ascending out of the earth.
And he said unto her, What form is he of? And she said, An old man cometh up; and he is covered with a mantle. And Saul perceived that it was Samuel, and he stooped with his face to the ground, and bowed himself.” (1Sam. 28:12-14). But we know the scriptures say the dead sleep until the resurrection.

To some the old prophet’s apparently dishonest method looks like bald-faced lying. To others it looks like playing the devil’s advocate approach. Would God really use this method?

Maybe it sounded untrue, but the elderly man’s serious look meant business; and testing truth cloaked in untruth should have convicted and shattered the youth’s dreamy thoughts. This shows how far God will go to save us. If He has to He will even use an apparent lie to alert us to danger, and scare us half to death. He will bring an aged, tired representative out of retirement to meet those who are hell-bent on losing their salvation.

Our God is a God of love, but He is also a man of war. Ex. 15:3. We must never forget that. He wounds to heal; He plays rough for our sakes. Like a she-bear possessed with the fear of losing her cubs, the Lord can be very dangerous to sin in all its destructive forms. “He beareth not the sword in vain.” (Rom. 13:4). You have committed your heart and life to Him; “if thou do that which is evil, be afraid;” “do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same.” (Rom. 13: 4,3). “Thy rod and Thy staff they comfort me.” (Ps. 23:4). All in all, know that He will do anything to lead us to repentance and save us. But He must bring us to repentance, if we will accept shame and sorrow for sin. This is one of the lessons from this sad tale.

God is wrestling not with flesh and blood, but with principalities and powers, and because we so easily ally ourselves with Satan, the divine wrath on Satan feels like God pours His judgments on us. The wrath is aimed at Satan and his character which we have inculcated; and removing Satan’s character from our mind can feel like open heart surgery without sedation. But mixed into the Lord’s attack on sin and Satan He communicates love; and if His love is what we hunger for, then we will patiently endure His exorcism of sin and self.

Would God really use the bold testing method of the old prophet? The Law was made for God and not God for the Law. He interprets it; not it Him; and He interprets and uses it correctly. He made the Law; the Law is His will. Cannot He do what He will with His own? “O man, who art thou that repliest against God?” (Rom. 9:20).

Satan, though, desires to bind the Lord down to an inflexible, legalistic code of his own devising. He does this in order to limit God in His ability to judge sin. This way the devil can destroy the righteous and save his rebellion. But God says, “Who would set the briers and thorns against Me in battle? I would go through them, I would burn them together.” (Is. 27:4).

Grace, which is the righteousness of God outside the Law, allows us to see the deeper aspects of the Law for each situation. Then instead of becoming guilty of destroying the Law by exaggerating the things that are small and diminishing its weightier matters, we can divine its principles as its Author originally intended them. The anointing of the Holy Spirit teaches us as we receive more of Christ, His grace and truth. Divine wisdom has often surprised, astounded His creatures’ limited understanding of right and wrong, and even offended their sensibilities.

“Then came His disciples, and said unto Him, Knowest Thou that the Pharisees were offended, after they heard this saying?” (Matt. 15:12).

“And when He was come into His own country, He taught them in their synagogue, insomuch that they were astonished, and said, Whence hath this man this wisdom, and these mighty works?... And they were offended in Him.” (Matt. 13:54,57)

“And the king [Solomon] said, Divide the living child in two, and give half to the one, and half to the other.” (1Ki. 3:25).

“Then said [David’s] servants unto him, What thing is this that thou hast done? thou didst fast and weep for the child, while it was alive; but when the child was dead, thou didst rise and eat bread.” (2Sam. 12:21).

“And they said unto Him, Lord, he hath ten pounds.” (Lk. 19:25).

God's decisions aren't always our obvious choice of judgment-calls.

Another story from the same book as the old prophet might explain the mystery of his apparent lie.

“So [Micaiah] came to the king. And the king said unto him, Micaiah, shall we go against Ramothgilead to battle, or shall we forbear? And he answered him, Go, and prosper: for the Lord shall deliver it into the hand of the king.” Was this the truth? No, Micaiah was being sarcastic to a disobedient and wicked king. What was going on? Later, Micaiah did what God doesn’t always do—he explained himself—God doesn’t always explain His actions. “The Lord hath put a lying spirit in the mouth of all these thy prophets.” (1Ki. 22:15,23).

