“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.

Sunday, November 01, 2015

Taking God at His word

“This is life eternal, that they might know Thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom Thou hast sent…. Sanctify them through Thy truth: Thy word is truth.” (John 17:3,17).
There are many misconceptions of God. Most of them stem from the Bible. We talk about faith, that it is taking God at His word. Then we go to the Bible, we use the plain language of the Bible, and we still get the wrong idea of God and His character.
Take, for example, the gross error that God burns people through all eternity. How did we arrive at that? As Protestants who hold to Sola Scriptura, we can easily arrive at that falsehood from the scriptures.
“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.” (Rev. 14:9-11). “Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched.” (Mark 9:44).

I can even go a little further and tell every gay person that he or she will burn forever and ever. How do I know? The Bible said so. I’m taking God at His word, and I’m strewing hatred of God to everyone who I say that. And if “my zeal for the LORD” (2Ki. 10:16) “hath eaten me up” (John 2:17), I’ll fanatically spread contempt against Christianity all over the place. And God will smile on me. I will have “[smitten] the earth with the rod of [my] mouth, and with the breath of [my] lips [I will have slain] the wicked.” (Isa. 11:4). And I will pat myself on the back. The wicked had it coming to them.
But, does God condone my Jehuism? Does He smile on my ignorance of His true meaning for Revelation 14:9-11 and Mark 9:44? In painful chagrin He weeps. And He has been weeping in chagrin since the early post-apostolic days.
“I know thy works, and thy labour, and thy patience, and how thou canst not bear them which are evil: and thou hast tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars: and hast borne, and hast patience, and for My name’s sake hast laboured, and hast not fainted. Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love. Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent.” (Rev. 2:2-5).
Jesus has been painfully enduring everything the church has done to unbelievers that has come short of what she gave Him when the apostles led and taught. When His bride departed from her first love, she steadily fell deeper into ignorance of her Husband, and, through another husband who took His place in her heart, she wandered into loving the increasing gross misconstruals of her Husband’s will.
The devious Satan is seen in the vile son of perdition. “Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition…. For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only he who now letteth will let, until he be taken out of the way.” (2Thess. 2:3,7). And the Prince of princes has not been spared any opportunity of misrepresentation by the devil to humanity, which he has jealously enslaved.
If we would avoid cooperating with satanic forces by misrepresenting our Creator and Redeemer, we must read the Bible with a mind divinely imbued with justification power. Our hearts, if not graced with Christ’s blessed Spirit, must approach the Bible with a huge God-given need for His grace, and with a prayer on our lips. Otherwise, we will be grossly misled by the devils. Does that mean if the devils mislead us about God, God will permanently cut us off from His grace? No! He will suffer along with our mischaracterizations of Him in our own thoughts and in the minds of everyone we teach. He will be slain in His heart by His own well-meaning disciples.
“And it shall come to pass in that day, that the prophets shall be ashamed every one of his vision, when he hath prophesied… And one shall say unto Him, What are these wounds in Thine hands? Then He shall answer, Those with which I was wounded in the house of My friends.” (Zech. 13:4,6).
For years I misread Proverbs 11:30, “He that winneth souls is wise”. By its plain meaning I came up with the idea that if I didn’t convert people to God and the Bible, then I was damned to hell. How did I arrive at that conclusion? you might ask. I had read many things about how much we need to evangelize our families, our neighborhoods, our cities, the world. Jesus and His love were left out of all those compilation quotes, and my own inborn misapprehension of Jesus’ love left Him out. I got the impression that if I didn’t tell the gospel to everyone, then God and Jesus wouldn’t love me. You deny Me before men, then I will deny you. I was damned to hell. So, if I were smart, I had better get out there and evangelize in order to escape damnation. I needed to walk all over people who were the obstacle to my deliverance from the condemnation of God. Their determined unbelief was why I might have to suffer on Judgment Day. They must be saved! (And me too.)
I was taking God at His word, as I understood His word. But, the context adds much light to my darkened view of God. “The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life; and he that winneth souls is wise.” Doesn’t the context give a whole different impression from my mistaken concepts?! From the context we see that we must be made righteous before we can be of any help to others. Before working together with God, we must be reconciled with Him. Being justified by faith, we are a tree of life. Isn’t that what Jesus was? By all means, Yes He was! How could so many have followed Him in the wilderness if He had not been a tree of life? They must suffer the heat and thirst because some healed lepers didn’t take Jesus at His word to keep their mouths quiet about His having healed them, and instead they called all the lepers in the country to get to the Great Physician for His healing. After that it became more difficult for Jesus to reach the people in the cities. He couldn’t go to them, as long as lepers were surrounding Him.
So, Jesus had to live in the wilderness, and multitudes had to come into the wastelands where He was, and starve with Him as long as they and their children could take it. Why would they go to such extreme suffering to follow Jesus? Because He was full of promises and words of encouragement. He loved them and was gracious to them; He also loved God and was truthful to them. They had Someone they could trust perfectly. What a joy to have such a tree of life from their own nation! They didn’t have to travel to other countries to hear Him. God had put Him right in their midst. Moses would have been delighted to know such a Person arose to teach the Law of God so beautifully.
It was heart work with Christ. And if we consent, He will so identify Himself with our thoughts and aims, so blend our hearts and minds into conformity to His will, that when obeying Him we shall be but carrying out our own impulses. The will, refined and sanctified, will find its highest delight in doing His service. When we know God as it is our privilege to know Him, our life will be a life of continual obedience. Through an appreciation of the character of Christ, through communion with God, sin will become hateful to us.” Desire of Ages, p. 668. This was the experience of the multitudes that clamored to get into closer proximity to the Son of God. The Spirit radiating from Him reached to their conscience. He won them to the truth by His grace. His grace lowered sin’s self-protections and an opening was made in their hearts for the entrance of His convicting truths.
We need that experience for ourselves, and then we will be able to give it to others. We will win the soul of our hearers. Their souls are empty of Christ’s truth and grace. Like David, they continually mourn, “As the hart panteth after the water brooks, so panteth my soul after Thee, O God. My soul thirsteth for God, for the living God: when shall I come and appear before God?” (Ps. 42:1,2). And “the people that do know their God shall be strong, and do exploits. And they that understand among the people shall instruct many.” (Dan. 11:32,33). Those who correctly understand God and His word will be a tree of life for so many who are ready to perish.
    “There are many who have not a correct knowledge of what constitutes a Christian character, and their lives are a reproach to the cause of truth. If they were thoroughly converted they would not bear briers and thorns, but rich clusters of the precious fruits of the Spirit,— ‘love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance.’ The great danger is in neglecting a heartwork. Many feel well pleased with themselves; they think that a nominal observance of the divine law is sufficient, while they are unacquainted with the grace of Christ, and He is not abiding in the heart by living faith.
     ‘Without Me,’ says Christ, ‘ye can do nothing;’ but with His divine grace working through our human efforts, we can do all things. His patience and meekness will pervade the character, diffusing a precious radiance which makes bright and clear the pathway to heaven. By beholding and imitating His life we shall become renewed in His image. The glory of heaven will shine in our lives and be reflected upon others. At the throne of grace we are to find the help we need to enable us to live thus. This is genuine sanctification, and what more exalted position can mortals desire than to be connected with Christ as a branch is joined to the vine?” Testimonies for the church, vol. 5, p. 306.
“The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life; and he that winneth souls is wise.” What does “[winning] souls is wise” really mean besides using it as a ticket out of hell? It means that we must win hearts if we will ever bring anyone into the kingdom of Christ. And it means that such a holy endeavor must require heaven-born wisdom. We must be well-versed in the scriptures, as Jesus was. We must grasp and express the spirit of the word, not only the letter of it. We must know the promises in order to open the ears of the downtrodden people. We must faithfully present the truth in order to edify their soul. Then, we will be a tree of life, and we will “win souls”.
Winning “souls” will mean winning hearts and minds. It will no longer mean a ticket out of hell. Nor will it be an ego trip because of some fiction that we will be able to show off so many stars in our crown through all eternity. Oh boy, wouldn’t that be a wonderful eternal life! (I speak as a fool.) The great controversy would start all over again. As the above quotation says, “There are many who have not a correct knowledge of what constitutes a Christian character, and their lives are a reproach to the cause of truth. If they were thoroughly converted they would not bear briers and thorns.”

