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

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A person God turned around many times.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Alive without a conscience, and really alive with a conscience

“For I was aliveG2198 without the law once: but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I diedG599.” (Rom. 7:9).
 
G2198 zaō “lively”, “quick”. G599 apothnēskō “die”, “be slain”.
 
Paul is describing his emotional strength, his gusto of his personality, the pizzazz of his natural-born premier ethics and morality. Before the Law’s conviction, his conscience was undisturbed and feeling pretty good.
 
But, we humans have a problem with our conscience. Overriding the conscience is pride, and pride doesn’t like to be told what to do. It doesn’t like to be corrected and rebuked. The conscience likes to be free from any disturbance. If our conscience is not upset, then we have what we call peace of mind.
 
But, as is often the case, ignorance of the conscience and customs creates dangerous situations. If it doesn’t bother my conscience to hit your arm, but hitting your arm hurts you, than you will have a problem with my conscience, and with me in general. And once my hitting your arm affects your performance in the family or at the workplace or in the community, then a parent/supervisor/community leader/justice department must step in and resolve my mistaken conscience.
 
The Law comes into play against my conscience. Correction, reproof, instruction, training, must take place. But, I don’t like to be corrected. I don’t like anyone telling me what to do, even if its the Law telling me. I don’t care whose Law it is, I don’t want to be told I’ve been wrong. About anything! I don’t want any restrictions. I don’t want any bondage. I’m right and the whole world is wrong. I say so, and that settles it.

I was alive before the correction/reproof/instruction came into play. I was alive in lawlessness. I could do as I pleased. No restrictions, no inhibitions, no guilt, no shame, no stress. Ahhh, anti-nomianism! Ahhh, the good life! When I get to do anything and everything that pleases Moi, then I believe that I have a freedom that nothing can compete with.
 
But, the lawless life has its downside.
 
“Their throat is an open sepulchre; with their tongues they have used deceit; the poison of asps is under their lips:
Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness:
Their feet are swift to shed blood:
Destruction and misery are in their ways:
And the way of peace have they not known.” (Rom. 3:13-17).
 
“Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.” (Gal. 5:19-21).
 
“Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God.” (1Cor. 6:9,10).
 
“And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient;
Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers,
Backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents,
Without understanding, covenantbreakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful:
Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them.” (Rom. 1:28-32).
 
The worst side-effect of lawlessness is its natural end of self-destruction.
 
“And when they began to sing and to praise, the LORD set ambushments against the children of Ammon, Moab, and mount Seir, which were come against Judah; and they were smitten. For the children of Ammon and Moab stood up against the inhabitants of mount Seir, utterly to slay and destroy them: and when they had made an end of the inhabitants of Seir, every one helped to destroy another. And when Judah came toward the watch tower in the wilderness, they looked unto the multitude, and, behold, they were dead bodies fallen to the earth, and none escaped.” (2Chron. 20:22-24).
 
“Though hand join in hand, the wicked shall not be unpunished: but the seed of the righteous shall be delivered.” (Prov. 11:21).
“Every one that is proud in heart is an abomination to the LORD: though hand join in hand, he shall not be unpunished.” (Prov. 16:5).
 
When God judges an act or an immoral condition worthy of death, He doesn’t judge arbitrarily. The wicked need to die. But in inexplicable mercy to the wicked, God lets them live on in their destructive ways, in case they turn and see the destruction they have caused, in case they repent and become renowned champions for righteousness and apostles for His Law. (And, since we are all sinners, His mercy toward us all is inexplicable and to be praised.) The whole time that He forbears His justice He is seeking ways to remove the scales from their eyes and to let conviction enter their conscience.
 
He pleads with them, “As I live, saith the Lord GOD, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live: turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die?” (Eze. 33:11).
 
But, Paul wasn’t wicked as most outlaws and criminals are deemed. His conscience wasn’t seared. But, it was still dead. With the conscience dead, his sinful nature felt alive and uninhibited. Interesting contradiction. But, once conviction came, and his conscience was quickened, his sinful nature was threatened with death. In other words, the two great powers—Christ and Satan—contending for supremacy over every soul were battling to get full control of Paul. Satan believed that he owned this energetic, educated, talented, young man whose morality thought it was right to “[breath] out threatenings and slaughter,” (Acts 9:1) to enter homes with a big “Hello brothers and sister!” and then round them up for prison, flogging, or death (Acts 8:3; 1 Tim. 1:13). Even though his rage was “against the disciples of the Lord”, it wouldn’t have mattered who his rage was against. “Hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife” (Gal. 5:20), “feet…swift to shed blood” (Rom. 3:15), “maliciousness; full of envy, murder,…deceit, malignity” (Rom. 1:29), is all devil inspired no matter who it is aimed at.
 