We should not be surprised that the old prophet’s lie should not be taken at face value. The Spirit of God has written His book for all age groups, all levels of intellect, and all spiritual discernments. Parts of the Bible take more thought and experience than others to decipher God’s purposes. He doesn’t always explain everything that He does in the context of His actions. He requires us to draw on knowledge learned and remembered from other of His actions. Thus He makes the Bible student wise.

“Thou through Thy commandments hast made me wiser than mine enemies: for they are ever with me.
I have more understanding than all my teachers: for Thy testimonies are my meditation.
I understand more than the ancients, because I keep Thy precepts.” (Ps. 119:98-100).

“Who can understand His errors? cleanse Thou me from secret faults.” (Ps. 19:12).

Monday, December 06, 2010

The wisdom of God's love

We get to peek at the wisdom of Christ as we read the Book He authorized. But His wisdom is often missed because it crosses our expectations. The Lord forewarns us, “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.” (Is. 55:9).

His truth has often created confusion within Protestantism and divided it into thousands of denominations and offshoots. So much confusion reigned in the 1820’s that Joseph Smith had to disavow it all and strike out on his own. Like Jeroboam he came up with his own of ideas “which he had devised of his own heart; and ordained” his own religion. (1Ki. 12:33,30). Thus, “this thing became a sin: for the people went to worship before” Mr. Smith’s idols of opinion.

Rather than doing the first work of humbling himself before Christ, gaining the first love for Him and then His understanding of scripture, the originator of Mormonism struck off on his own. “There is a way that seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.” (Pro. 16:25). This is how the early Catholic fathers began their volumes of conflicting doctrines, which were eventually called holy and raised above the sacred scriptures. They had lost the “first love” and Christ removed their “candlestick out of his place.” (Rev. 2:4,5).

Truth is not always obvious. Profound truth can often evade us. Elementary fundamentals don’t work in the more complex cases—that is, as they are spelled out to the beginner. Renditions of truth must be tailored to certain situations to be true judgment. This is often the case in every civilized justice system. Nine U.S. Supreme Court justices, hundreds of state Supreme Court appeals judges, and thousands of lower judges across the land work hard with the laws to decipher truth in each case before them.

It also happens in science. Isaac Newton sought for an overarching law to explain the action of forces in the universe. Later, Albert Einstein invented another premier law because he found that Newton’s law of gravity didn’t apply to the vastness of a universe which Newton hadn’t conceived of in the 1700’s. Today, scientists are searching for another law because even Einstein’s theory of quantum mechanics doesn’t seem to encompass the universe down to the atomic level.

Truth grows, as God forces us to apply judgment to rare, or newly unique conditions. If we were to stubbornly remain stuck only on what has been discovered in the past we stagnate, and the good ship Truth moves off-track and slowly departs from the way of reality and life.

The same applies to spiritual and moral truth. God is the maker of all truth. And He desires His intelligent creation throughout His realm to move higher in their judgment skills by digging deeply in His mine of truth, in whatever form that source of knowledge He provides them, stretching mind and soul to comprehend His lessons from all the evidence found. Through Christ alone can we approach the wisdom of God. On our planet, Christ has given us three books from which to develop mentally and spiritually: the Bible, animate and inanimate nature, and our life experiences, as we observe in our senses the interaction of the first two books.

Through inductive reasoning in those three books we may glean wonderful and helpful nuggets of verity. Thus, those who follow Christ will have insight that others will lack who choose not to follow Him. A comprehension of truth will be lost on those who have not given their hearts and minds to Him as His students possess. They will stand above the sin-loving world, and be called upon when circumstances demand answers that no one else can give, such as seen in the lives of Joseph and Daniel.

The Bible gives the clearest revelation of God of all His works. And it poses its share of difficulties. The scriptures bears the stamp of divine authorship. Approached in faith, its hidden lessons align perfectly to this life, and when applied gives the Bible student the advantage over them who would design their own truth, or devise an alternative to truth that comes packaged in righteousness. “And unto man He said, Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom; and to depart from evil is understanding.” (Job 28:28). Christ’s righteousness, through the reception of His grace, gives the student of the Bible the discernment needed to navigate the deep things of God. Without the discernment that only the Holy Spirit provides a spiritual reticense resides in the mind, preventing its acceptance of the hidden riches of the Bible.

