Given for the Saints at Medicalodge, Neosho, MO, on 4/17/03
"For this reason Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, now that he has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant" (Heb: 9:15, NIV).
As the religious world prepares to celebrate Easter, billed by the media as "the most holy day of the Christian religion," it pleases the Lord to show us yet another difference between Religion, which celebrates days and seasons, and Life in the Spirit, which celebrates the overcoming power of the indwelling Christ every day! I have long been an enthusiastic student of the Old Testament, which truly has the greatest stories ever told, and as I have matured in Christ, I marvel at how the life of Christ fulfilled every prophecy, every type and shadow found in the Old Covenant. This is important because, as the verse in Hebrews nine shows, we were held responsible for the sins committed under the Old Covenant, even though none of us living today was even born then. Likewise, because of Adam's sin, we were all adjudged guilty as charged: "remember that you were at that 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). The reason I go back to that verse so often is to remind us that before Christ came, we WERE, sinners, hopeless, helpless, and far removed from our Father's fellowship. Some regard Easter as the most holy day in the Christian calendar, because it is the day when Christ, the Lord's anointed One, rose from the dead, ratifying the New Covenant, guaranteeing our deliverance from sin and insuring our eternal inheritance.
There is great disagreement among Christians about whether we should celebrate Easter as a special day, or not. I do not participate in the debate because it is counter productive to the peace that passes understanding. Such disagreements belong to law, not to grace, and are what turns the world OFF to Christianity. The Apostle Paul effectively demonstrated why we should NOT judge each other about celebrating or not celebrating Easter in this passage found in Colossians, chapter two: "When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the written code, with its regulations (to do or not to do), that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross" (Col. 2:13-14, NIV). The Old Testament contains the written code, the Law copied by scribes over the centuries, enforced by priests and prophets, which the Jews were left to obey or not, mostly not. Their relationship with God was external. He dwelt between the wings of the Cherubim over the Ark of the Covenant (Ex. 25:22), in the tabernacle and later in Solomon's glorious temple. The worshippers presented themselves to the priests in the outer court, but only the High Priest could approach the Mercy Seat in the most holy place, once a year. The people were outside and God was behind the veil. They had no help from the Spirit to live an overcoming life, and as a result, they were dead in their sins, sitting ducks for the devil's tricks and snares.
Christ nailed that sorry lifestyle to the cross and for the first time, they had hope, because, "...having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross. Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day" (Vs. 15-16). Under the law, they had specific days they were required to keep holy: "Three times a year all your men must appear before the LORD your God at the place he will choose: at the Feast of Unleavened Bread (Passover), the Feast of Weeks (Pentecost), and the Feast of Tabernacles. No man should appear before the LORD empty-handed" (Deut. 16:16, NIV). Attendance at these feasts was mandatory to remain in good standing with God. Paul said of them, however, "These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ" (Col. 2:17). And sure enough, you can look long and hard, but you will find no instruction in the New Testament, or even an Apostolic example, of the early church celebrating the resurrection. The nay sayers tell us, that Easter, a pagan holiday, was incorporated into Christianity by the Catholic Church in an attempt to appease the pagans in their midst. Be that as it may, I look at Easter in the same way I do Christmas. Both events may be used by the Holy Spirit to get the attention of those who do not know Him, and in the process, may cause someone to meet the Savior personally.
As an aside, I have observed that some who celebrate Easter have only met Christ as their Savior. They have been through the Passover experience, but not yet through Pentecost, when the indwelling Spirit of God, empowered us to turn the world upside down with the Good News. Is Christ Your Savior? Good. Is He Lord of your life, your power source? Better still.
Christ's resurrection signified the beginning of the New Covenant God had promised Israel (Jer. 31:31; Heb. 8:8), ushering in a new age between God and His creation. Here are Witness Lee's observations: "The first day of the week, or the day after the Sabbath, signifies a new beginning, a new age. In Lev. 23:10-11,15, a sheaf of the firstfruits of the harvest was offered to the Lord as a wave offering on the day after the Sabbath. That sheaf of the firstfruits was a type of Christ as the firstfruits in resurrection (I Cor. 15:20, 23). Christ resurrected on precisely the day after the Sabbath. By His all-inclusive death He terminated the old creation, which had been completed in six days, after which was the Sabbath day. In His resurrection, He germinated the new creation with the divine life...., the firstborn Son of God (Acts 13:33; Heb. 1:5), and the Firstborn from the dead to be the Head of the Body, the church (Col. 1:18)." End Quote.
The events surrounding the resurrection of Christ and the birth of the church in fire and might on the Day of Pentecost are thrilling, the stuff of epic sagas, which novelists and film makers have tried to capture. They always fall short, in the same way that any Easter service I ever attended did as well. Perhaps the reason for the lack of any instruction to celebrate in a corporate way is that the power of God is not for show, for pageantry, or for entertainment. There are numerous "Passion Plays" advertised now, including one held in a cave in Joplin. The spokesman for the group said it was more spectacular and real than those held in a building. While I appreciate his enthusiasm and the efforts put into the show by the participants, I wondered, "Is this where Christianity went wrong? Is it why the world yawns at the thought of attending a play ABOUT GOD, and just keeps on walking?"
It was not a play, pageant, or melodrama which turned the world upside down in the first century. It was the raw power of the Holy Spirit operating through men and women who had been born again from above. The Apostle Peter wrote passionately about the cause and effect of God's redemptive power:
"Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade, kept in heaven for you" (I Pet. 1:3-4). Here, the Apostle affirms that the new birth is based upon the "resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead." The crucifixion itself proved that Christ indeed, came in the flesh. When the Spirit left His body, Matthew and Mark both report an awesome occurrence: "And behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom; and the earth shook, and the rocks were split; the tombs also were opened, and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised, and coming out of the tombs after his resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many. When the centurion and those who were with him, keeping watch over Jesus, saw the earthquake and what took place, they were filled with awe, and said, "Truly this was the Son of God!" (Matt. 27: 51-54). This was the original shock and awe, continuing up to the morning on the first day of the week, when Mary came early to the tomb and saw that the stone was rolled away (John 20:1).
