Given for the Saints at Medicalodge, Neosho, MO, on 7/7/02
"Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom" (II Cor. 3:17, RSV).
America celebrated the 4th of July this week, our National Independence Day, and while I am as patriotic as most, and certainly proud to be an American, it is clear to most of us that our independence, like everything else, is a gift of God, based on the death, burial and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, rather than on any government decrees. We've talked a lot here about freedom, and have sung that little chorus which goes, "We are free in Him. We are free in Him, and no one can take it away." This goes far beyond the political hype which is in vogue right now, and beyond the flap caused by the man who sued to ban the Pledge of Allegiance from schools because the words "Under God" are in it. He claimed that this violates his Constitutional Right to freedom of religion. As I expected, we began to get e-mail from people urging us to protest, write our Congressmen, have a fit, and stand up for God. Like all such "tempests in a teapot," this one simmered down when the Judge of the 9th District Federal Court said not to enforce the ruling until the Jurors had time to review it. Perhaps he was getting death threats, or perhaps he discovered that liberalism is not quite as politically correct as it used to be. Whatever it is, our peace comes from knowing that nothing can happen unless God ordains it. Let us all be clear, that God still sits on the throne, and HE (not the courts, Supreme or otherwise, nor the Congress) makes the ultimate decisions. The man who brought the lawsuit admitted to an investigative reporter that he had received very nasty phone messages. My fear for him was that he would receive something quite a lot more deadly from some fanatical person who is protecting God's reputation on earth.
Does God need us to protect His reputation? Does He need us to fight His battles for Him? I think not. Here's what He had Moses tell the children of Israel about His power and might: "See now that I myself am He! There is no god besides me. I put to death and I bring to life, I have wounded and I will heal, and no one can deliver out of my hand. I lift my hand to heaven and declare: As surely as I live forever, when I sharpen my flashing sword and my hand grasps it in judgment, I will take vengeance on my adversaries and repay those who hate me. I will make my arrows drunk with blood, while my sword devours flesh: the blood of the slain and the captives, the heads of the enemy leaders." Rejoice, O nations, with his people, for he will avenge the blood of his servants; he will take vengeance on his enemies and make atonement for his land and people" (Deut 32:39-43, NIV). This is symbolic language, to make the point, that the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob is mighty, and He is the one who will take vengeance AND make atonement. Christ came to fulfill all aspects of God's will and purpose in our lives. His vengeance destroyed the works of the devil (Heb. 2:14: 1 John 3:8), and He brought atonement for all creation (John 3:17).
After God had healed the man who had been lame since birth at the Beautiful Gate, the Apostle Peter preached the Gospel to those who saw the miracle and wanted to know more about it: "Repent ye therefore, and turn again, that your sins may be blotted out, that so there may come seasons of refreshing from the presence of the Lord; and that he may send the Christ who hath been appointed for you, even Jesus: whom the heaven must receive until the times of restoration of all things, whereof God spake by the mouth of His holy prophets that have been from of old" (Acts 3:19-21, ASV). This verse confirms what Moses had said to Israel, that God would make atonement for His land and people. This was foretold by all the prophets under the anointing of the Holy Spirit.
God used nations round about them to punish Israel for their sins, or as we might say today, to get their attention. Isaiah warned Israel that God would use Assyria to teach them a lesson. Here is more poetic language: "Because this people has rejected the gently flowing waters of Shiloah and rejoices over Rezin and the son of Remaliah, therefore the Lord is about to bring against them the mighty floodwaters of the River, the king of Assyria with all his pomp. It will overflow all its channels, run over all its banks and sweep on into Judah, swirling over it, passing through it and reaching up to the neck. Its outspread wings will cover the breadth of your land, O Immanuel!" (Isa. 8:6-8. NIV). Describing Assyria as a rampaging river, Isaiah warns them of what the LORD will do, ending up with this thought: "Do not call conspiracy everything that these people call conspiracy ; do not fear what they fear, and do not dread it. The LORD Almighty is the one you are to regard as holy, he is the one you are to fear, he is the one you are to dread" (Isa 8:12-13, NIV). This is interesting to me because Isaiah told them God was the one they should dread, even though Assyria was cruel and harsh to their enemies. Archeologists have found pictures carved on stone tablets showing Assyrian prisoners being dragged off to captivity, with hooks through their jaws. They were scourged and had to endure forced marches. Many died from the abuse before they ever got to the captor's land, where they were slaves. Yet, God told Isaiah not to fear them, but rather to fear the Lord.