Let us wisely take God at His word. Taking serious what we read, putting it into practice, suffering under the condemnation of God’s high standard and letting His condemnation give us a need for a Saviour, let’s be thorough students of the deep, precious word from heaven. And we will be humbled and “thoroughly converted” with “rich clusters of the precious fruits of the Spirit”. Thus, we will be wise when we present the Lord’s beautiful will to others. Let us reach the soul of everyone we meet; but let us do so wisely and carefully. Let us be trees of life. “The trees of the LORD are full of sap.” (Ps. 104:16).
“Blessed is the man that trusteth in the LORD, and whose hope the LORD is. For he shall be as a tree planted by the waters, and that spreadeth out her roots by the river, and shall not see when heat cometh, but her leaf shall be green; and shall not be careful in the year of drought, neither shall cease from yielding fruit.” (Jer. 17:7,8).
“Blessed is the man… [whose] delight is in the law of the LORD; and in His law doth he meditate day and night. And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper. The ungodly are not so: but are like the chaff which the wind driveth away. Therefore the ungodly shall not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous. For the LORD knoweth the way of the righteous: but the way of the ungodly shall perish.” (Ps. 1:1-6).
“Thus saith the LORD; Cursed be the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm, and whose heart departeth from the LORD. For he shall be like the [tumbleweed] in the desert, and shall not see when good cometh; but shall inhabit the parched places in the wilderness, in a salt land and not inhabited…. The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked.” (Jer. 17:5,6,9).
“There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death.” (Rom. 8:1,2).


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