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Occupy Till I Come

By Jan Austin Antonsson

 

The Glory Road,

A Kingdom Highway

"I tell you, that to every one who has will more be given; but from him who has not, even what he has will be taken away." (Luke 19:26, RSV) 

June 28, 1998

Neosho, MO

For several days last week, I heard the phrase, "Occupy till I come." When I looked it up, it was part of the parable recorded in Luke 19, which reads,

"A man of noble birth went to a distant country to have himself appointed king and then to return. So he called ten of his servants and gave them ten minas. (See End Note "A") 'Put this money to work,' he said, (Occupy till I come, King James Version) 'until I come back.'

"But his subjects hated him and sent a delegation after him to say, 'We don't want this man to be our king.' "He was made king, however, and returned home. Then he sent for the servants to whom he had given the money, in order to find out what they had gained with it.

"The first one came and said, 'Sir, your mina has earned ten more.' " 'Well done, my good servant!' his master replied. 'Because you have been trustworthy in a very small matter, take charge of ten cities.'

"The second came and said, 'Sir, your mina has earned five more.' "His master answered, 'You take charge of five cities.'

"Then another servant came and said, 'Sir, here is your mina; I have kept it laid away in a piece of cloth. I was afraid of you, because you are a hard man. You take out what you did not put in and reap what you did not sow.' "His master replied, 'I will judge you by your own words, you wicked servant! You knew, did you, that I am a hard man, taking out what I did not put in, and reaping what I did not sow? Why then didn't you put my money on deposit, so that when I came back, I could have collected it with interest?'

"Then he said to those standing by, 'Take his mina away from him and give it to the one who has ten minas.' " 'Sir,' they said, 'he already has ten!' "He replied, 'I tell you that to everyone who has, more will be given, but as for the one who has nothing, even what he has will be taken away. But those enemies of mine who did not want me to be king over them, bring them here and kill them in front of me.' " (Luke 19:12-27, NIV).

I read this parable with interest, eager to find out the meaning of "Occupy till I come." I'm sure everyone has had the experience of reading something in the Bible at different points in his or her walk, and getting new insight each time, but I didn't get much out of this on my own. So, I asked the Lord to explain to me what He wanted me to know from the story.

As I've said in other recent writings, we're here in Neosho, MO on the family farm for a little "time out" from real estate. While we're here, Lenny's "assignment" from the Spirit is to be a light and a witness of God's love, grace, and power in the men's Sunday School class at a Baptist Church, a strange thing indeed since neither of us are Baptists. My assignment is to write, which I'm doing. Each Sunday, I ask the Lord where I should fellowship. At times, I have visited the Church of Christ, where many of my family attends, and at other times, I have felt urged by the Spirit to attend the Baptist Church with Lenny. Both these churches bring me to my knees in prayer and supplication before the Lord to grace them with the full revelation of His power, His majesty, and His glory. It is in this context of intercession and Spiritual travail for these brethren, that I heard, "Occupy till I come." That's the King James translation. The NIV reads, "Put this money to work," and The Emphatic Diaglott renders it, "Trade till I come." In other words, I take it to mean, "get on with whatever I've called you to do." I went to Calvary Baptist with Lenny last Sunday, and was feeling really dragged down by legalism. The Pastor told the flock WHAT to do, and what NOT to do, without telling them that they had access to the POWER of the Spirit and the LIFE of Christ living in them. (Gal. 2:20).

When I heard, "Occupy till I come," again the next morning, it came to me in that way the Spirit has of revealing an entire sermon in few words, that the churches are doing the best they can with what they have received. I've lamented in several recent journals ("Waiting For The Sonrise," and "My Sheep Know My Voice,") that these churches and probably most religious groups, lead you to believe that if you just follow the rules and regs, you too, can be a "good Christian." I groan within myself when I hear it because it never works. Never, in the history of the world, has one human being ever been able to keep the commandments of God without the Spirit's help! Never!

Worse than that, and far more repugnant to me, some think they are OK because they haven't done, as Joe Beam puts it, "the top ten sins," which he points out change from region to region. It appears that these folks have weighted sin so that some transgressions are worse than others, even though the Apostle James says, "For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it." (James 2:10) To illustrate this point, let's talk about the Pharisees for a moment. Oh, did you think they all died out after the first Century? No way! I'm here to report that they are alive and well and walking around on planet earth in 1998. Yesterday, I went to the C of C for Sunday School and Church. During the class, the teacher read the story recorded in Luke 18, about the Pharisee and the publican. You will remember that these two men went to the temple to pray. The Pharisee prayed, "God, I thank you that I am not like other men: robbers, evildoers, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.' " (Luke 18:11-12). Humble guy, wasn't he? But the tax collector prayed, "God, have mercy on me, a sinner." (Verse 13).