When we hate the sinner instead of the sin, and seek to destroy a person, it is sure evidence that we have the spirit of Satan and not the Spirit of God.
 
Yet, Saul of Tarsus didn’t think he was all that bad. But, that’s because he had accepted falsehood—religious falsehood—hook, line, and sinker. He had drunk deeply of the philosophy of “Babylon”, “the wine of the wrath of her fornication.” (Rev. 14:8). “For their vine is of the vine of Sodom, and of the fields of Gomorrah: their grapes are grapes of gall, their clusters are bitter: their wine is the poison of dragons, and the cruel venom of asps.” (Deut. 32:32,33).
 
Whenever the conscience indulges its sinful nature, whether it is facilitated by a chemical substance or a philosophy, once the “peace” wears off, the emptiness and bitter satanic possession drives the mind to fanatically avenge every misinterpretations of offences. The corrupted, self-centered reasoning powers are altered and incapable of sound judgment. Emotion rules the intellect, an intellect that is infected with self-indulgence. Self-indulgence by a chemical or philosophy has become the great love of the soul, an idol of worship that the person will protect at all cost. Every voice speaking out against that idol must be silenced. And if the philosophy permits a person to murder anyone endangering his idol of self-indulgence, then the deluded worshiper becomes an assassin in defense of his idol, under the direction of demons and the blessing of their philosophy.
 
Paul was alive, but he needed to be dead. And the Law put him to death, in a merciful way. It strongly condemned him for his lawlessness. Concepts that he never realized existed, he discovered were the most ancient, true realities. Inspite of his age and maturity level, he was an immature juvenile deliquent; he was a ruffian, a despicable excuse for a son of Adam. He didn’t deserve to live.

Thankfully, he wasn’t beyond hope. He hadn’t drunken so deeply at the fountain of the pride-indulging doctrine of  the abrogation of all Law that the Spirit of truth couldn’t get through to him. But, conviction would be painful for Paul. The withdrawals from accepted human philosophy and self-absorbing idolatry would need Paul’s powerful desire for God’s acceptance, and a lengthy rehabilitation that would take patience and faith. His rescue from self would take exposure to and reception of truth and grace. This is what Paul later could admonish the churches. “God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you.” (Rom. 6:17).
 
When he wrote, “Sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace” (Rom. 6:14) and, “Now we are delivered from the law, that being dead wherein we were held; that we should serve in newness of spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter” (Rom. 7:6), Paul wasn’t inviting the churches into a worshipfest of lawlessness. Lawlessness never removes sin; lawlessness only and forever encourages sin. Lawlessness is sin, see 1 John 3:4. His message was to free the new Christians from the evil practices that were plaguing the Roman Empire, “for the wrath is come upon [the Gentiles] to the uttermost.” (1 Thess. 2:16).

“Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness.
...for as ye have yielded your members servants to uncleanness and to iniquity unto iniquity; even so now yield your members servants to righteousness unto holiness.
For when ye were the servants of sin, ye were free from righteousness.
What fruit had ye then in those things whereof ye are now ashamed? for the end of those things is death.
But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life.
For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Rom. 6:18-23).
 
“Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid: yea, we establish the law.” (Rom. 3:31).
 
There were people who were accusing Paul of lawlessness. “…(as we be slanderously reported, and as some affirm that we say,) Let us do evil, that good may come... whose damnation is just.” (Rom. 3:8). Doing evil never comes to anything good. A supposed “good” end never justifies an evil means, because any evil method can only lead to an evil result. Did the disobedience of Eve justify any good end? No, nothing good came out of it to justify, no matter how well the serpent sugar-coated the means. That the end can justify wicked methods if it brings greater glory to any religious organization, is completely unbiblical, defies common sense, and is unconscionable religion-imposed damnation upon the whole organization.
 
