If there's anything that will set a fundamentalist or any other kind of legalistic Christian on his ear quicker than God's ultimate reconciliation for everyone, it's telling him that the concept of free will does not exist in the scriptures! In case you don't know what I'm talking about here, I'll give you my version. The doctrine of free will implies that God set the universe in motion; established rules and regs about how to please Him, and then went away to see how well we keep them. They don't express it in just those terms, but it amounts to the same thing. God chooses, blesses, and then saves those who obey Him. According to this overworked dogma, man must first of all, figure out God's rules. Hopefully he's pretty smart, because they are complicated, confusing, and often unfair, as the existence of over 28,000 denominations demonstrate, none of whom can agree on what the rules say, let alone how to keep them. Worse than that, the consequences of getting it wrong are dire in the extreme: eternal damnation in a fiery hell for ever and ever. Secondly, after figuring out the rules, man must keep them perfectly, never disobeying willfully or even inadvertently. Ignorance of the rules will not keep you out of hell, nor will any other excuse you may name. As my family smiles and says about bureaucracy, "rules is rules." Obey or perish, is the bedrock of the doctrine of free will. Or another way to put it, is that God, though all powerful, cannot control His creation, but must sit back and wait to see what man's response will be to His dictates, and then act accordingly. I don't know about you, but I get a picture here of man sitting on the throne, rather than God.
As I've said in other journals, we are here in Neosho, MO, because God has sent Lenny to be a witness to a group of Baptists, who want to learn more of God, but who constantly struggle trying to balance new light with old doctrines. They want to know more of the Spirit's fullness, but they appear desperately afraid of going "outside the box," which in their case is conventional Baptist thinking. Lenny has interceded for these men at the throne of grace for almost four years now, day and night. God has shown him that He will sovereignly take them from the place of uncertainty where they now stand to a place of light and life in Him. As any of us who have made that journey can attest, it is one fraught with fear and pain and doubt, but it is the most important journey we will ever make, as we leave behind the traditions of men (Matt. 15: 6,9) and submit ourselves to the teaching of the Holy Spirit. (Jn. 16:13; 1 Jn. 2:27). Man's doctrine is very seductive, full of promises of glory as reward for obedience and threats of eternal damnation as punishment for failure, and it is very compelling, which is why so many people are afraid to leave the safe harbor that they find in church.
That "their church," as they refer to it, is often weak and ineffective seems beside the point for some, because they fear leaving behind the safety and approval to be found by staying within the walls of established theology. Let me be clear that I am not advocating wholesale abandonment of church here, not at all, although sometimes, He does call us out of the establishment for a time. Lenny and I had been out of the organized church for 20 years or so before He called us to Neosho. The main thing is that we listen to the Lord, not man, about where we're supposed to be. The church, of course, will always say that if you are to be "found faithful," you are to be there every time the doors are open. Be that as it may, Jesus said, "My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me." (Jn. 10:27). In the pew or out of the pew, what I am pleading for is that the Holy Spirit will "break in pieces the gates of brass, and cut in sunder the bars of iron," (Is. 45:2) that hold men captive to religion, and the need to worship on "this mountain," as Jesus told the Samaritan woman at the well. What I pray for is the unveiling of what He told this woman to expect: "Jesus declared, "Believe me, woman, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem.... Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth." (Jn. 4: 21, 23-24). Don't you ever wonder how churches who quench the gifts of the Spirit and who insist on controlling God's manifestations in church can say they are worshipping in Spirit and in truth? I've wondered that for 30 years.
God is patient and long suffering, and He is not willing that any should perish, (II Peter 3:9) which means to me that He does not intend to leave us in ignorance forever. Therefore, ask the Lord about this subject of free will. I will include many scriptures which have spoken to me, but each one must go to God, who giveth liberally and upbraideth not, (James 1:5-6) for whatever I put in here will only have scratched the surface of what's there "in the Book." People have commented about the great quantity of scriptures I include in these journals, but the main reason I do it is because, I'm not making up these truths out of my own mind. They are written everywhere in Scripture for him who has eyes to see and ears to hear. God revealed them in olden times by the prophets, Peter asserted, and added this: "For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit." (II Pet. 1:21). In other words, listen up. This is what the Spirit is saying to us today!