As David wrote, “I have seen an end of all perfection: but Thy commandment is exceeding broad.” “O Lord, how great are Thy works! and Thy thoughts are very deep. A brutish man knoweth not; neither doth a fool understand this.” (Ps. 119:96;92:5,6).
And Moses, “He discovereth deep things out of darkness, and bringeth out to light the shadow of death.” (Job 12:22).
Solomon, “Counsel in the heart of man is like deep water; but a man of understanding will draw it out.” (Pro. 20:5).
And Daniel, “Blessed be the name of God for ever and ever: for wisdom and might are His:…He giveth wisdom unto the wise, and knowledge to them that know understanding:
He revealeth the deep and secret things: He knoweth what is in the darkness, and the light dwelleth with Him.” (Dan. 2:20-22).

One example of difficult truth in the Bible is in Luke’s record of Jesus’ parables. In chapter 16 we hear the Lord apparently commending theft and encouraging ties to worldliness. “The lord [the employer in this parable] commended the unjust steward, because he had done wisely: for the children of this world are in their generation wiser than the children of light.” (Lk. 16:8). The king or rich man in each of Jesus’ parables always represented God, and his servants or stewards were God’s people who serve Him on earth. In this parable the king caught his treasurer embezzling his wealth; and to save himself the treasurer further stole from his master by reducing the debts of his master’s debtors. This way he hoped they would see his loyalty to them and take him into their employ once he lost his well-paid job with his present lord.

Jesus said that God praised this steward’s behavior and Jesus then went on to advise, “Make to yourselves friends of the mammon of unrighteousness; that, when ye fail, they may receive you into everlasting habitations.” (Lk. 16:9). What do we make of this? Christ then said His oft repeated injunction, “No servant can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.” (Lk. 16:13). On the surface it sounds contradictory and confusing—at the least, the parable seems to teach immorality.

So, we must look at it carefully, and assume that Jesus was speaking truthfully when He also said at the start of His ministry, “Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil.
For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.” (Mat 5:17,18). Based on everything else Christ taught we can know that He fulfilled the Messianic prophecy, “The Lord is well pleased for His righteousness’ sake; He will magnify the law, and make it honourable.” (Is. 42:21). We can conclude then that Jesus stood for integrity and honesty.

“There shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots:
And the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon Him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord;
And shall make Him of quick understanding in the fear of the Lord: and He shall not judge after the sight of His eyes, neither reprove after the hearing of His ears:
But with righteousness shall He judge the poor, and reprove with equity for the meek of the earth: and He shall smite the earth: with the rod of His mouth, and with the breath of His lips shall He slay the wicked.
And righteousness shall be the girdle of His loins, and faithfulness the girdle of His reins.” (Is. 11:1-5). Christ’s interpretation of truth would be far above what the doctors of the law would grasp.

The conclusion must be that Jesus was not giving a basic lesson in morality in this parable, but rather, bold satire and warning to expose the apostasy of the religious leadership. They had departed so far from the true Hebrew religion, and for so long mishandled the priceless principles of truth given them through Moses and the prophets, that they were now on the verge of rejecting their Messiah. So Christ, in this parable, let them know that Satan and his human philosophers were waiting to receive the deluded Jews. They might as well abandon God’s truth openly and resolutely. The Master teacher was inviting them to run to the world’s corrupted wisdom, which was darkness, since they had already turned their foot in that path.

Therefore, Jesus said in this parable, “The children of this world are in their generation wiser than the children of light.” (Lk. 16:8). But He spoke in authority and earnestness so to warn them away from such a direction. He takes no pleasure in the death of anyone who dies, and especially so the whole Jewish nation. But they were soon to be cut off from God as channels of His light to the world. They could not serve God and the world. They would stubbornly cling to Judaism after God had shown His obvious displeasure of it. Destroying Jerusalem and scattering the nation would bring the stubborn Jewish religionists under the tutelage and service of Satan. Jesus wept that satanic forces would receive them into everlasting habitations.

