Given for the Saints at Medicalodge, Neosho, MO, on 9/15/02
"We know also that the Son of God has come and has given us under-standing, so that we may know him who is true. And we are in him who is true, even in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life" (I John 5:20).
As I was going about my daily chores recently, I heard the phrase, "Out of the box" and knew that God was about to show me something that would bless my own life, and hopefully yours as well. While contemplating how to make better use of their resources, getting "more bang for the buck," etc., business leaders may use the phrase, "paradigm shift." The definition of the word "paradigm" is "an example serving as a model; pattern." When someone refers to a "paradigm shift," he means that one must "think outside the box" to be successful. Everyone is in a box of one type or size, whether they know it or not. Let me give you an example. When I was in college in the early 60's, I rented a house from a godly old woman who, at that time, was about 75 years old. We often discussed many things, as we sat with a cup of tea in her little parlor in front of the fireplace. America was in a race with the Russians to see who could get a man on the moon first, which made her quite upset, because she reasoned, "If God wanted us to be on the moon, He would have put people there in the first place. It's not possible." When it actually happened, I asked her what she thought about it, and she stubbornly insisted, "They are making this up. It is NOT possible to put a man on the moon." In my enthusiastic youth and zeal for all things intellectual and scientific, I thought that was pretty silly, but it illustrates the point I'm making about the need to think outside the box. Born in the horse and buggy age, she was a devout church member and bible reader, and nothing in that paradigm or pattern said anything about space flight, or any kind of manned air travel. She needed a paradigm shift to get out of the box she was in.
Somewhere in the 60's, the term "generation gap" evolved, which attempted to explain the great gap in thinking that existed between the "flower children" and their parents. Actually, gaps between parents and children are as old as Jacob and 10 of his sons, or for that matter, Adam and Cain. The point is that we're born in a box, one comprised of our parents' beliefs, ideas and cultural traditions. The 60's generation was characterized by flamboyant teens saying, "Let me out of the box." They symbolically beat down the walls of their parents' boxes and emerged, whether the world or their parents were ready or not. We have friends whose four sons were influenced by that cultural revolution. After much pain and anguish and lots of counseling and praying, what they came to was that the age of the patriarch was finally over. The kids wanted no more authoritarian rules and regulations (Do it my way because I said so); they wanted to find their own way. Peace and love was their anthem, and they more or less ran amuck on the landscape seeking their own reality, which one of our friends' sons described as, "sex, drugs, and rock and roll." The parents' generation was hard right, philosophically and religiously speaking, and these kids went as far to the left as they could. The Lord helped my friends to understand that this was a reaction which would eventually seek the middle road and come back to more normal behavior, which is indeed what has happened.
I want us to think today about what kind of boxes we came out of, and what sort of box we may still be in. When we were born, whatever our parents thought and felt and believed was passed down to us. They molded us in their own image. As we grew and were exposed to the wider world, particularly through education, we saw some holes in our parents' theories. In my house, for instance, the battle was over segregation. My parents were for "separate but equal," and I was for equality for all. We never agreed on it, but the battles waged probably helped cut the umbilical cord. Most of us learned how to feel about God and the church from our parents' views. There are many people I know who have never deviated from what they learned at home. Others, like me, whom God tapped on the shoulder and said, "Come with me to a far country I will show thee," have moved out of Ur of the Chaldees and gone on to a new place with God. That always causes hurt feelings, righteous indignation, and resentment in those we leave behind. Jesus knew this. He said, "Never think I have come to bring peace upon the earth. No, I have not come to bring peace but a sword!" (Matt. 10:34, Phil). Don't you think that is a strange statement for the Prince of Peace to make? Why would He say such a thing?
For generations, since Moses brought the law down from Mount Sinai, the Jewish people had been worshipping God the very same way. There were 613 laws stipulating not only how to worship God, but how to live every aspect of their lives. There was not much flexibility there either. Do it God's way, or else. The Mishna, which came later, was formulated by the Rabbis to explain and preserve the Law. John the Baptist came as a voice crying in the wilderness, calling for repentance, or a Paradigm shift, urging them to think outside the box for the kingdom of heaven was at hand (Matt. 3:2). Jesus saw their hearts and knew that some of them were looking for ways to cut corners, ways to maintain their godly appearances, but still go their own way. This is why He chastised them verbally, "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within they are full of dead men's bones and all uncleanness" (Matt. 23:27, RSV). That's a horrific statement to make about Israel's religious leaders. Many of us have heard His comments about them all our lives, but when you see by the Spirit what He's really saying, it is very compelling for us as well. The Pharisees did their good deeds, not for the love of God, but to impress men. Jesus told them that they had received their reward already (Matt. 6:2, 5, 16). We've talked before about people who do good works, and can't wait to tell you all about them. They have had their reward already. The only solution for them and us is a heart transplant. Many centuries before Christ, Ezekiel prophesied, "A new heart I will give you, and a new spirit I will put within you; and I will take out of your flesh the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh" (Ezek. 36:26, RSV).
What is the difference between a heart of stone and a heart of flesh? Stone is dead, unmovable, and difficult to modify, while flesh is alive, warm, and receptive to change. Paul came along centuries later and said, "and you show that you are a letter from Christ delivered by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts" (II Cor. 3:3, RSV). The Pharisees belonged in the Dead Letter Box at the Post Office. Christians, living by the indwelling Spirit, are Living Letters to the world. What a difference! Jesus knew that He was going to turn their world upside down. By fulfilling the law in Himself, He was going to set them free from the boxes that religion had stuffed them into. He knew there would be resistance to change, which is why He said, "For I have come to set a man against his own father, a daughter against her own mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. A man's enemies will be those who live in his own house. "Anyone who puts his love for father or mother above his love for me does not deserve to be mine, and he who loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me" (Matt. 10:35-37, Phil).
