Given as a devotional at Medicalodge, Neosho, MO on 4/22/01
"As he was now drawing near, at the descent of the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen, saying, "Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!" And some of the Pharisees in the multitude said to him, "Teacher, rebuke your disciples." He answered, "I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out." (Luke 19:37-40).
Let the rocks cry out; let their voices praise; let the mountains sing, their anthems raise in glory to God, Hosanna to Him; palm fronds in hand, a visual hymn.
When the Pharisees complained to Jesus that His followers were making too much ado over His triumphal entry into Jerusalem, He replied that if the people didn't speak His praise, the rocks would cry out and do so. That verse blesses me beyond words. Sometimes we think that if we don't do it, it won't get done. This is the bedrock of all spiritual workaholism. Some have said, "If not me, then who?" Jesus made it plain that all creation responds to the will of God! The sweet singer of Israel wrote, "Let the floods clap their hands: let the hills be joyful together" (Psalms 98:8, KJV). Isaiah echoed the thought, "For ye shall go out with joy, and be led forth with peace: the mountains and the hills shall break forth before you into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands" (Isaiah 55:12, KJV). These verses bring me great joy because they confirm what I've been getting from the Spirit for years now, which is that whatever needs to be done, was finished before the foundation of the world in the heart of the Father, and His work continues to be done in the present moment by God Himself: "Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ:" (Phil. 1:6, KJV). Consider these passages: "I have glorified thee on the earth: I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do" (John 17:4, KJV). This should settle for all time that Jesus accomplished what He set out to do, i.e., the salvation of the world (Jn. 3:16-17; I Tim. 2:4). In fact, the Hebrew writer confirms, "For we which have believed do enter into rest, as he said, As I have sworn in my wrath, if they shall enter into my rest: although the works were finished from the foundation of the world" (Heb. 4:3, KJV). What God had planned to do, was accomplished in the heavenlies (in Spirit) when He first embraced the thought.
The works of the Father in creation were done; all things were made by the hand of the Son (Col. 1:16). The crowning glory at the heart of His plan was reproducing Himself in a lowly man (Ps. 8:4-5; Heb. 2:6).
Consider the following statements made by the New Testament writers about the place of man in God's plan: the kingdom was prepared for us (Matt. 25:34); we were chosen in Him that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love (Eph. 1:4); we have the hope of eternal life (Tit. 1:2); and finally, our names were written in the Lamb's book of life (Rev. 17:8), all from before the foundation of the world! This fills my heart with joy and my mouth with praise for the one who created us to be in relationship with Him, who chose us to be part of His family, and who called us to be holy and blameless and unreprovable in Him. He is our Father and our Mother; Jesus is our older brother; and the Holy Spirit is our teacher (Jn. 16:13; I Jn. 2:27), comforter (Jn. 16:7), and counselor (Is. 9:6). He is the power of God, the wind beneath our wings. For me, God is the only reason I can think of to get up in the morning, knowing that He is in charge, not me, and that He will bring good out of all the messed up lives I see everywhere around me (Rom. 8:28). He is my joy, my peace, and my strength to go on. He is "my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my buckler, and the horn of my salvation, and my high tower" (Ps. 18:2).
If I stop my voice, God will raise up others, to declare His love to Christ's sisters and brothers. The Gospel is a love story, incredible Good News, given to everyone, both Gentiles and Jews (Rom. 1:16).
The Holy Spirit is the Power of God who raised Jesus from the dead (Rom. 8:11) and thereby brought salvation unto all (John 1:9; Rom. 11:26, 32; I Tim. 2:4). He bids us open our eyes to see Him as He is, to cry out to the creation that He is risen and He is Lord. Though we do not yet know fully who He is, when we see Him as He is, we shall be like Him. Our hearts swell with thanksgiving as we marvel with John the beloved, "Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not" (I John 3:1-2, KJV).
To be God's son, what honor and glory (Heb. 2:10); the perfect ending for our sad little story. We rose up from the slime pits of sin, to be light bearers, carrying the Christ within (Gal. 2:20).