Jesus' comment about the two men was this, "I tell you that this man, (the tax collector) rather than the other, (the Pharisee) went home justified before God. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted." (Vs. 14).

Now, surely, the point of this story that no one should gloat about being without sin is as plain as the nose on your face, even without the many, many other scriptures which proclaim the fact. (Rom. 3:23; 7:23; I Jn. 1:8, to name a very few). Throughout his ministry, Jesus hammered out the message that the religious establishment was equally if not more sinful than the gentiles, because they had polluted the oracles of God and were teaching for commandments the doctrines of men. (Matt. 15:9; Mk. 7:7). How could anyone miss the obvious truth in this story, I thought, yet right after the Sunday School teacher read the verses, a guy who was old enough to know better, sitting right in front of me in the class, piped up and said rather petulantly, "Well, I don't know why I can't be proud that I don't sin." Say what? I couldn't believe it, but there it was. The teacher started to squirm, probably at the expression on my face, and I burst out with, "But we're all sinners! Look, when I was growing up in this congregation, I thought that surely sex sin was the worst one of all. Yet, Jesus said, "You say, do not commit adultery, but I tell you that whosoever looks on a woman, and I think it would be true for women looking at a man as well, with lust in his heart, has already committed adultery. (Paraphrase of Matt. 5:28). Now, is there anyone in this class who has never lusted? I'd like to see your hands." Well, the wife of the Pharisee on the front row spoke up and said, "Oh, I'm sure He didn't mean just a fleeting thought. We all have those. He probably meant dwelling on it." So, according to her theology, you can lust a little bit and it won't be counted against you as adultery. How long do you suppose you could hold that lustful thought and not be charged? a second? 5 seconds? a minute, two? And some of these books these good Christian women read. Can one be charged with adultery for reading a Janet Daily novel, I wonder?

Oh, these poor people. By their remarks, it almost seems like they think that Jesus wouldn't have had to die for them, He could have just stubbed His toe and it would be sufficient given their level of purity. No wonder Jesus screamed at the Pharisees, "Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men's bones, and of all uncleanness. Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity." (Matt. 23:27-28). I started to say, had Jesus been in that class, He would have made short work of their ignorance and their pride, but He was in that class - in me and in some of the others who clearly did not resonate to what the man said. One woman behind me, for instance, said, "Well, there are people in the world who don't sin either." (I suppose she meant that there are also good moral people).

I'm not just picking on the Church of Christ here. All churches have their share of those who think that just because they obey the rules and regs outwardly, their inner sins are hidden and therefore do not count. The problem is, they've never met the Lord. They've never been subjected to the Holy Spirit's light within, for it is His job to convict the world of sin. (Jn. 16:8). To me, the major sin of the Pharisees, past and present, is failing to see that without God, we are nothing. Without the Spirit's intervention, the best righteousness we can produce by main strength and effort is but filthy rags in God's sight. (Is. 64:6). This brings me back to the parable recorded in Luke 19. The man of noble birth who went away to obtain a kingdom, (See End Note B) asked his servants to "occupy," or follow his instructions until he returned. The nobleman seeking a kingdom is a picture of Jesus, our king. When we do not allow HIM to rule over us, to guide us and lead us, we get into trouble every time. In fact, as it was in the parable, spiritual death is inevitable when we go along in our own light.

Along with "Occupy till I come," I also heard the phrase, "coin of the realm." What does that mean, I thought? Again, the Spirit flashed another whole sermon into my mind with a few words. The "coin of the realm" is the word of God, who is Jesus Himself. (Jn. 1:1, 14; Rev. 19:13). He said, "Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away." (Matt. 24:35). When Jesus ascended into heaven, what we were left with to lead us and guide us into all truth was the Spirit of God. Remember that Jesus said the reason He had to go away was so the Comforter would come. (Jn. 16:7). This Comforter is the Spirit of truth, who "will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak, and He will declare it to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, for He will take what is mine and declare it to you." (Jn. 16:13-14). What has happened in organized religion, among other things, is that the scriptures, the written words in the Bible have replaced the Spirit of truth. Somewhere along the line, the words of life got codified, quantified, and corrupted by man's judgment. Without the Spirit, who searches the heart of man, (Ps. 139:1; I Cor. 2:10) and reveals what's there, it is easy to deceive ourselves and others about how righteous we are. It is in that secret place of the heart where pride in our own ability dwells. Jesus put pride right in there along with adultery, fornication, murder, theft, covetousness, lasciviousness, blasphemy, and foolishness. (Mk. 7:22). It is pride, Paul says, that causes us to fall into condemnation of the devil, (I Tim. 3:7) and Proverbs states that "The fear of the Lord is to hate evil: pride, and arrogance, and the evil way." (Prov. 8:13). Wow, it looks to me like pride just hit the "top ten sin" chart.