This week, the Spirit lead me to read the awesome story of how Hezekiah, king of Judah, learned that God's will is supreme, and how it is being done on the earth, NO MATTER WHAT IT LOOKS LIKE! It is found in II Kings 18-20. This thrilling account is well worth your time to read. Turn off the TV, settle back with a modern language translation of the Bible, and enjoy a tale that would captivate prime time audiences, and help them as well, could any producer be found to make this epic drama of ancient Israel, who was once more up against it as their enemies surrounded them.
The story is set in approximately 718 BC, according to the study notes in my NIV Bible. Assyria was the whip God was using at that time to punish the wayward sons of Jacob for their sins. First, the Northern Kingdom, Israel, had been carried away as part of the mass deportation policy of the Assyrians, and now Judah was being threatened as well. In this life and death struggle for freedom, Sennacherib, king of Assyria, was the bad guy. The record states, "The king of Assyria invaded the entire land, marched against Samaria and laid siege to it for three years. In the ninth year of Hoshea, the king of Assyria captured Samaria and deported the Israelites to Assyria. He settled them in Halah, in Gozan on the Habor River and in the towns of the Medes. All this took place because the Israelites had sinned against the LORD their God, who had brought them up out of Egypt from under the power of Pharaoh king of Egypt. They worshiped other gods and followed the practices of the nations the LORD had driven out before them, as well as the practices that the kings of Israel had introduced." (II Kings. 17:5-8). An earlier chapter, II Kings 9:12, gives an account of all their wickedness which brought about this punishment.
The text reports, "The LORD warned Israel and Judah through all his prophets and seers: "Turn from your evil ways. Observe my commands and decrees, in accordance with the entire Law that I commanded your fathers to obey and that I delivered to you through my servants the prophets." But they would not listen and were as stiff-necked as their fathers, who did not trust in the LORD their God." (II Kings. 17:13-14). God's judgment against them is recorded in verses 17-18: "So the LORD was very angry with Israel and removed them from his presence. Only the tribe of Judah was left, and even Judah did not keep the commands of the LORD their God. They followed the practices Israel had introduced."
However, even though they did not keep the law perfectly, Judah was blessed to have on the throne, King Hezekiah, who "trusted in the LORD, the God of Israel. There was no one like him among all the kings of Judah, either before him or after him. He held fast to the LORD and did not cease to follow him; he kept the commands the LORD had given Moses. And the LORD was with him; he was successful in whatever he undertook. He rebelled against the king of Assyria and did not serve him. From watchtower to fortified city, he defeated the Philistines, as far as Gaza and its territory." (II Kings. 18:5-8).
Nevertheless, even though Hezekiah did his best to avoid conflict, and did pay tribute to Sennacherib, (II Kings 18:14-16) the Assyrian monarch stepped up his aggressive tactics. He sent his field commanders to Jerusalem, where they stopped outside the wall and called for the king to come out. I'm not sure what ancient protocol was used here, but instead of appearing himself, Hezekiah sent out Eliakim, the palace administrator, Shebna, the secretary, and Joah the recorder to meet the field commanders, and hear their words. These bad guys uttered the same sort of threats that Slobodan Milosevic has been using against the Albanians: "Your life as you knew it is over. Surrender, or die." The interesting thing about his threats was that he claimed divine authority: "Furthermore, have I come to attack and destroy this place without word from the Lord?" The Lord himself told me to march against this country and destroy it." (II Kings 18:25). Now, that would have made me think he was just a pompous egotist, except for all the scriptures which indicate that in fact, God did just that. Like all tyrants, he used fear and intimidation to strike terror in the hearts of the people listening to him on the wall of Jerusalem:
"Do you not know what I and my fathers have done to all the peoples of the other lands? Were the gods of those nations ever able to deliver their land from my hand? Who of all the gods of these nations that my fathers destroyed has been able to save his people from me? How then can your god deliver you from my hand?