Under law, a man was required to honor His Father and Mother, which included in it obedience. Under the New Covenant, Jesus was prophesying that what He brought would bring tumult in many households. We often get letters from people telling us of the persecution they have received from their own family because God called them higher than the church order into which they were born. Church is a big box for most people. The walls are comprised of the beliefs, dogmas, and behaviors set forth by that particular church. In America, we see a wide variety of beliefs in Christian churches. In Christianity alone, there are over 30,000 denominations. That is 30,000 different kinds of boxes in which people either struggle to live their lives, or from which they try to escape.
I read a book over 30 years ago now, called "Your God Is Too Small," by J.B. Phillips. In it, he said something that has stayed with me all these years, which was that most of us have put God in a box. That is quite different from saying that WE are in a box. He said we have put GOD in a box! To the degree we attempt to explain God in human terms, we have put Him into a box. Here's an example: if you think God only loves and saves those who believe exactly as you do, you have put Him in a tiny box. Let's say, that you have a revelation, as many have, that your church members are not the only ones going to heaven. Hallelujah! But Phillips says that what has happened is that you have let God and yourself out of the little box you were in, and now you have built Him a bigger box. I know people who seemingly never change their minds about what they think about God and eternity. Others of us have had many revelations which broke us out of the box we were in, and took us into a bigger box.
So, after I heard God say, "Out of the Box," I began to meditate about what it would mean to be out of the Box completely. No more box, no more walls, no more restraints. What would that be like, and could it ever be substantiated in scripture? Along in here somewhere, my husband Lenny asked me to print out the references for "in Christ." When I did that on my computer program, I found that the phrase, "IN CHRIST," occurs 89 times in the New Testament! (If you are interested in seeing the list, send me an e-mail and I'll e-mail it back to you). I am always blessed when I do this exercise of printing out all the scriptures on a topic so I can see them all at the same time. I have been hammering away for over a year now about the blessings we have because Christ lives in us, but I want to be clear that ALL the blessings we have been talking about here at Medicalodge are IN Christ. "I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me" (Galatians 2:20, KJV). This truth of Christ living in us and through us, is the joy and power of our Christian lives, but what struck me when I saw this list of passages referring to "in Christ," is that along with every other blessing the Christian enjoys, this one also is IN Christ. Notice the passage again. Paul says, "I live by the faith OF the Son of God." Most Christians understand that they must have faith to live the overcoming life (I John 5:4), but many think that faith is something they must work up, drum up, or fabricate somehow. When they don't get healed, or blessed, or their prayers answered, they conclude sadly, "I guess I just don't have the faith." Faith is a gift of the Spirit (I Cor. 12:9; Eph. 2:8), of course, but the passage in Gal. 2:20, makes it clear that it is Christ's faith by which we live. It is such a tremendous relief to know that everything does NOT rest on my shoulders.
So, you may ask, if it is Christ's faith and not mine, why don't my prayers get answered? Jesus said of Himself that the words He spoke were His Father's words and the things He did were what He saw His Father doing (John 5:36; 14:10). He did not walk through Galilee, wave His hand over the countryside and heal everybody. He healed those individuals whom the Father told Him to heal. He did not raise up every dead body, interrupt every funeral, but only those whom the Father told Him to bring back to life. The gifts of faith and healing and tongues and miracles, come from the Spirit of God, not the WILL of man (I Cor. 12:4). The Apostle John explains why some prayers are answered and some are not: "And this is the confidence which we have in him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have obtained the requests made of him" (I John 5:14,15, RSV). God's will is the key to everything about living the Christian life.
Those still living under law stubbornly hold on to their own wills. There's more than one reason they do that, of course, but the main thing is fear of what will happen if they surrender their will to God. When Jesus is Lord of our lives, it is His will which is done there. We never have to worry or fret about whether we're doing His will or not. He leads us and guides us into all truth, "because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in sinful man, in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit" (Rom. 8:2-4, NIV). Living by law, clinging onto our own will is another big box with high walls and rigid sides. When God shines the light of truth into our hearts to see that the Spirit of life has set us free from the law of sin and death, the walls come tumbling down. Like the walls of Jericho, which fell down when the trumpet of the Lord was sounded (Heb. 11:30), even so the walls which have held us captive to our flesh, and to the doctrines of men will come down, and we will see that we ARE free in Him!
When we burst out of the last box which holds us captive, we will be IN CHRIST. When we see what it means to be IN CHRIST, the lights go on; the trumpet of the Lord sounds from every mountain top in our lives and the fetters which held us to the earth, imprisoned in flesh, fall away. We soar in the heavenly places where we are seated with Christ (Eph. 2:6), knowing that "the eternal purpose which He has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Eph. 3:11), is now fulfilled in us! "If any one is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has passed away, behold the new has come" (II Co. 5:17). The New Creation cannot remain in a box, no matter how grand or how godly it may appear. We, the New Creation are born from above, justified, sanctified and glorified by God IN Christ (I Cor. 6:11; John 17:10; Rom. 8:17,30; II Thes. 1:10). Behold what manner of love the Father has given unto us, that we should be called the Sons of God! (I John 3:1). Many of the elect are having a rough time of it right now, but this is temporary. The Apostle Peter wrote, "And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, establish, and strengthen you" (I Pet. 5:10, RSV). Father, open our eyes to see that we are IN Christ and He is in us. We give You thanks and honor and glory and blessing for what You have accomplished for us in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen. Jan Antonsson
Jan and Lenny Antonsson
17178 Highway 59, Neosho, MO 64850 (Snail Mail)
The Glory Road
We are always happy to hear from you!
This page was uploaded to the web on 9/13/02
by Jan Antonsson, Webmeister,
and last edited on 10/27/08.