February 11, 2002
Sky Valley Park,
Desert Hot Springs, CA
In the first chapter of his Letter to the Romans, the Apostle Paul defines the GOSPEL as God's power unto salvation, "to the Jew first (the religious) and also to the Greek (the heathen)" (Rom. 1:16). The direction of the flow is clear. Power flows from God to us. Those who feel morally superior because they "made a decision for Christ," as well as those who still feel far off from and afraid of God have not understood the direction of this flow of power. To the Ephesians, Paul said that ALL of us were at one time, "separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world" (Eph. 2:12, RSV). Here's the good news: "And HE CAME and preached peace to you who were far off (the heathen) and peace to those who were near (the religious); for through him we BOTH have access in one Spirit to the Father" (Eph. 2:17-18, RSV). What that says to me is that neither the person who made the decision for Christ nor the one who has not yet done so, gets any credit OR blame, for it was God who first came to us (John 6:44). These thrilling verses clearly show that God is the moving force in all our lives, the one who calls us so that we are able to accept Christ. We did not choose Him; He chose us before the foundation of the world (Eph. 1:4). And for those who may not feel close to God in spite of their profession of faith, my prayer is that they see that through HIM, Christ, "we both have access in one Spirit to the Father." When the Holy Spirit shines the light of revelation on this, the rhema bursts forth in our spirit and we understand that our seemingly endless quest for truth is over; our need to be filled with God is satisfied, and we can rest in Him because He does all things well.
Our journey along The Glory Road takes us from gory to glory, as we follow in the footsteps of all God's Children. Allow me to transport you to a time long ago and far away when the children of Israel had escaped Pharaoh and 430 years of slavery in Egypt. Crossing over the Red Sea on dry land, they had finally arrived at their destination, Mount Horeb (also called Sinai), the mountain of God. They had feasted on manna and quail (Ex. 16:3-8,11-17), had drunk water from the rock (Ex. 17:1-7), and had seen God defeat their hated enemies, the Amalekites (Ex. 17:8-15). God had told Moses that He would speak with the people. Stephen Spielburg could not have set the stage in a more dramatic way for this encounter between the children of Israel and their deliverer. As they stood at the foot of the mountain, "Mount Sinai was covered with smoke, because the LORD descended on it in fire. The smoke billowed up from it like smoke from a furnace, the whole mountain trembled violently, and the sound of the trumpet grew louder and louder. Then Moses spoke and the voice of God answered him" (Ex. 19:18-19, NIV).
In their terror, the people made a decision which is still being made today: "When the people saw the thunder and lightning and heard the trumpet and saw the mountain in smoke, they trembled with fear. They stayed at a distance and said to Moses, "Speak to us yourself and we will listen. But do not have God speak to us or we will die" (Ex. 20:18-19, NIV). When I read this statement, I said to Lenny, "This is what is wrong with the existing church today. People are still looking to Moses to speak to them because they are afraid to go to God!" Here's a question designed to prove this point: To whom do you go when you need answers? To your friends, your mother, your preacher or priest, or to the Lord? We've talked a lot in our writings about the differences between law and grace. Here's a big one. Under law, the people could only worship God by bringing their sacrifices to the priests. They began by asking Moses what they should do, and later, according to the pattern given him on the Mount, he showed them the hierarchy of the priesthood and how every situation was to be handled through an intermediary. No one came before God except the high priest, who went once a year into the most holy place. It was a perilous assignment, and not what you'd call a relaxing moment for him or for the people waiting anxiously outside.
The Law was limited in its benefits: "the gifts and sacrifices being offered were not able to clear the conscience of the worshiper" so that they were "outwardly clean" (Heb. 9:9,13, NIV). Under grace, the Hebrew writer declares, "the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, (will) cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!" (Heb. 9:14, NIV). Christ came to do the will of God, "And by that will, we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all" (Heb. 10:10, NIV). What this means for us is that we can each one approach God at any time without fear: "Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water" (Heb. 10:19-22, NIV). Hallelujah!