The Pharisees in Jesus time had the law reduced to manageable portions which they could appear to keep. Yet Jesus railed at them, "Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices, mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law, justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former. You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel." (Matt. 23:23-24).

Though we don't tithe mint and cumin today, nevertheless, each group has its own little rules about what you must do and cannot do to be OK. Obeying God with the mind rather than with the Spirit leads to the same spiritual arrogance which ruled the religious community in Jesus' day. It seems to me that taking pride in doing the external acts of worship, or in the fact that we don't do the visible sins, but neglecting to ask for the inner cleansing of the heart produces exactly the same results today as in the first century. (Matt. 23: 25-26). Pharisees are made, not born, you know. Keeping the commandments has NOTHING to do with being righteous before God, as Saul of Tarsus found to his great dismay when the Lord shined the blinding light of truth into his spiritual darkness on the Damascus Road. (Acts 9:3-6). He later wrote to the Philippian brethren that he counted his human credentials as dung compared to the glory "of knowing Christ, the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings." (Phil. 3:8-10).

There is truth in every line, on every page of the Bible, but I cringe when people refer to it in stentorian tones as "The Word Of God," because that phrase is so deceiving and leads to so much self aggrandizement. The Bible contains words written by men under the influence of the Holy Spirit, but still, it is just words written by men, until the Spirit breathes life into them. Now, if you get your hackles up over that statement, answer this question for me. Why is it that all these fighting fundamentalists, who swear that the Bible is the Word of God, which they obey - every word, to hear them tell it, cannot agree on what it really says? For instance, the Church of Christ insists that you are not saved until you are baptized, and immersed at that. The Baptists say, "No, you are saved when you invite Jesus into your heart and Baptism is just an outward sign of obedience." The C of C says they "speak where the Bible speaks and keep silent where it is silent," yet you will never see them speaking in tongues, (I Cor. 12:14; 14:5; Acts 10:45-47) laying hands on for healing, (James 5:14) prophesying, (I Cor. 14:1-4) washing one another's feet, (Jn. 13:14) or experiencing the manifestations of the Holy Spirit which were normal everyday occurrences in the early church. This is the more amazing since this group says of itself that it is the restoration of the early church. Go figure.

Many Baptists and most Church of Christ members say they don't believe in the baptism of the Holy Spirit, when in fact, this is what John the Baptist said Jesus was here to do for us - baptize us with the Holy Ghost and with fire. (Lk. 3:16). Both the C of C and the Baptist Church claim that most of mankind will burn in an eternal hell from which there is NO redemption, yet there are something like 100 scriptures which declare that "all flesh shall see the salvation of God." (Lk. 3:6; I Tim. 2:4; I Jn. 2:2). (See End Note "C"). I've used examples that come quickly to mind, but you can come up with many more inconsistencies on your own, I'm sure. Why so much disagreement on what these inspired words actually mean? Because man has tried to interpret the Bible with his mind, with his logic and reason and it just doesn't work that way. "As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts." (Isa. 55:9). Our dear friend Marvin Cope says that there is just one story in the entire Bible, that of the prodigal son. The whole book is a revelation of man's departure from God, and God's provision for him to return.

My thanks to our friend John Gavazzoni for this compelling imagery: picture a scribe sitting with his quill and scroll, dutifully copying the ancient texts which recorded the written laws and prophecies of the Jewish people. As he is toiling over his task, Jesus walks up to him and stands in front of his writing table. Irritated by the interruption, he snaps, "Get out of my way. You are blocking the light. I can't see." This is why Jesus said, "Search the scriptures; for in them you think you have eternal life, and they are they which testify of me. And you will not come to me, that you might have life." (Jn. 5:39-40). "The words I have spoke to you," Jesus said, "are spirit and life." (Jn. 6:63, RSV. The King James reads "spirit and truth"). And they still are today! Yes, of course, we can gain insight into spiritual truths by reading the Bible, as many scriptures attest, but we must go to God for the written words to become life in us and to us. Otherwise, they become death, for "the letter kills, but the spirit gives life." (II Cor. 3:6).