Jesus showed us the heart of the Father in the parable of the Prodigal Son, found in Luke, Chapter 15. As old as time, the story of the wayward son is as new as today's headlines. The story has "sex, drugs, and rock and roll," and grace to cover it all. In the muck of the pigpen, the soiled son came to himself. He saw with eyes wide open that he had sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Rom. 3:23), and he realized that he had left the love of his father. The father's love reached out like a magnet and drew him home to the fellowship that awaited him there. As poor as he was, hungry, ragged and probably still reeking of hog manure, he was greeted with open arms by his father's unconditional love. What a testimony of forgiveness, which extended even to his pigpen! When he realized that, it gave him the impetus to go home. None of us could ever find the courage to go home if the Holy Spirit didn't assure our spirits that the work is done; that we are forgiven; that our God and our Father is kind to the "ungrateful and selfish" (Lk. 6:35, RSV), and that Christ died for the ungodly (Rom. 5:6). Recently, we got an e-mail from someone with a horror story of how she was scared up front at the altar call by the threats of hellfire and eternal damnation. That kind of conversion by terror never produces lasting fruit for the kingdom. And Jesus did say, "By their fruits you will know them" (Mat. 7:16,20). Nowhere in the bible does it say that God will approve us or love us because of our superior interpretation and/or knowledge of the scriptures, or by our doctrine. It is by our fruits and the way we love one another that the world will know we belong to Him (Jn. 13:34-35). It is the power of the unconditional love of God, who is waiting for the whole world to come home, that draws us to feast at his table, where He has killed the fatted calf and awaits our arrival with a ring and a robe and ultimately, a crown (James 1:12; Rev. 2:10) (End Note "A). Jesus said that there is more rejoicing in heaven over one lost soul who is found than there is over the 99 who never strayed (Lk. 15:7). "Just so, I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents" (Luke 15:10, RSV).
The sheep are gone. They all have run away. The shepherd goes to bring them back, each and every stray. He finds them all, wherever they may roam. Even on the mountain dark, He leads the sheep back home.
All creation is longing and yearning for God to manifest Himself fully through His sons (Rom. 8:19). At that time, the entire creation will be "delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God" (Rom. 8: 21-22). What a wondrous, long awaited day that will be. Isaiah foresaw it long ago: "Sing, O heavens, for the LORD has done it; shout, O depths of the earth; break forth into singing, O mountains, O forest, and every tree in it! For the LORD has redeemed Jacob, and will be glorified in Israel" (Isaiah 44:23, RSV). "Sing for joy, O heavens, and exult, O earth; break forth, O mountains, into singing! For the LORD has comforted his people, and will have compassion on his afflicted" (Isaiah 49:13, RSV).
The earth will swell with joy and pride; the forests, fields, and every tide join mountains and hills in adoration; fallen creation has full restoration (Acts 3:21).
The meaning of atonement has been debated by theologians for lo, these many centuries. There are clues all through the Bible, but I believe we have only scratched the surface of what treasures await us as the full meaning of God's love for us unfolds. As I was walking recently, the Lord was talking to me about the blood covenant He made with Abraham (Gen. 15) (End Note "B"). It was a common ritual in that part of the world in his day. Two people making a covenant, would kill several animals (God told Abraham to kill a heifer, a goat, a ram, a turtledove and a pigeon). (Gen. 15:9). They divided the bodies in half (except for the birds) and laid the pieces on either side of ground sloping toward a ditch in the middle, allowing the blood to run in the ditch. Then, the parties to the covenant walked in the blood (Jer. 34:18), which was a visual, symbolic way to say, "Thus can you do to me if I fail to keep the covenant." The text says that Abraham was filled with dread (Gen. 15:12), because, of course, he knew he could never keep his part of the agreement.