"Now do not let Hezekiah deceive you and mislead you like this. Do not believe him, for no god of any nation or kingdom has been able to deliver his people from my hand or the hand of my fathers. How much less will your god deliver you from my hand!"
"Sennacherib's officers spoke further against the LORD God and against his servant Hezekiah. The king also wrote letters insulting the LORD, the God of Israel, and saying this against him: "Just as the gods of the peoples of the other lands did not rescue their people from my hand, so the god of Hezekiah will not rescue his people from my hand." (II Chr. 32:13-17). He gave them the choice of starving to death in the siege he planned for Jerusalem's capture, or being taken back to a good land, (Assyria) "where every one of you will eat from his own vine and fig tree and drink water from his own cistern.. Choose life and not death!" He shouted. (II Kings. 18:31-32).
Needless to say, Hezekiah was distraught, and in the custom of the day, he "tore his clothes and put on sackcloth and went into the temple of the Lord'." (19:1). Listen to Hezekiah's prayer: "And Hezekiah prayed to the LORD: "O LORD, God of Israel, enthroned between the cherubim, you alone are God over all the kingdoms of the earth. You have made heaven and earth. Give ear, O LORD, and hear; open your eyes, O LORD, and see; listen to the words Sennacherib has sent to insult the living God. "It is true, O LORD, that the Assyrian kings have laid waste these nations and their lands. They have thrown their gods into the fire and destroyed them, for they were not gods but only wood and stone, fashioned by men's hands. Now, O LORD our God, deliver us from his hand, so that all kingdoms on earth may know that you alone, O LORD, are God." (II Kings 19:15-19). Notice that he doesn't feel it necessary to make positive confessions here. He is a realist. He is honest in telling God how He feels. He says the truth about what is, and acknowledges that only God can deliver them. He further recognizes that God alone is Lord over all the kingdoms of the earth, something that both the despot Milosevic and NATO would do well to consider today. God alone is sovereign. He alone determines the fate of men, no matter how many global positioning satellites we have in orbit or how many B-2 Stealth Bombers we deploy.
Like a lot of us in trouble, sometimes we need a word from outside ourselves to bring us comfort. This is why God raised up prophets and seers. In this instance, the mighty man of God, Isaiah, son of Amoz, sent Hezekiah a message of hope and good cheer. I find it interesting that Isaiah didn't run over to the palace and and speak to the king in person. Instead, he sent a message, whether written or verbal, the text does not say. However, the message is clear, graphic, and violent. It's great literature, expressed poetically, which thrills my soul, so I'm going to include it here. Here is the Word of the Lord for Sennacherib:
"This is the word that the LORD has spoken against him: 'The Virgin Daughter of Zion despises you and mocks you.
The Daughter of Jerusalem tosses her head as you flee.
Who is it you have insulted and blasphemed?
Against whom have you raised your voice
and lifted your eyes in pride?
Against the Holy One of Israel!
By your messengers
you have heaped insults on the Lord. And you have said,
With my many chariots I have ascended the heights of the mountains,
the utmost heights of Lebanon.
I have cut down its tallest cedars, the choicest of its pines.
I have reached its remotest parts, the finest of its forests.
I have dug wells in foreign lands and drunk the water there.
With the soles of my feet I have dried up all the streams of Egypt."
" 'Have you not heard?
Long ago I ordained it.
In days of old I planned it;
now I have brought it to pass;
" 'But I know where you stay and when you come and go
and how you rage against me.
Because you rage against me and your insolence has reached my ears,
I will put my hook in your nose and my bit in your mouth,
and I will make you return by the way you came.'
Once more a remnant of the house of Judah
will take root below and bear fruit above.
For out of Jerusalem will come a remnant,
and out of Mount Zion a band of survivors.
The zeal of the LORD Almighty will accomplish this.
"Therefore this is what the LORD says concerning the king of Assyria:
He will not enter this city or shoot an arrow here.
He will not come before it with shield or build a siege ramp against it.
By the way that he came he will return; he will not enter this city,
declares the LORD.
I will defend this city and save it,
for my sake and for the sake of David my servant."