From Luke's parable, the Spirit showed me that those faithful servants who invested the nobleman's money (the coin of the realm) and gained an increase on it, are those Christians who not only read the Bible, but ask the Spirit for guidance into all truth. They do not look to man to explain it, nor do they follow man's rules. Instead, they look to the shepherd to lead them into the green pastures beside the still waters of life. The seed planted in their heart bears fruit 100 fold. (Matt. 13:23). The unfaithful servant is like those whose seed fell on rocky soil and died from lack of nourishment, or from tribulation and persecution. (Matt. 13:20-21). These, who have hidden their master's coins in a napkin because of fear, are like those Christians who are afraid to seek the Spirit's light because it might lead them away from what their church leaders teach. Their fear is justified, for in some churches, failure to follow the rules can result in criticism and excommunication, and in others social rejection for being "weird." There is a high price to pay for being an individual. I felt it yesterday in the Sunday School class. I kept thinking, "You'd better shut up, Jan. They are going to know you are different and toss you out." It has happened to me twice before, and it was a blessing each time in the long haul, but still, not comfortable while it was happening.

I have not gone to Sunday School class at either church for a few weeks, preferring to remain home and write until time to go to Church. Part of the reason I stayed home was that in fundamentalist churches, even though women can have no voice in the worship service, nevertheless, it is clearly their duty to get their man to church. So, rather than show up "without my man," and have to answer the question, "Where's Lenny?" I stayed home. I rationalized this decision by saying, I know that a) they wouldn't approve of his being in the Baptist church at all, and b) they do not believe that God directly leads us to do anything today, in any way other than by reading the Bible, and then, such leading is only to be trusted if what we read agrees with what the church teaches. However, this Sunday morning, as I turned on the computer in preparation to write this journal, I felt an overwhelming urge to go to the Church of Christ Sunday School class and "speak the truth." So, I did, and left at home any concern over whether they would understand it or not.

When asked where Lenny was, which was the first question I heard, I replied that his "assignment" is to be at the Calvary Baptist men's Sunday School class. From the back row, I heard, "Well, they need all the help they can get." "Be careful," I smiled, "God might send him here next." At that, one said, " We know we need help," and another agreed, "Yeah. We can use all the help we can get." After church was dismissed, the Sunday School teacher said to me, "How long will you be here?" The answer was the same, "The Spirit has sent Lenny to Calvary Baptist church, and we don't know how long the assignment will take." At that, he grinned at me and said, "Well, we (meaning Churches of Christ) didn't ever study the Spirit. So, we don't understand these things." That was very liberating to me, for there was absolutely no censure or disapproval in him, just a frank statement of where he was. I had peace and joy for the first time in years of visiting that church, for the Lord showed me by experience that there are those there who are open enough to acknowledge that God does some things that they don't understand. It felt good. It also felt good just to speak what was true, and let the Spirit do the follow-up and explain it, or not as the case may be.

It is increasingly clear to me that we are all where we are because of God's choice for our lives, not our own. (Ps. 139: 13-16; Eph. 1:11; II Tim. 1:9-10; Heb. 3:1). As Isaiah said of Israel, the everlasting prototype of the elect of God, "I took you from the ends of the earth, from its farthest corners I called you. I said, 'You are my servant'; I have chosen you and have not rejected you." (Isa. 41:9). "Many are called, but few are chosen," Jesus said. (Matt. 20:16; 22:14). What an enigmatic statement. Yet, the calling and election of God are part of His program. The Apostle Peter declares, "But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light." (1 Pet. 2:9 ). I believe that the time is here when the King of kings and Lord of lords will appear in his glory and will be accompanied by "his called, chosen and faithful followers." (Rev. 17:14). The Spirit has been impressing me that God is coming for His church soon. He alone can present the bride without spot or wrinkle to the bridegroom so that the perfection, the glory, and the holiness of Christ is all that may be seen. (Eph. 5:27).