There are those who will protest, "But what is wrong with going to a man of God with our questions? What are preachers and elders for if it's not to tell us what to do?" Perhaps it is a matter of spiritual growth, or perhaps it is merely a matter of understanding WHO is our source of all truth. Many Christians assume that they will hear the word of the Lord by reading the bible. Maybe they will, and maybe they won't, but remember that Jesus said to the Pharisees, "You search the scriptures, because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness to me" (John 5:39, RSV). In other words, He was telling them to look to the SOURCE of truth, rather than reading ABOUT the source. For years I did not read the bible because when I did, I heard the voice of the preacher who had drummed hell fire and damnation into me, among other church dogmas. Now that God has released me from all that, the bible is about the only thing I do read these days. In fact, I can't get enough of it because the Holy Spirit is shining His light of truth on passages which energize and refresh my soul.
The Word of God is the rhema, the river of life which flows from Mount Zion, from the throne of God, rather than the letter which kills. The living Word brings us to the place which the Apostle John describes this way, "you have no need that any one should teach you" (I John 2:27, RSV). This, of course, is quite threatening to the religious establishment, whose stock in trade is keeping the flock in line. And, of course, children and young men do need some guidance, but notice the progression in this verse, "I am writing to you, fathers, because you know him who is from the beginning. I am writing to you, young men, because you have overcome the evil one. I write to you, children, because you know the Father" (I John 2:13, RSV). Children know God as Father; young men have learned to exercise authority over Satan; and fathers have discovered their eternal relationship with God from the foundation of the world. They get their marching orders, their inspiration, their direction from the eternal Father. They do not run to men for their guidance.
There is a tremendous story in the Old Testament reflecting the danger in trying to follow the counsel of men. Most of you remember Israel's wicked King Ahab, of whom it was said, "There was never a man like Ahab, who sold himself to do evil in the eyes of the LORD, urged on by Jezebel his wife. He behaved in the vilest manner by going after idols, like the Amorites the LORD drove out before Israel" (I Kgs. 21:25-26). Still, he was present when Elijah defeated the prophets of Baal in a mighty show of God's power on Mount Carmel (I Kings 18:16-40), and he witnessed the rain storm God brought afterwards to end the drought He had visited on Israel as punishment for their sins (). The event that illustrates my point today happened some time later, when he was discussing with Jehoshaphat, king of Judah, how he could recapture the town of Ramoth Gilead, which the Arameans had taken from Israel (I Kings 22:3-4). Ahab had asked Jehoshaphat to join him in a battle to free the beleaguered city. Before agreeing to do so, the king of Judah made a wise suggestion, "First seek the counsel of the LORD" (I Kings 22:5). Accordingly, Ahab called four hundred prophets together and asked for their advice. Apparently, they were on his payroll, for they told him what he wanted to hear. "Go for it!" They shouted over and over again (I Kings 22:6).
Jehoshaphat was not impressed, and asked if there weren't a prophet of the Lord around to ask. Ahab answered, "There is still one man through whom we can inquire of the LORD, but I hate him because he never prophesies anything good about me, but always bad. He is Micaiah son of Imlah." The king should not say that," Jehoshaphat replied" (I Kings 22:8). Shamed by his peer, Ahab sent for Micaiah to come at once. The messenger who went to get him advised, "Look, as one man the other prophets are predicting success for the king. Let your word agree with theirs, and speak favorably" (I Kings 22:13), but Micaiah was nobody's "yes man." He replied, "As surely as the LORD lives, I can tell him only what the LORD tells me" (Vs. 14). This is the earmark of a true prophet of God, as opposed to the false prophets which abounded in Israel at the time, and if I may say so, today as well. There were major prophets and minor prophets, depending on how much they were used of God, the books they wrote, etc. Micaiah was so minor that this is the only time we hear from him at all. (He's not the one who wrote the book of prophecy. That's Micah.) Yet his integrity was unimpeachable.