This concept of fearing the Lord is one I was brought up with. An elder I knew only quoted one verse in Hebrews, that I recall, "It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God" (Heb. 10:31). I grant you this IS a scary verse if you read it through the eyes of the law, rather than through the eyes of grace. The Hebrew writer also affirmed that "Our God is a refining fire" (Heb. 12:29). That verse used to frighten me as well until the Holy Spirit showed me the benefit and blessing of God's cleansing fire. To the natural man, it IS a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. It is like being thrown into a blast furnace. All the dross is burned off and the impurities removed. What is left after the "refiner's fire" finishes purifying the Sons of Levi, is pure Gold and Silver. Have you ever seen a nugget of gold? It is very ordinary looking, just a hunk of rock that has a glitter in it here and there. But when it is put in a cauldron over high heat, the worthless materials melt away leaving only the pure gold, which then can be molded and shaped into a beautiful object by a jeweler or other craftsman. Pure gold is beautiful, costly, valuable, and I can tell you that having been purged by the Refiner's Fire several times in my life, parts of me are pure gold. I no longer fear the fire, because the end result is glorious. It smarts while I'm going through it, and frankly, I wish God had a different process, but based on the e-mail we get from His children all around the world, I conclude that this is His tried and true method for transforming us into His image and likeness.
America is on "yellow alert" over this holiday, in case a terrorist attack may be planned. I have noticed that God always has some means of keeping us on our knees before Him, and a possible terrorist attack is as good as anything to get us there AND to show us the futility of walking in fear. He is the one, He said to Moses, who kills and makes alive, who wounds and heals, and no one can deliver out of His hand. Doesn't this give you comfort? It does me. This is the rest of God, about which we have spoken much, because if my Father is in charge, then why would I fear what Al Queda agents may have planned? Likewise, if my Father is really in charge, then what difference do the words, "under God" make to the Pledge of Allegiance? Do the words give Him the power He has? By no means! They remind us of Him, and it is politically correct, especially after 911 to make a religious statement about those words, but what power do they have? The man who brought the lawsuit said he is an atheist and he doesn't want his daughter to have to say those words everyday. I submit to you that saying the words a million times do not give God the power He wields in our lives. It does not bring the person saying it one whit closer to God, or gain Him admission into the body of Christ at large, or any local church either. Only the Holy Spirit does that.
Many Christians appear to believe that God needs our help. What would Jesus do, they ask. For starters, Jesus said about Himself, "For I did not speak of my own accord, but the Father who sent me commanded me what to say and how to say it. I know that his command leads to eternal life. So whatever I say is just what the Father has told me to say" (John 12:49-50, NIV). He said of His works, "I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does" (John 5:19, NIV). He said, "it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work" (John 14:10, NIV). This is our inheritance as well, for He promised, "I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father" (John 14:12-13, NIV). How do we say what the Father says and do what the Father does? By the power of the indwelling Spirit, the Counselor who will be with us forever (John 14:16). When we are born again and filled with the Spirit, we understand what the man of the world can never see or understand. When the Comforter comes, Jesus promised, "On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you" (John 14:20, NIV). The concept which Jesus taught here, that the God of the Universe, the Creator of all things in heaven and on earth lives in us, is so big that our natural minds cannot take it in. This is because as we have already learned, the natural man cannot understand the things of the Spirit for they make no sense to him. "The spiritual man, on the other hand, has an insight into the meaning of everything....because he is sharing in God's wisdom" (I Cor. 2:14-15, Phil.).
When we have the mind of Christ, we are caught up to the throne to see as God sees, the end from the beginning. God has always had a plan, and that plan called for Christ to be sacrificed on the cross (Rev. 13:8). It was preordained that Christ become the first of many brethren, the head of His body, the church (Rom. 8:29; Col. 1:18). Paul said that he was called "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. In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence" (Eph. 3:8-12, NIV). Those who still fear God excessively, and dread falling into His presence have not yet seen that, because of what Christ has done according to God's plan hidden for ages past, we can now approach God with freedom and confidence. The Hebrew writer assures us that Jesus is our great high priest, who sympathizes with our weaknesses, though He Himself was tempted as we are, yet without sin. Because of that, he says, "Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need" (Heb. 4:15-16, RSV).