If we want to bring greater glory to God, we need His Law. We need exposure to truth; then we will know how to give God glory because we will know how God defines worship. We need the Spirit of truth, as painful as that is to our conscience. The Spirit of truth makes us feel like the living dead. The power of truth always leads us to feel hopelessly lost. We feel like we’ve committed the unpardonable sin. We feel worthless because we are merit-less, we are naked of self-esteem and all societal prestige; we can’t even stand before God. Fear of rejection, therefore, causes us to resist God’s judgment against us.

Our “comeliness [is] turned into corruption.” (Dan. 10:8). That was true of Daniel, a holy man moved by the Holy Ghost, who had fainted under the condemnation. Why should we think we would remain unashamed and unguilty before the Holy One? So, let’s accept the degradation and dishonor from the divine One. The hopeless, unpardonable feeling from God is necessary in order to humble and cleanse our heart and mind. We need to be humbled. Our belief system needs to be challenged. Not once, but always.  We must lose hope in our natural wickedness. “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” (Jer. 17:9). When overwhelmed by the conviction of your shameful past, keep in mind this blessed thought: that the all-powerful God has drawn near. He is giving us His loving attention. The King of the universe! What are we that we should be remembered by the great Sovereign and His Heir? He must believe in our feeble faith and our need for His eternal love! We must be worthy of His efforts to clean us up! Oh, blessed thought!
 
Though in the confusion that we experience, the Law was starting to grow on Paul. “I delight in the law of God after the inward man.” (Rom. 7:22). He was accepting the authority of God to correct his misconceptions of sin and freedom. “For sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it slew me. Wherefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good.” (Rom. 7:11,12). Paul was seeing justice in the Law’s painful whippings! Good for you, Paul! Wow! Nevertheless, Paul’s “carnal mind” was still at “enmity against God”, for his fallen nature was not yet “subject to the law of God” (Rom. 8:7), and neither indeed could be. Consciously, he was attracted to the Law; but subconsciously, he was still antagonistic to it. Therefore, the good that he wanted to do, he couldn’t do; and the evil that he tried hard not to do, sneaked out at the most unexpected moments. What was going wrong?
 
Finally, the real break-through came to Paul when he could surrender to the offense of the truth. But, this he could only do with divine help. When he saw the excellence of Jesus, he was enabled to surrender up all resistance in his conscience. His heart opened to trust Jesus and His righteousness as revealed in the Law of His life and on the cross in His death. Trusting Jesus made all the difference for heeding reproof, correction, and instruction in righteousness. Paul was finally free from lawlessness; he was converted.
 
He was born again with a new heart. He had the power of God unto salvation, which he preached from that day onward. “But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life.” (Rom. 6:22).
 
Being free from sin is a whole different freedom than narcissistic lawlessness offers. Freedom from sin ends up in service to Someone who will continually open up new ways for bringing happiness and strength to all those around; it doesn’t end in out-of-control self-destruct mode, crashing and burning; and it doesn’t end up in the destruction of the people surrounding the slave of sin. The new creature in Christ brings life and health to everyone around, both physically and mentally. And, freedom from sin gives life to the new creature himself.
 
“If Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness.” (Rom. 8:10). “How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?” (Rom. 6:2). “Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin. For he that is dead is freed from sin.” (Rom. 6:6,7). Our fallen human nature is exterminated; and the divine nature from above gives us a new spirit. We are righteous which brings us life; and we love to do righteousness.
 
Righteousness and Law-keeping equal constant life. Unrighteousness and lawlessness equal constant death. But, the Law and righteousness only give life when Jesus is putting it in us through faith in His loving righteousness. Only when we behold the loving, Holy One of Israel, who we pierced through with many sorrows, slain from the beginning of our sin problem, can our naturally resistant conscience lower its guard, its barriers of prejudice and self-defense, so that conviction of truth can enter. Resting in the love of God in Christ we purify ourselves, desiring to be as He is pure. Without Jesus, all our law-abiding and righteousness can only be defiled and filthy.

“O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death? I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin.” (Rom. 7:24,25).
 
“Wherefore, my brethren, ye also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ; that ye should be married to another, even to him who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God. For when we were in the flesh, the motions of sins, which were by the law, did work in our members to bring forth fruit unto death. But now we are delivered from the law, that being dead wherein we were held; that we should serve [the Law of God] in newness of spirit [to Christ], and not in the oldness of the letter [of the Law without knowing Christ].” (Rom. 7:4-6).
 
“In His days Judah shall be saved, and Israel shall dwell safely: and this is his name whereby he shall be called, THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS.” (Jer. 23:6).

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