That night the angel of the LORD went out and put to death a hundred and eighty-five thousand men in the Assyrian camp. When the people got up the next morning, there were all the dead bodies! So Sennacherib king of Assyria broke camp and withdrew. He returned to Nineveh and stayed there." (II Kings 19:21-36)
In this marvelous prophecy are words that have sustained me, thrilled me, encouraged me and upheld me throughout the long ordeal Lenny and I have been through, in which we lost everything the world holds dear, except our lives and our loved ones. Those words are these: "For out of Jerusalem will come a remnant, and out of Mount Zion a band of survivors. The zeal of the LORD Almighty will accomplish this." (II Kings. 19:31). It is repeated in Isaiah 37:32. Do you hear it? This is not about what I can accomplish by my own hands, which in fact, is what idols are and why God hated idolatry so very much! (Deut. 27:15; II Chron. 32:19; Is. 17:8; Micah 5:14; Rev. 9:20). Psalms 9:16, states that "the wicked are ensnared by the work of their hands." Isaiah says of the disobedience of Jacob, "Their land is full of idols; they bow down to the work of their hands, to what their fingers have made." (Isa. 2:8). This, my friends, is the essence of the difference between man's will and God's will. Man's will is finite, limited by time and space and governed by what he can accomplish with his own hands. God's will is from eternity, from before the foundations of the world. "The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands." (Ps. 19:1).
As the church prepares to celebrate Easter, we need to remember that the death, burial and resurrection of Christ was not brought about because Satan triumphed through Judas' betrayal. Isaiah says that Christ was "smitten of God, and afflicted." (Is. 53:4). That jumped out at me this week, as I read the verse while thinking about man's will versus God's will. Only God's will prevailed on Golgotha, no matter what the Romans and the Jews thought at the time as they cried out, "Crucify him. Crucify him." (Matt. 27:22-23). One of the steps to maturity in the kingdom is the revelation that we do not live in a two power universe. To hear some Christians talk about the power of the devil, you would think that there is some doubt about who is supreme, God or Satan. The Scriptures are very clear on this, dear ones, and because I view blaming Satan for everything as a great obstacle to spiritual growth, I want to repeat one more time that God alone is responsible for everything. If you don't believe it, pick up your Bible right now and read these scriptures which show that God takes all the blame, because He alone gets the glory: "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." (Deut. 32:39). "Shall a trumpet be blown in the city, and the people not be afraid? Shall there be evil in a city, and the Lord hath not done it?" (Amos 3:6). "Come and let us return unto the Lord; for he hath torn, and he will heal us; he hath smitten, and he will bind us up." (Hosea 6:1). "I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil; I the Lord do all these things." (Is. 45:7). Take the time to mark these passages in your own Bible and the next time you begin to fear Satan, take them out and read them again. There's joy and peace in this, because we have a heavenly Father who takes care of EVERY eventuality in our lives, no matter how bad it looks.
God can make these statements about Himself because He ALWAYS knew what He would do about the sin issue. John the Revelator tells us that the cross of Christ was always in the heart of God, for he refers to Him as the "Lamb slain from the foundation of the world." (Rev. 13:8). Does this sound like God EVER had any thoughts about man's so called "free will" being able to steer him toward the light? I think not! In fact, if you have a computer program with the Bible in it, search for the words "free will." They do not appear, anywhere. Isn't this significant since all fundamentalist doctrine has to do with God's rules and man's response to them? The NIV translation uses the term "freewill offering" in passages having to do with a need expressed by Moses or the priests, and the people's response to it under the law. The King James translates "freewill" as "willing," in Ex. 35:29; "free offering," in Ex. 36:3; and "voluntary offering," in Lev. 7:16. In other words, there were things under the law that were mandatory, which they had to do or die. There were other things, like a request for gold, silver, supplies, and such, in which there was no mandate to do it, but rather, the response was from the heart.