Christ’s next parable also may be confusing. Here we hear Jesus propounding that the dead go straight to their reward, heaven or hell. Christ weaves into this parable the traditional Greek ideas of death which all the world religions held and which now the Jews had inculcated into theirs. This contradicted scriptural truth. “For the living know that they shall die: but the dead know not any thing, neither have they any more a reward; for the memory of them is forgotten. Also their love, and their hatred, and their envy, is now perished; neither have they any more a portion for ever in any thing that is done under the sun.” And, “The dead praise not the Lord, neither any that go down into silence.” (Eccl. 9:5,6;Ps. 115:17).

The parable didn’t teach that any rich men go straight to hell, or any poor go straight to heaven. The parable’s final conclusion reveals its real intent and gives a similar meaning to the previous one Christ had told just minutes before—that God was just about to cut off Israel and create a permanent, huge divide between Himself and all who would insist on keeping their corrupted religion. This fixed great gulf separating them from God would cause the Jews torment because the God they professed to serve would now be transferring His blessing from them to the Christians. The Lord would provoke Israel to jealousy, but all who would feel the pricks of God’s conviction and turn to the scriptures to study them with newly humbled, spiritual eyesight and see that Jesus of Nazareth who they crucified was the Messiah, would plead for mercy and receive the peace of God’s acceptance once again as if they were in Abraham’s bosom. Otherwise, their soul torture would continue until it destroyed them.

Another confusing Bible story was an actual event in the Old Testament. A young prophet is sent to King Jeroboam in Israel to rebuke him sharply at his dedication of an altar to a golden calf. But the Lord prohibited the prophet from eating or remaining there for any cause, but commanded him to immediately return to Judah. However, instead of leaving Israel and returning to Judah, he stops a mile and a half from the border of Judah, and relaxes under a tree. Strange behavior indeed for a prophet of God!

Can prophets of God disobey Him? Are they so locked in with His Spirit, that they cannot deny Him or somehow lose His presence by negligence? Can they leave God any time they wish? Anyone can. But for a prophet to leave is an especially scandalous thing.

A prophet’s office is to enforce obedience to God in His laws. Prophets must hold themselves to a higher degree of obedience than they do everyone else, since they represent God. In this we get an insight into the mind of Christ; we also understand the Father better and His infinite perfection. They hold Themselves infinitely more responsible to mercy and justice than They hold Their creatures. The hallmark of the Godhead comes through the work of Christ, “Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give His life a ransom for many.” (Matt. 20:28). He lived to uplift others.

It’s right and reasonable and merciful to hold ourselves to a higher standard than we hold those we lead. This also brings to light, by contrast, the selfish mind of the devil, who keeps the opposite view of leadership. Satan and his adherents “bind heavy burdens and grievous to be borne, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers.” (Matt. 23:4).

To expect and require perfect obedience from others but not from self is perfect hypocrisy. By his disobedience this prophet, as God’s chosen representative, was saying that God is the greatest hypocrite in the world. This terrible sin was in need of swift correction. So God called on another prophet to put His wayward servant to the test. The old prophet traveled and caught up to the young prophet, made the same invitation as King Jeroboam had made, i.e. to come home and eat and drink with him. The circumstances and conditions with this elder prophet of God were different than with the wicked king. But the overall command of God still applied. “Get Home!”

This test was the loudest God could speak to this young man warning him away from his slipping into Satan’s clutches. It was designed to get his attention, to severely strike fear into him to remember his duty, and to send him running deep into his country fearing for his eternal salvation.

Judging by the reaction of the older prophet later on, we may conclude that he had hoped against hope that he could shake this young man of God out of his apathetic, faithless, and lost condition. This old spokesman for God wasn’t in the business of keeping his fellow servant out of heaven, but of saving him from his current lost condition, if possible. But prophets are held to high standard; therefore there could be no slacking on the trial, even as the young man began to fail the test.

The retired prophet added the final testing statement, which was so bold as to be easily analyzed, that a mere angel had superseded the Almighty’s prohibition to stop before getting to Judah, even to satisfy hunger and thirst. But the invitation had to be spoken to the younger man with a glaring untruth. The depth of his departure must be challenged with an equally powerful conviction. He knew about Eve and the serpent. Like King Saul, he had received the high privilege to prophesy in Israel; he had been driven by the unmistakable power of the Holy Spirit. He fully knew his mission and all its incidental requirements. By resting under the oak, he sat waiting for the snare of the enemy. He must be sobered up.