The cross of Christ, NOT the flag is the basis of our independence. We have received atonement for our sins; Christ is our great high priest, who sprinkled the heavenly vessels in the holy of Holies with His own blood. "For Christ did not enter a man-made sanctuary that was only a copy of the true one; he entered heaven itself, now to appear for us in God's presence. Nor did he enter heaven to offer himself again and again, the way the high priest enters the Most Holy Place every year with blood that is not his own. Then Christ would have had to suffer many times since the creation of the world. But now he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself" (Heb. 9:24-26, NIV). The most important aspect of our freedom is that we are no longer in bondage to sin, because Christ appeared, "once for all at the end of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself." He came, He said, to set the prisoners free (Isa 61:1; Luke 4:18). Once our spiritual eyes are opened, we see and believe that He did what He said He would do.
The Apostle Paul affirms that we were crucified with Him, and now, we no longer live, but it is Christ living in us (Gal. 2:20). If Christ is living in us, and the Father is in Christ as He said, then God is living in us as well. Here are two important things for us to know in order to be free: 1. Because we were crucified with Him, we are "no longer slaves to sin" (Rom. 6:6), and "anyone who has died has been freed from sin" (Rom. 6:7, NIV); and 2. "if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him" (Rom. 6:8, NIV). Christ released us from our prison, our bondage to the world, the flesh and the devil, and set us free. We are not free based on our own works, but because of Christ's work alone. Paul made this so plain, "Now when a man works, his wages are not credited to him as a gift, but as an obligation" (Rom. 4:4). While we were in bondage to the devil, with his hook in our jaw, we worked for him, and his wages were death, Paul said, "but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Rom. 6 :23). The word "GIFT," itself means something given to us which we do not earn, but Paul added a powerful adjective to it "free gift," making it doubly clear that he is not talking about our works.
Our Independence Day began when Christ came into our lives and set us free. We were born again, born from above, allowing us to see and to enter the kingdom of heaven (John 3:3,5). The basis of all freedom is what God in Christ has already done for us. It does not lie in religion or in the laws of the land, no matter how just they may appear. If you are depending on your church or your government to keep you free, you've got an uphill battle with lead weights tied to your feet. There is only place where we are free: "So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed" (John 8:36, RSV). Father, open our eyes that we may see that freedom comes only from living in You. Amen. Jan Antonsson
by Jan Antonsson
What a lovely sight, our flag, the one we call "Old Glory,"
Could she speak, she'd tell a wondrous freedom story.
The flag is but a symbol of what God in Christ has done.
Every foe is vanquished; every battle won.
Freedom is a gift from our Lord Jesus Christ,
who on the tree, for you and me, made the sacrifice.
Lest anyone should miss it, we were saved from death and sin,
from guilt and shame and worry that hindered life within.
A brand new spirit He gave us when we were born again,
caught up to heaven, we're seated there with Him.
The devil is defeated; there's nothing more to fear
for our awesome heavenly Father is always right here!
He is our anchor, our strength, our hope, our rock.
Sons and daughters of the King, we are birthed from holy stock.
"Under God" we are, and "Under God," we stand.
More than words, this is the truth that undergirds our land.
Our freedom comes from God, not from military might.
He's the light which ever burns, a beacon day and night.
America is free because God decreed it so,
the enemy may try, but they cannot bring us low.
With God in Him and Christ in us, what have we to fear?
This truth is self evident; we hold it very dear.
America is free, from sea to shining sea,
God's refuge, a GIFT for you and me.
Written 6/30/02 for the Saints of the world.
Jan and Lenny Antonsson
17178 Highway 59, Neosho, MO 64850 (Snail Mail)
The Glory Road
We always enjoy hearing from you!
This page was uploaded on 7/6/02
by Jan Antonsson, Webmeister,
and last edited on 10/29/08.