The essence of fundamentalism is really strikingly like the Old Covenant law: in it, there are good things and bad things. If we choose the good, we'll be blessed, but if we chose the bad side of the tree, (Gen. 2:17; 3:4-5) we're going to get it. Where does this fit in with grace? It does not fit at all. What does this have to do with the "Zeal of the Lord of Hosts?" Nothing at all. It celebrates man's efforts, not God's. Hezekiah, for example, lived under law, and was subject to its provisions, rewards, and punishments. Now, even though the text says that he "trusted in the LORD, the God of Israel. There was no one like him among all the kings of Judah, either before him or after him," (II Kgs. 18:5) nevertheless, neither his works nor his faithfulness could accomplish his deliverance. It was the Zeal of the Lord of Hosts that sent an angel into Sennacherib's camp and killed 185,000 of his men and sent him running back to Ninevah, where he stayed until he died by the sword, as the prophet Isaiah had said he would. (II Kings 19:35-36).
The reason I cling to the Zeal of the Lord to accomplish what needs to be done, like a drowning man clutches at any little twig, is because God has spent the last three years cutting off all my accomplishments and abilities at the roots. He showed me in Scripture and in my life that nothing I can do will alter His will for my life. During those dark months when no money was flowing in and we were losing our house to foreclosure, (End Note A) the Spirit compelled me to read Ezekiel, a truly scary book, Jeremiah, Daniel, and Isaiah, among many others. When you read these incredible works in one or two sittings, the sovereignty of God is just overwhelming. He moved kings and nations around like pieces on a chess board. (II Kings 24:13; I Chron. 6:15; II Chron. 36:17; Ezra 5:12; Jer. 22:25; 27:8; 29:21; 32:28; 34:1-2; 46:26; Ezek. 29:19; 30:10). Through the prophet Jeremiah, God refers to the Babylonian monarch, as "my servant Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon," (Jer. 25:9; 27:6). Now, after giving the terrible events of what is going to happen to the disobedient sons of Jacob, God, through Jeremiah, then says, "In the same way will I break the yoke of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon off the neck of all the nations within two years.' " (Jer. 28:11). This makes it plain, that God sent Nebuchadnezzar to do a job, and when it was accomplished, after two years, He intended to take him out. Rulers, kings, nations, men were only doing the will of God. Jeremiah described Israel as a "scattered flock," with Nebuchadnezzar as the "last to crush his bones." (Jer. 50:17).
God used these magnificent scriptures and our life experiences to show me without doubt that the Holy One of Israel is still sovereign. He is still in charge. He still moves dictators, nations, kings, presidents, mistresses, and ordinary men and women like you and me around like chess pieces on a board. As we were going through our cleansing fires, which I've come to call the loss of material things, I noticed that when I would say anything to a Christian friend about the fact that God brought these events to us, his eyes would sort of glaze over and then begin to dart here and there. He would squirm and maybe cough, and then abruptly change the subject. This was when I began to get it that religion is still man's way to attempt control the deity. If you don't believe me, turn on your TV set on Sunday morning and listen to some of these televangelists, who promise, health, wealth, and prosperity, if you only follow their teaching. "Just send in your $20," they advise, "and you too, can have your own video showing you how this power of God works only for good in your life." I heard Kenneth Copeland say recently, "Bless God. He never means you to have a bad day." Oh yeah? Ask Hezekiah, David, Jesus, Paul, Peter, John, and Stephen about that.
So, I repeat, man's religion has always been designed to control the deity so that we'll have a nice life. Stone henge marks the spot of ancient attempts to take charge of man's destiny. Modern church doctrine is remarkably similar when it attempts to tell you how you can influence the will of God by the work of your own hands. The Old Testament is full of man's idolatry, worshipping what their fingers had made. God hated it! His nostrils breathed out fire and destroyed the offending ones, (Lev. 10:1-2) but still, the children of Israel continued to worship that which was made of stone, wood, gold, bronze, and brass. In this II Kings' account of Hezekiah's reign, it says he "removed the high places, smashed the sacred stones, and cut down the Asherah poles." And get this, he even "broke into pieces the bronze snake Moses had made, for up to that time the Israelites had been burning incense to it. (It was called Nehushtan)." (II Kings 18:4). You'll remember that God had commanded Moses to make the brazen serpent and hang it on a pole so that anyone who had been bitten by the serpents God Himself had sent among the people, could look at it and live. (Num. 21:8-9). (Give me fire any day, Lord, over snakes. Yikes!) Histrionics aside, my point here, is that consistently, the people missed God, and worshiped something else. Isn't this true today? What do we have elevated on the pole of our lives? Technology? Sports? Money? How about our church? Think about it.