Jesus called out, “Who touched me?” when He knew who touched Him. (Lk. 8:45). Its purpose was intended to give a similar shaking and rude awaking to duty. If Christ had not called out the woman, she would have indulged in a great blessing from God without obedience to her due responsibility to give God the praise, and the great work of God in her behalf would have eventually destroyed her. Likewise, if the young prophet were allowed to indulge in entertaining himself on the great wonders he had just been a part of, without fulfilling his due responsibility to flee home, possibly people would have recognized him, Satan would influence them to subtly praise him, he would have taken the glory to himself and would have disgraced the cause of Jehovah, and the great miracles he had taken part in would have become the vehicle for his eternal destruction.

For every soul, “the Son of man is not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them.” (Lk. 9:56). But, He is also not slack on His warnings and the execution of judgment on the ungodly. 2Pet. 3:9,7. He can never be a respecter of any person, even for prophets. God plays no favoritism in the great controversy between Christ and Satan when it comes to punishing disobedience. If He did Satan would have a field day.

The human heart is deceitful above all things. Even a man of God doesn’t know what hidden intent is lurking within himself when he steps outside the definite revealed will of God. Neither did the prophet know what evil temptations already existed in Israel even though they only recently had departed from the true religion of Jehovah. No one, separated from the staying power of God, is a match for the adversary of souls.

Yet, so careless had the prophet become by now, that he missed the old man’s fabrication, which would have been easily penetrated if the younger man had retained the Spirit of prophecy. But he caved in to it and became persuaded to willingly write off the final phase of his divine orders. His resulting attack from a lion testified to his first rebellious choice in the face of his senior’s bold test. Even when told by the old prophet that he would be destroyed for his misrepresentation of Yahweh, he still did not seek repentance and the Lord’s mercy. Pride and rebellion, like witchcraft and alcohol, had captivated his soul.

This old man was not a Jekyll and Hyde personality. His commission from heaven was not to deceive, but to test. He loved his fellow prophet, as his later actions showed. But his duty to God was paramount, or he would have shared in his fellow prophet’s fate.

After the prophet is devoured by Satan the old man gets the dead body and mourns for the death of his beloved brother whom he had to test. He generously and lovingly carries his lost comrade in his own grave and buries him there, crying with tears, “Alas, my brother!” And he commands his sons, that upon his death, to bury his bones right next to the bones of his fallen brother. His role, as necessary as it was, had been a terrible, anguishing ordeal. God finally had an example of one dying to self and the story could end.

“The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple.” (Ps. 19:7).

Friday, December 03, 2010

Tangible intangibles

What does it mean to “come to Christ”? What does it mean to be “in Him”? This is not as esoteric as it sounds, but it is spiritual. And it is not so incomprehensible. Humans were created in God’s image, and thus they all have a measure of His spirituality. That is, the desire to love and be loved; the need to trust and be trusted.

The need for love and trust are pervasive in the human race. The most talented, the smartest, the agnostic and the atheist ranking in responsible positions, even to the hedonist and devil-possessed, from the most powerful to the poorest. To love and trust is inescapable. In every human heart exists the want of perfect surrender, perfect peace of mind which comes from trust and love.

This came to the Egyptian captain of Pharaoh’s body guard contingent, Potiphar by name. He happened to need a slave and Joseph was on the selling block. Potiphar found that he could trust Joseph perfectly, as Joseph had proven himself trustworthy in every task of Potiphar.

“Joseph found grace in his sight, and he served him: and he made him overseer over his house, and all that he had he put into his hand.
And it came to pass from the time that he had made him overseer in his house, and over all that he had, that the Lord blessed the Egyptian’s house for Joseph’s sake; and the blessing of the Lord was upon all that he had in the house, and in the field.
And he left all that he had in Joseph’s hand; and he knew not ought he had, save the bread which he did eat.” (Gen. 39:4-6).

In Joseph, Potiphar had a perfect, worry-free life, perfect surrender, perfect peace, perfect joy.

To be “in Christ” is to go to what He left behind─His memoir in the hearts of His friends and subjects; it is to give others the vital lessons He gave which helped them so much through to the end of their life. It is to come to the Bible and there to seek that surrender that brings the peace that surpasses all earthly peace.