Unfortunately, honesty and forthrightness is often a fatal flaw, making the life of the prophet exciting and at times, down right dangerous. When Micaiah gave Ahab the truth, that he would lose the battle and all Israel would be scattered upon the hills like sheep without a shepherd, the king turned to his colleague from Judah and pouted, "Didn't I tell you that he never prophesies anything good about me, but only bad?" (Vs. 18). The last dialogue between Ahab and Micaiah leads one to wonder what became of this poor man, for Ahab commanded, "Put this fellow in prison and give him nothing but bread and water until I return safely.'" Micaiah declared, "If you ever return safely, the LORD has not spoken through me" (Vs. 27-28). Since Ahab did not return, but was killed in battle (Vs. 35), and the dogs licked up his blood as Elijah had prophesied (I Kings 21:19, 22:37-38), we wonder if Micaiah lived out his days on bread and water. Such a diet was probably more effective than Jenny Craig, but still, a harsh sentence for telling the truth.
Jesus said, "You will know the truth and the truth will set you free" (John 8:32), but He also warned, "Beware of men; for they will deliver you up to councils, and flog you in their synagogues, and you will be dragged before governors and kings for my sake, to bear testimony before them and the Gentiles" (Matt. 10:17-18, RSV). Here is the dilemma for all speakers of truth, it seems to me. Had Jesus kept His mouth shut, and complied with the religious system of His day, He would have lived to a ripe old age. Speaking truth to the religious establishment will get you crucified even today, because there is a vested interest in maintaining the status quo, in not ruffling anyone's feathers. The result of that, as our friend Jeri F. says, is that the existing church never grows beyond what will offend the weakest member. Jesus did not worry about offending any church official OR member. That would have eliminated Him from being selected as elder or preacher of a congregation, and I suspect that He would be thrown out of many churches today for the same reason. Before you reach for those stones, answer this question truthfully to yourself: when you have a problem, do you seek out someone who will tell you what you already believe, or do you ask one who will tell you the truth no matter how much it hurts?
All cynical remarks aside, it is tough to be a pastor or preacher or church leader today. If you offend the establishment, and get condemned to live on bread and water as Micaiah was, or thrown into a cistern full of muck and mire and left to die, like Jeremiah (Jer. 38:7-13), how will you feed your children and make your mortgage payment? Even the most honest person seeks to avoid hurting someone's feelings, and/or bringing fire down on his head, but if you do that often enough, you sell yourself down the tubes and invalidate your ministry. This is why the only person we can count one is the Holy Spirit to give us just counsel, to tell us the truth, and to guide our steps unerringly.
Lenny came back from the spa one morning and told me that when he had mentioned to a Christian fellow he has met there, that God told him something, the man "looked at him like a calf at a new gate," which is a country expression roughly translated, "Duh?" It has happened so many times that we are both used to the blank stare or the look of disbelief or disdain when we say God told us something. Yet, this is the normal Christian experience. Why would Jesus say, "My sheep know my voice" (John 10:4,27), if they would never had a chance to hear it? We come to know His voice as well as we know our own mother's because God is the source of all things. In fact, God IS our real mother. He is the one who created us in His image and likeness, and the one who called us from before the foundation of the world. He died for us, and took us with Him to glory when He ascended from this earth realm. We are seated with Him in heavenly places, perfected, transformed into His image, and glorified in Him. Jesus asked the disciples one time if they too were leaving Him. Peter said, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life" (John 6:68). He is the SOURCE of our life, "our wisdom, our righteousness and sanctification and redemption" (I Cor. 1:30, RSV).
We no longer have to cower and tremble beneath Mount Horeb, afraid God will destroy us with His wrath, for we have "....come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, and to the assembly of the first-born who are enrolled in heaven, and to a judge who is God of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect" (Heb. 12:22-23, RSV). To this we say, "Hallelujah!" "For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory for ever. Amen" (Rom. 11:36, RSV). Jan Antonsson
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 to the web on 2/14/02
by Jan Antonsson, Webmeister
and last edited on 10/28/08.