What I came to when I saw the reaction people had to hearing me say that God sent all this disaster to us was this: the reason Christians refuse to give up their misguided belief in their own free will, is that they are still seeking to find some little piece of ground to stand on, something in themselves that is worth salvaging, something that they can take credit for when they stand before God. Fortunately for all of us, it can never be that way. When God created Adam in His image and likeness, the text says that he was "naked and not ashamed." (Gen. 2:25). When he began to take matters into his own hands, and partook of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, he knew that he was naked, and he began to squirm. Next, he and Eve sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves. (Gen. 3:7). I submit to you right now, that all religious rituals and practices are about making fig leaves so that we won't have to stand naked before God. We clothe ourselves in those filthy rags, Isaiah calls our own righteousness. (Is. 64:6). As Gary Sigler would put it, we are trying to fix up old Adam there in his casket, and make him look presentable. But, no matter what we do to him, he is still dead, buried with Christ, and if we keep hanging out at the funeral parlors in this land, we'll never walk in the newness of life that Paul promised belong to those who are dead to the law, buried with Christ in baptism, and who now rise up to walk in newness of life. (Romans 6:4). We need to see that the works of our hands belong to Adam. They are dead. We are told to reckon ourselves dead as well. (Rom. 6:11). Why? Because, Paul says, "He that is dead is freed from sin." (Rom. 6:7).
I know that without the Holy Spirit's quickening these words, they are just a sounding brass and a tinkling symbol, (I Cor. 13:1) but I long for God's people to see who our Father really is. I long for them to understand that the reason the whole creation will bow the knee to Christ, and that all flesh shall see the glory of God together is because He is glorious! He is powerful! He is worthy of all praise and honor! When we say, "The Lord did this and that in my life. Hallelujah," but then have to add, "because I was obedient," or "because I was faithful," we are taking part of his glory. We are taking credit for what He alone has done through us! Now I know that people who refute free will are prone to ask, "Well, are you saying we don't have to do anything at all?" No, I'm not. I'm not sitting on the couch eating bonbons here. I'm sitting here at my computer, sore back notwithstanding, typing as fast and as furiously as my fingers will move, but I know that it is God who is empowering me to do it. That's the issue in the whole matter: Who gave the orders and who gets the glory? From before the foundations of the world, Paul said, our calling was established, "not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began." (II Tim. 1:9). Think of the majesty of that. Think of the grandeur of being chosen "before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love." (Eph. 1:4). Think about the splendor of being raised up together with Him and "seated in heavenly places in Christ Jesus." (Eph. 2:6). I want you to notice that Paul speaks of all these wonders as facts in existence now! We don't have to wait to experience this glory. We only have to implore the Father to open our eyes to see it right now.
The church members we fellowship with are all looking for that day which they call "the second coming," and then things will change, they say. At that moment, they expect to experience and enjoy kingdom living. Would you like to know that the term "second coming" is another one, like "free will" which is no where to be found in the Bible, though the computer searched from Genesis 1:1 to Revelation 22:2? Jesus' second coming occurred on the Day of Pentecost, when He returned in like manner as He went, in Spirit and in power. (Acts 1:11; 2:16-21). I am NOT saying that Jesus will NEVER return in His glorified body, because obviously, He has already done that many times and will return many more times! Paul reported that He saw Him. (Acts 22:17-18). Stephen saw Him. (Acts 7:55). John saw Him. (Rev. 1:13-17). Many people throughout the ages have seen Him with their own eyes. I have seen Him in my spirit, and I am most certainly convinced, that were I to see Him in his glorified flesh, like Paul and like John, and Daniel I would fall down as one dead before Him, for no one can stand in the presence of God and live.