To come to Christ is to allow the written words of the Bible to draw us in it is to relive the stories which are historical and true, to be a bystander or, even better, the actual person being addressed in the holy Writ. The true force of the word of God comes to the soul only under this condition: when you, the reader, is the one being reproved, gently entreated, instructed, etc.

I once read the testimony of an atheist turned Christian. This atheist got mad at Christianity and studied Evolution to help blot the name of Christ from his thoughts. But Evolution had too many unanswered questions and problems. So the person dove into a degree on biology, and in the end he saw people simply as walking bags of amino acids and molecules. This did not satisfy, so the atheist studied psychology and found humans to be just synapse responses to chemicals in the brain. This also did not satisfy. In the end this person took the Bible to personally prove it fallacious and ridiculous. But as the person read it, it started to read him. Finally, he got to the gospel of Matthew chapter 16 where Jesus was asking His disciples who people thought He was. He then pointed the question directly at them, “But whom say ye that I am?” (vs. 15).

Suddenly, as the atheist read these words he heard himself being addressed in his thoughts! Christ was speaking to him! He was shocked and converted on the spot. After all he had tried to do to discredit God and not being able to, now God was asking him if he was ready to fold and bow before the mountain of evidence in God’s favor. “Now that you have pursued every avenue to disprove Me, who do you say I am?” And the man instantly bowed his intellect and proud self. He met God at his burning bush and could do nothing else but surrender his intellectual guns and ammo.

“Open Thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of Thy law.
I am a stranger in the earth: hide not Thy commandments from me.
My soul breaketh for the longing that it hath unto Thy judgments at all times.
Thou hast rebuked the proud that are cursed, which do err from Thy commandments.
Remove from me reproach and contempt; for I have kept Thy testimonies.
Princes also did sit and speak against me: but Thy servant did meditate in Thy statutes.” (Ps. 119:18-23).

When we come to the Bible under conviction, we meet with its Author, the Person behind its construction and words. His spirit of truth that convicts the world of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment to come works non-stop to give us the frame of mind to be open to faith in Him. We are drawn in or we push our way in to see Christ to know whether or not He is who He claims to be, the perfect friend, “the Son of the living God.” (Matt. 16:16). We must know this. The Spirit of God has given us the craving to know. This atheist came to Christ in His written works. The Spirit of God brought the man into the Book, then into Christ, and finally, through Him into the bosom of God.

Every son and daughter of Adam has a God-sized hole in their heart that they have tried to use this world to fill. Supplying that emptiness is like trying to fill the Grand Canyon with water from a garden hose. Even giant buckets dumped from helicopters wouldn’t fill it. But only the Creator can supply our crater. He alone can make the hole grow smaller and smaller, as we learn of Him more and more.

Only Christ, who came in our form, one like us, can we identify with and know that He identifies with us. The Son is sufficient to fill our God-sized hole. As He said, “There is none good but one, that is, God.” (Matt. 19:17). He is our Creator, one with the Father. “His glory cover[s] the heavens, and the earth [is] full of His praise.” (Hab. 3:3).

Law or Example

“For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord; I will put My laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to Me a people.” (Heb. 8:10). “A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh.” (Ez 36:26).

This was God’s promise to Israel to take place “after those days.” (Jer. 31:33). Those days, following the execution of a long overdue punishment. “For I will take you from among the heathen, and gather you out of all countries, and will bring you into your own land.
Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean: from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you.” (Ez. 36:24,25).

But it wasn’t only their captivity to Babylon that was spoken of here, but an extended 600 year pagan domination that these words signify. So the gospel news was that the new church answered this promise to the Hebrews. That God would humble them and then work His will into their stubborn hearts. The Jews had yet to enter into their rest until they accepted in their Messiah Prince of peace. (Heb. 4:9).

This is where Saul of Tarsus was. He was physically living in Jerusalem but because grace was driven from his religion and thinking, he was far from the God of his fathers. Even while waging war in defense of Judaism he was the very one God had promised to bring back from “the heathen” “countries”, from where Isaiah prophesied Israel would be “driven to darkness” and “dimness.” (Is. 8:22-9:1).