When the nobleman in Jesus' parable came back, having received his kingdom, he had the unrighteous and rebellious servants put to death. That's a pretty harsh punishment for disobedience. One of the side effects of not asking the Lord to interpret the Bible is that we're left no choice but to take the words literally, at face value. That would make this king a mighty hard man, and our fate one to be feared when our own King Jesus returns, which, of course, most of the religious world affirms. When I asked the Lord about the meaning, I got a couple of scriptures in a flash, both showing me that this killing of the unrighteous servants represents the same thing as the burning of the tares, in Matt. 13:37-43. In that story, the tares are the things that offend, "the children of the wicked one." If you take the story literally, you will for sure quake in your boots, if you are honest, because it talks about the tares being burned in a furnace of fire. There are those who use this verse to prove that all unrighteous people will burn in hell. When you consider that there is no one righteous, no not one, (Rom. 3:10), then such a hell would be a pretty big bonfire and there would not be one soul left to fellowship with the Lord! If you read the verse by the Spirit, however, you will understand that our God Himself is a consuming fire, (Heb. 12:29) and that it is His promise that the tares in each of us, every aspect of our lives which is not resting on the foundation of Christ, i.e., the hay, wood, and stubble, will be burned up. Nevertheless, Paul affirms that, we ourselves shall be saved, "so as by fire." (I Cor. 3:11-15).

Please know that God never has been and never will be soft on sin! He will utterly destroy it out of His holy presence! Everything that exalts itself above the rule of Christ, every disobedient thought and action, and every branch that bears no fruit, will be cut down, cast off, and burned in the fire, and all that will be left in us is Christ, "the hope of glory." (Col. 1:27). Jesus said of himself, "For without me, ye can do nothing." (Jn. 15:5). God's refining fire is a glorious promise when explained by the Spirit, but a fearful judgment if you only go by the words themselves.

There are words of life and truth in the Bible, and especially, there is redemption and forgiveness on every page! Thus, the Pharisee in Jesus' story about the two men going to the temple to pray, and the Pharisee in the Sunday School class are to be loved and embraced, and restored to perfect fellowship with the Father, possibly by the refiner's fire, or the fuller's soap. (Mal. 3:2). How it is done is not my concern, but at the end of the process, they too, will be purified along with the other sons of Levi. "And He shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver: and he shall purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer unto the Lord an offering in righteousness." (Mal. 3:3). All legalists have only seen through a glass darkly, ( I Cor. 13:12) as is true of everyone of us to one degree or another, for we have only seen that which God allowed us to see, in His time, and for His purposes. Here's the end of the story according to the words of John the Apostle, "Beloved, now are we the sons of god, and it does not yet appear what we shall be; but we know that, when He shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see Him as He is." (I Jn. 3:2). When that day comes, we will all realize the truth set forth in Hebrews 8:11-12: "No longer will a man teach his neighbor, or a man his brother, saying, 'Know the Lord,' because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest. For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more." In that day, we will all praise the Lord. Our mourning will be turned into dancing, and He will replace our sackcloth with garments of joy. (Ps. 30:11).

In the meantime, we all follow after the Lord to the best of our ability with the light we have been given. Jesus said, "No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God." (Luke 9:62 ). Therefore, having put our hands to the plow, we shall "occupy till He comes." In that great and joyful moment when the day star has risen in our hearts, (II Pet. 1:19) we will know as we are known and we will be like Him. Lord, haste the day! Amen.

 

Jan and Lenny Antonsson

 

 

17178 S. Highway 59, Neosho, MO 64850 (Snail Mail)

  

End Note "A": "ten minas" "One talent equaled 60 minas (see Mt. 25:15) and a mina equaled 100 drachmas, each drachma being worth about a day's wages. Thus the total amount was valued at between two and three years' average wages, and a tenth would be about three months' wages." (From NIV Study Bible Notes).

 

End Note "B": "Our Lord manifestly alludes to the case of Archelaus, who went to Rome to solicit the Emperor that he might be reinstated in his father's kingdom; and the Jews sent an ambassador after him to petition and plead against him. But however he was confirmed in the kingdom of Judea and when he returned, took ample vengeance of his enemies and opposers." (Note in Emphatic Diaglott). (The NIV Study Bible points out that the herods sought kingdoms for themselves when they went to Rome to ask to be appointed rulers over the Jews. Herod Antipas, son of Herod the Great was such a ruler at the time of Christ. He was tetrarch over Galilee and Perea, though Matthew and Mark refer to him as 'king.' because that was his popular title among the Galileans, as well as in Rome." It also explains why he was extremely worried about Jesus, this "King of the Jews.")

 

The Glory Road

 

We would enjoy hearing from you!

 

jantonsson@aol.com

Last edited on 11/07/08.