When we think we have to wait for what the church has billed as "the second coming," an unscriptural term, as I have demonstrated, we are robbed of the joy of His presence now. Today, He lives in us, (Gal. 2:20) our hope of Glory. (Col. 1:27). How much closer could He be? Would we feel closer to Him if He were seated on the throne of David in Jerusalem and we had to share Him with all of earth's billions, and at that, have to wait thousands of years before our turn came to have a few precious moments with Him? Would you really trade that for what is available now? By the way, for an eye opening exposition of this scenario, get J. Preston Eby's "Looking for His Appearing" series. You can find them on the web, or write to him. (End Note B). He was the first one who opened my eyes to see the impossible dream which the church fantasizes about when they describe Christ's physical return to set up a physical throne in Jerusalem. "The kingdom of God does not come with observation," Jesus declared. Why? Because, "The kingdom of God is within you." (Lk. 17:20-21). Oh, that the church would quit looking for it with physical eyes, and ask God to open up the eyes of the spirit to see Him as He is, for even now, He is appearing to those who love Him and who are called to follow Him. At this moment, the church is very like the first century Jews, who because they had a preconceived notion of how the Messiah would look when He arrived, they missed His coming altogether! John Gavazzoni gives a wonderful word picture of this. He says, imagine a scribe sitting trying to read with a scroll of Holy Writ, and Jesus walks up to stand in front of him. At that point, the scribe looks up at Jesus and says, "Get out of my light. I'm trying to learn about the Messiah."
There are many more scriptures that pertain to God's sovereign will. I have but scratched the surface. No treatise on the subject would be complete without mentioning Pharaoh and Moses, Jacob and Esau. Paul uses these men to show the complete sovereignty of God's will in the lives of men and women. Read Romans 9 and rejoice, for it displays magnificently that God is the only one with whom we have to do. Paul quotes the Lord saying to Moses, "I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion." (Romans 8:15). The glorious conclusion? "So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy." (Verse 16). Could it be any clearer that it is not man's will which counts, but God's mercy? God's sovereign election is not designed to frustrate, though no doubt Pharaoh was mightily frustrated, as well he might have been, because before Moses and Aaron ever appeared before the mighty ruler, the book of Exodus reports, "The LORD said to Moses, "When you return to Egypt, see that you perform before Pharaoh all the wonders I have given you the power to do. But I will harden his heart so that he will not let the people go." (Ex. 4:21). What was the purpose of this seeming exercise in futility? Paul tells us, "For the scripture saith unto Pharaoh, 'Even for this same purpose have I raised thee up, that I might shew my power in thee, and that my name might be declared throughout all the earth." (Ex. 9: 16; Rom. 9:17).
As Moses stood this side of Jordan, casting a wishful eye across to the promised land which he could not enter, he reminded the children of Israel of who they were, how they had been chosen, and the object of all they had experienced at the hands of Pharaoh. He asked them,
"Has any other people heard the voice of God speaking out of fire, as you have, and lived? Has any god ever tried to take for himself one nation out of another nation, by testings, by miraculous signs and wonders, by war, by a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, or by great and awesome deeds, like all the things the LORD your God did for you in Egypt before your very eyes?"
Then he tells them the reason for the mighty works in Egypt:
"You were shown these things so that you might know that the LORD is God; besides him there is no other." From heaven he made you hear his voice to discipline you. On earth he showed you his great fire, and you heard his words from out of the fire. Because he loved your forefathers and chose their descendants after them, he brought you out of Egypt by his Presence and his great strength, to drive out before you nations greater and stronger than you and to bring you into their land to give it to you for your inheritance, as it is today. Acknowledge and take to heart this day that the LORD is God in heaven above and on the earth below. There is no other." (Deut. 4:33-39).