So the Lord was bringing him in. Jesus stopped him in his tracks on the road to Damascus and then sent him out into Arabia to learn the science of salvation, to true obedience to His Law, on which Moses had elaborated. There in the wilderness Paul studied. Scales of prejudice fell from his understanding, and with clear vision he plied the scriptures like a new-found book. He discerned his true motives for defending the laws of Moses. He had been fulfilling the letter but was far from satisfying the spirit of the Law. Now that he had caught a glimpse of Christ, in his own righteousness he saw a stronghold of rebellion, and described it.

“I was alive without the law once.” (Rom. 7:9). In the quiet of the desert he wrestled as his real self was coming to light. “For without the law sin was dead.” (vs. 8). “Was then that which is good made death unto me? God forbid. But sin, that it might appear sin, working death in me by that which is good; that sin by the commandment might become exceeding sinful.” (Rom. 7:13). “For sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it slew me.” (Rom. 7:11).

“For we know that the law is spiritual: but I am carnal, sold under sin.” (Rom. 7:14). “And the commandment, which was ordained to life, I found to be unto death.” (Rom. 7:10).

Paul’s steps moving closer and closer toward perfect submission to Christ are thus:
1.) I was alive without the law once, then the commandment came. (vs. 9)
2.) Therefore the Law is holy. (vs. 14)
3.) I consent to the goodness of the Law. (vs. 16)
4.) I delight in the Law of God after the inward man. (vs. 22)
5.) With my mind I serve the Law of God. (vs. 25)

Yet, all these steps in reconciliation with the Law he found insufficient to quell the rebellion maintaining its hold on him. In the end, under full conviction of the truth and the harassment by condemnation due to his inborn hatred toward the Law’s constant instruction and blame, he gave up.

He gave up the fight against sin. Self cannot rid itself of self. The first thing that needs to go is self, that is, the controls. Self cannot be in charge of sanctifying itself. No one can crucify himself; no one can baptize himself. Someone else must crucify him; someone else must baptize him. The business of his sanctification must be somebody else’s. We must give the controls to our Savior; we must give Him our will. “He will then work in you to will and to do according to His good pleasure.” Steps to Christ, p. 47.

Paul’s flesh was not strong enough for him to prevail over his natural-born rebellion. “The law worketh wrath.” (Rom. 4:15). And his own resources could not overcome his hatred to the eternal Law’s unending correction and shame. His was the cry of Martin Luther and millions in all lands in all ages: “O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” (Rom. 7:24).

Who shall deliver me? “Not the Law. It is the cause for my rebellion coming alive! It’s what is making me feel my wretchedness!” So Paul stopped trying to work righteousness. His conclusion: “To him that worketh not, but believeth on Him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.” (Rom. 4:5). The apostle just gave up.

Who shall deliver me from my enslavement to rebellion, and free me to serve and obey God? Jesus. Jesus can. It, the Law can’t, but He , the interpreter and exemplifier of His Father’s Law, can. His Sprit will through faith in Him. “If ye abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you.” (Jn. 15:7). Walking and talking with Jesus. Abiding in Him. Walking after the Spirit and giving up on our own inherited, tasteless, loveless morality we will have peace with God and power to serve Him.

To be “in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 8:1) is like being safe in Noah’s ark while “the windows of heaven were opened” and “all the fountains of the great deep broken up”; rather than being outside the ark as “the flood came, and took them all away.”

To be in Christ is to abide under the shadow of the Almighty, trusting under His wings as an eagle protecting her chicks. (Ps. 27:4,5).

To be in Christ is to be able to beseech the Lord to show you His glory: it is to be hidden in a cleft of a rock, covered by His hand and to have all His goodness pass before you. It is to be hid with Christ in God.

To be in Christ is to be adopted into the beloved, to be brethren to God’s dear Son, to be a family member of the second Adam by redemption.

To be in Christ is to be in His presence where there is fullness of joy and pleasures for eternity.

No longer trying hard to keep the law, but receiving power to copy the Word of God come in the flesh; to focus on One who models the righteousness of the law. No condemnation for those who dearly love His truth and His merits, who have received a love for the law, especially the 4th commandment which commands us to be in Christ, exclusively for 24 hours each week.

To be in Christ is to have the Holy Spirit rest upon you, the Spirit of truth and the Spirit of grace. To be in Christ is to be wholly sanctified by the God of peace; to purify yourself, even as He is pure. (1Thess. 5:23;1Jn. 3:3).