God made His covenant with the seed of Abraham (Gen. 9:9; 17:7). The seed, Paul says, is Christ (Gal. 3:16). Christ was in the loins of Abraham at the time and it was to Him that God made the covenant. It was a covenant from everlasting to everlasting (Gen. 17: 7, 13, 19; II Sam. 23:5; I Chron. 16:17; Isa. 24:5; 55:3; 61:8; Jer. 32:40; Eze. 37:26; Heb. 13:20). The Lord showed me that since Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and their children, great grandchildren and great, great grandchildren violated the covenant, they were all subject to death, and God could have justifiably killed them all according to the terms of the agreement. To make this point crystal clear, God gave the law, which Paul said was perfect, but added, that "if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain" (Gal. 2:21). And again, based on the law He gave Moses, God would have been justified in spilling the blood of all of Abraham's offspring, for every one of them violated the covenant, except Jesus. Instead, HE allowed US to nail HIM to the cross (II Cor. 5:18). He was the one who willingly offered His blood to satisfy the agreement. We were hopeless, helpless, selfish and ungrateful, and still, it was His love for us, rather than our sins, which put Him on that Roman cross that shameful, glorious day. Oh, what an awesome God we serve, what a loving heavenly Father! Glory!
Christ died "once for all," the scriptures declare over and over. There are three verses I'd like to include here about this: The first is "The death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God." (Rom. 6:10, RSV); "He entered once for all into the Holy Place, taking not the blood of goats and calves but his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption" (Heb. 9:12, RSV). and "For Christ also died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit" (I Pet. 3:18, RSV).
God never needed to be reconciled to us (End Notes "C" and "D"), for it is He, Paul says, who consigned all men to disobedience: "For God has consigned all men to disobedience, that he may have mercy upon all" (Romans 11:32, RSV). Adam's sin was never a surprise to God, for Christ was "the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world" (Rev. 13:8, KJV). He left the portals of glory (Phil. 2:6-11) to take on flesh, to enter into death, so that by His resurrection, He could bring life to all. "For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive" (I Cor. 15:22, KJV). This is a one verse, one sentence definition of the atonement. We all were worthy of death, but through Christ, we now enjoy eternal life! Praise God forever more!
Christ tasted death for everyone, the gift of Father, Spirit and Son. His blood shed was always the plan, bringing peace with God for every man (Eph. 2:12-17).
Indeed, God has always had a plan, hidden in His heart from the foundation of the world. He has told us about it through the prophets, for, "Surely the Lord GOD does nothing, without revealing his secret to his servants the prophets" (Amos 3:7, RSV). The secret was that "the light which lighteth every man that comes into the world" (Jn. 1:9), would draw ALL MEN into the kingdom. "and I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself" (John 12:32, RSV). Of this event, Jesus prophesied, "The law and the prophets were until John: since that time the kingdom of God is preached, and every man presseth into it" (Luke 16:16, KJV). And, "It is written in the prophets, And they shall be all taught of God. Every man therefore that hath heard, and hath learned of the Father, cometh unto me" (John 6:45, KJV). According to these marvelous verses, all shall be taught of God and all those who have heard and have been taught, will come to Him. Hallelujah! Christ is the fulfillment of all the prophets taught (Acts 3:18). Likewise the restitution of all things was spoken of by the prophets, according to the Apostle Peter on the day of Pentecost: "Whom the heaven must receive until the times of restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began" (Acts 3:21, KJV). The redemption of all is God's will (II Pet. 3:9), and was always in the Father's heart: "And he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times will have reached their fulfillment, to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ. In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will" (Eph. 1:9-11, NIV). If we do not declare this good News, the rocks will cry out in praise of His glory.
Our Father's love draws us to Him; He loved us 'ere we knew Him. We'll spend eternity at the end of this story sharing with creation His unending glory.
Jan and Lenny Antonsson
17178 Highway 59, Neosho, MO 64850 (Snail Mail)
End Note "A": "The Robe, The Ring, and The Crown"
End Note "B": "The Blood Covenant"
End Note "D": "The Atonement," by A.P. Adams
The Glory Road
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