This is the point I've been trying to make throughout this journal. The One who "works all things by the counsel of His own will," (Eph. 1:11) has our lives, our destiny, our purpose and our works all in His hand! There is no other but the Lord of Hosts! Our calling was established before the foundation of the world. I heard that verse, Eph. 1:11, many, many times before its meaning registered in my spirit. It took the refining fires of God to burn it into my consciousness that God is all there is. "He is all and in all." (Eph. 4:6). Now, it is the cry of my soul, the longing of my heart that somehow my puny words, inadequate though they be, might help even one person to see that God has our lives all planned out. He always did. Until He reveals this to us, we cannot find peace, because if anything about our well being, safety, or salvation depends on our own efforts, we know in our heart of hearts that it is doomed to fail. When we break through the mists and see that God is totally sovereign, and that He has our lives completely ordered, then we can relax into the Everlasting Arms and experience the peace and freedom from worry and fear that our soul pants for as the deer pants after the waterbrook. (Ps. 42:1). This is why the word of the Lord to Sennacherib, spoken by the prophet Isaiah, jumped out at me: "Long ago I ordained it. In days of old I planned it; Now, I have brought it to pass." (II Kings 19:25). This is the essence of the mystery of the Gospel. (Rom. 16:25; Eph. 3:9). It is the closed book which was sealed with seven seals, the book that no man could open save the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David. (Rev. 5:1-5). It is "the mystery that has been kept hidden for ages and generations, but is now disclosed to the saints." (Col. 1:26).
God opens our eyes to see Him in His time, but every man in his own order. (I Cor. 15:23). God always works through a remnant for the benefit of the many. There's a picture of this remnant, the elect, the first fruits of God, in Lev. 2:14. " 'If you bring a grain offering of first fruits to the LORD, offer crushed heads of new grain roasted in the fire." The elect are being roasted in the fire to burn up the hay, wood and stubble in our lives, (I Cor. 3:12-13) and the end result will be the purification of the sons of Levi. (Mal. 3:3). The works of our own hands must go to the fire, leaving only the works of God's hands in evidence. Through Christ, He will bring forth His body, the Church victorious and triumphant. Then, all flesh will see the Christ revealed in the sons of God.
I confess that in the discouragement and frustration of my youth, I was very hard on the church on Main St., USA. As I grew in the Lord, the Spirit began to show me what wonders and glory God actually has in mind for this glorious Spiritual entity, bought and paid for by the blood of Jesus. He alone can bring her through the birth canal where holy and perfect, she will be caught up to the throne of God. The church is the man child of Rev. 12:5. Christ alone can present "to himself, a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish." (Eph. 5:17). When I read this verse, my spirit leapt within me, for I saw that Christ presenting "to himself" this glorious Church meant just what Isaiah said: "THE ZEAL OF THE LORD OF HOSTS WILL PERFORM IT." (II Kings. 30-31; Is. 37:32). This is the gospel Paul preached and wrote about, and Paul declares of it, "Although I am less than the least of all God's people, this grace was given me: to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to make plain to everyone the administration of this mystery, which for ages past was kept hidden in God, who created all things. His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, according to his eternal purpose which he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord." ( Eph. 3:8-11). Now that, dear ones, is glory!
I listen to fundamentalists preachers rail on about how to do God's work (as if He needed any help here), how to be consecrated, dedicated, purified, sanctified, deified, canonized and holy, and I grind my teeth and bite my tongue. Yet, we know that they are doing the best they can with the light they have been given. Our prayer is that God will shine the light of His glorious gospel into their hearts so they can give up the works of their own hands and rely on His grace and His word which goes forth from His mouth that shall not return unto Him void, but shall accomplish the thing whereunto He sent it. (Is. 55:11). The mouth of the Lord has spoken it and He will bring it to pass; He has purposed it, and He will also do it. (Is. 46:11). In that glorious day, "Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low; and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain: And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together." And how do I know this will come to pass? "FOR THE MOUTH OF THE LORD HAS SPOKEN IT." (Is. 50:4-5).
Jan Austin Antonsson
Jan and Lenny Antonsson
17178 Highway 59, Neosho, MO 64850 (Snail Mail)
End Note A: To read an account of how we get to Neosho from California, read the journal entitled, "Only Fools or Sons of The Most High Camp Out In Missouri In The Dead of Winter."
"Only Fools or Sons of The Most High!"
"The Breath Of God"
The Glory Road
We'd enjoy hearing from you!
Last edited on 10/6/08