Had He died on a Roman cross, but never been raised from the dead, He would have been just another person crucified by the cruel Roman custom of nailing accused criminals to a tree. Peter said that it was His resurrection that gives us the new birth in a living hope, and Paul affirmed. "For if, when we were God's enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!" (Rom. 5:10). Dying, He saved us, living He empowers us, "who through faith are shielded by God's power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time" (I Pet. 1:5, RSV). It is the gospel power of God unto salvation, which sustains us and enables us to live from the inside out. Even as it is not what goes into the mouth which defiles us, even so, it is not what we experience, "out there," but what happens within the New Creation, which defines who we are.
Paul declared, "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" (Gal. 2:20, KJV), and His faith cannot fail. Is your life difficult? Do you feel tired and worn out and sometime even think it better to die than to continue on? Rejoice, for "Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that made us whole, and with his stripes we are healed" (Isa. 53:4-5).
I recently read a booklet called "Passover," written by Des Walter, in which he made the point that the Passover lamb was killed in Egypt as a symbol of their freedom from slavery, and oppression. They were to eat the lamb roasted by fire, with their loins girded and their sandals on their feet, ready to leave at God's command. Walter says the correlation between that celebration and Christ, our Passover Lamb, is that He died not just to save us from our sins, which was an enormous gift in itself, but also to save us from the POWER of sin in our lives. Some have come into the revelation which John shared that "No one born of God commits sin; for God's nature abides in him, and he cannot sin because he is born of God" (I John 3:9) AND, "We know that any one born of God does not sin, but He who was born of God keeps him, and the evil one does not touch him" (I John 5:18). This is a far cry from the sin consciousness carried by so many Christians today, who still beat their breasts and carry guilt over real and imagined sins. Sin has no power in our lives today, dear ones, because it was nailed to the cross.
As I was reading Walter's book, light flooded my spirit and I saw at once the connection between freedom from the power of sin and freedom from the power of sickness and death in our lives. Isaiah said, "upon him was the chastisement that made us whole, and with his stripes we are healed" (53: 5). The Apostle Peter wrote, "He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed" (I Pet. 2:24, RSV). Under the law, sickness and death were part of the punishment threatened if they did not obey. Deuteronomy 28 is not recommended reading for the faint hearted, but if you have the stomach for it, begin in verse 14, and read to the end of the chapter to see the curses promised for failure to obey the law. Here are a few verses regarding sickness: "And he will bring upon you again all the diseases of Egypt, which you were afraid of; and they shall cleave to you. Every sickness also, and every affliction which is not recorded in the book of this law, the LORD will bring upon you, until you are destroyed" (Deut. 28:60-61, RSV).
By this, I do not mean to imply that if you are sick, you have sinned, but rather, to point out that sin AND sickness were twin legacies of the LAW and BOTH were nailed to the cross! Even as we have been freed from the power of sin, so also have we been freed from the power of sickness and death. Isaiah knew the time was coming when the healer of Israel would bring salvation and freedom from death and disease to God's children. In saying, "By his wounds you have been healed," Peter puts the promise in the present perfect tense. It is an action which began in the past and continues up to the present. I know that our Father uses absolutely everything that comes our way to cleanse us of dross, and to conform us into the image of His dear Son, including sickness and poor health, but by the Spirit, I also know that the day is dawning when the Sons of God are being manifested to the world. On that glorious day, we will be changed. Mortality will be clothed with immortality and the New Creation will be revealed so that all flesh will see it together (Isa. 40:5). Lenny has had a long, horrific bout with debilitating pain and other scary symptoms. We have made long trips to two distant VA Medical Facilities seeking help, all to no avail, yet in spite of what my eyes see, in my spirit, the glad tidings ring out, "By His stripes, we WERE Healed." So, along with everyone else we know, the Antonssons long for those words and THESE to be manifested in flesh: "We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed" (I Cor. 15:51).
God uses absolutely everything to change us, no matter what it looks like, and we close with the Apostle Peter's assurance, "In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith, of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire, may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed" (I Pet. 1:6-7). Father, we thank you for the Holy Spirit and fire which You promised as part of the process by which we are called, justified and glorified. We look not at the trials, but at You, by whose stripes we were, are, and will be healed. We celebrate the resurrection, a new beginning with every breath, thanking You for canceling our sentence of sin, sickness, and death, and for our eternal inheritance in Christ. Amen. Jan Antonsson
To be continued.......
Jan and Lenny Antonsson
17178 Highway 59, Neosho, MO 64850 (Snail Mail)
"Second Hand Religion, Part I"
"Statement of Faith, Second Hand Religion, II"
"Beyond the Veil, Second Hand Religion, III"
"Risen from the dead, Second Hand Religion, IV"
"Anointing the Lord, Second Hand Religion, V"
"All things under His Power, Second Hand Religion, VI"
"The Kingdom Option, Second Hand Religion, VII"
"My Father's House, Second Hand Religion, VIII"
"Connected to the Vine, Second Hand Religion, IX,
"Chosen by God," Second Hand Religion, X"
"Labor Pains, Second Hand Religion, XI"
"Coming Home, Second Hand Religion, XII"
"Declaring the end from the beginning, Second Hand Religion, XIV"
The Glory Road
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This page was uploaded to the web on 4/18/03
by Jan Antonsson, Webmeister,
and last edited on 10/27/08.