Given for the Saints at Medicalodge, Neosho, MO, on 7/6/03
"But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen" (2 Pet. 3:18, RSV).
I have tremendous admiration for painters and sculptors, who create beauty and reality on a blank canvas or a large block of marble where nothing existed before. It reminds me of God's creative process in the beginning: "The earth was without form and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep; and the Spirit of God was moving over the face of the waters. And God said, "Let there be light"; and there was light" (Gen. 1:2,3, RSV). He took a blank canvas, and out of Himself, created a masterpiece of heavens and earth, the cosmos, the plant and animal kingdom and everything else in this world. Anyone who has stood on the shore of the ocean and felt the roar and majesty of the tumultuous waves crashing against the rocks has thrilled to His handiwork. Standing on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon for the first time, I gasped in wonder, at the beauty and majesty sculpted in the rocks below by the hand of God, using only the Colorado River and eons of time. I experience this same awe when I gaze into the eyes of a newborn baby, and feel the longing to know what she knows about our Father that she could tell, if she could only talk. For the bible speaks clearly that the greatest work from the Master's Hands is man, this mud creature He formed from the miry clay and breathed into its nostrils the breath of life (Ps. 8:4; 144:3). When He unveiled this masterpiece in flesh, the angels desired to look into what manner of creature it could be (I Pet. 1:12), much more so because Adam was created in the very image and likeness of God. How far from that glorious truth have we drifted as the ages rolled past, as mankind sank into the depths of the carnal nature, nearly suffocating on the filth and the stench of sin and its consequences.
Jesus came into this scene as a newborn baby, not a rich child, but one so poor that his cradle was a manger and his birthing room a barn! Seeing him lying there upon the straw, His mother must have been astonished as she remembered what the angel had said, "Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there will be no end" (Luke 1:29-33, RSV). How could the Son of God, the one whose kingdom would have no end begin His life in a stable? For that matter, as she had asked the angel, "How shall this be, since I have no husband?" (Vs. 34). Mary was exactly like all the rest of us, and like Sarah and Abraham, in fact, who both laughed when God promised Abraham that through his seed would all nations be blessed (Gen. 17:17; 18: 12-13). Mary had no husband, no provider of sperm, and Abraham was 100 years old and Sarah 90, completely barren thus far. How could God's promises be true? For all these questions, the angel had one answer, "For with God nothing will be impossible" (Luke 1: 37). About the Lord's incredible power to create something out of nothing, Paul said that God is the One "who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist" (Rom. 4:17, RSV).
A lot of us are in the same boat with these three. We laugh at the thought that God can take our ordinary, sometimes miserable existence, in far worse condition than a blank canvas or a hunk of marble, and make something beautiful of it. And, because we don't see it occur right away, we begin to think we never will see it.
Physical healings sometimes happen instantly. For example, God's word to me, "I am your flu shot," in December of 2000, resulted in total and instant healing of my immune system. Before that, God had healed a laceration in Lenny's aorta instantly, and he has witnessed other instant healings in his family.
On the other hand, healing of the soul's wounded places usually does not happen instantly. In my case, it has taken years for God to sweep away the debris and neurotic responses which plagued me and crippled my thinking. Is it all taken care of now? Maybe not, but the worst is behind me, and whatever is left will be dealt with by my Father as He conforms me to the image of His Son (Rom. 8:29). This is His promise, but as with Abraham, He often does not hurry. Abraham was 75 and Sarah was 65 when they left Haran, yet Isaac was not born until he was 100 and Sarah was 90. That's a long time to wait for an heir, the offspring through which all nations would be blessed, and all the while, he and Sarah watched their bodies getting older and more decrepit, which is why they both laughed, of course. The scripture relates, "The LORD said to Abraham, "Why did Sarah laugh, and say, 'Shall I indeed bear a child, now that I am old?' Is anything too hard for the LORD? At the appointed time I will return to you, in the spring, and Sarah shall have a son" (Gen. 18:13-14). As promised, she bore Isaac, just as God had said.
So, the question we are exploring today is, "Is anything too hard for the Lord?" Many are caught on the tight ropes of doubt and misapprehension as they compare what their physical eyes can see, to "the great and precious promises," and then, they go off into despair because their lives do not match up. Some with whom we dialogue via e-mail fear this means they are too tough for God. He can fix what's wrong in everyone else's lives, but not in theirs. The problem with judging the truthfulness of God's promises by our lives is that we live in time, where moment by moment, our lives scroll slowly by. No two days are alike, nor even any two minutes. God, however, dwells, speaks and acts from eternity, which has little at all to do with our time. To make it worse, some interpret much of scripture as condemning them because their lives at that moment in time, clearly do not stack up with what they read, and thus, they go down for the count, trembling at the law they've spurned. One woman wrote that she is afraid to be left with only "...a fearful prospect of judgment, and a fury of fire which will consume the adversaries" (Heb. 10:27, RSV). Lest I leave anyone hanging with that scary scripture, remember that Isaiah wrote, "My soul yearns for thee in the night, my spirit within me earnestly seeks thee. For when thy judgments are in the earth, the inhabitants of the world learn righteousness" (Isa. 26:9, RSV). Even God's judgment works for our good to teach us righteousness, and the refining fire is God Himself! (Heb. 12:29).
Last week's essay, "The only way to go is up" (Link at End), explored the tension between what we know in Spirit and what we experience in flesh. We had interesting dialogues with on-line readers about it. Some misunderstood me and thought I was saying we are not yet perfected in Christ. I was certainly NOT saying that, for the New Testament declares that we are "IN CHRIST" 89 times! Paul also said that Christ is in us, "the Hope of Glory" (Col. 1:27). If we are in Christ NOW, and He is in us NOW, then how could we be less than perfect in God's eyes NOW? The Apostle Peter confirmed, "His divine power has granted (present perfect tense) to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence" (II Pet. 1:3, RSV). In heavenly places, in Spirit, we are complete in Him; we are perfected in Him right now!
To help understand the dichotomy between what we know in Spirit and what we experience in flesh, consider this analogy: when a man's sperm penetrates the egg, fertilization has taken place, and there's nothing else the child's father has to do about conception. The job is finished (all except for saving up for Pampers, Gerbers, college tuition, and all of that). The father's job is finished, but the finished work is not in evidence until the child is born. Even then, it takes years of nurturing, training, loving and guiding to find out what sort of human being was created in the white hot blast of the sperm penetrating the egg. However the child turns out, he is like his father, because he has his father's DNA. Likewise, we can only be like our heavenly Father, whose divine sperm brought about the New Creation in Christ.
In spiritual matters, God's "works were finished from the foundation of the world" (Heb. 4:3). Jesus said from the cross, "It is finished" (John 19:30). He did His part. Now, we wait for the gestation period, for the unveiling, I think Preston Eby called it, when God removes the drape from His masterpiece, and reveals it to the waiting cosmos. I believe this is the moment that Isaiah saw when he wrote, "The glory of God shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together" (Isa. 40:5). Hallelujah! I'm ready, and I KNOW you are as well.
There are those who continue to think that there is something we must do to accomplish this perfection, this maturation, this unveiling. I'm always grateful for readers who take the time to write with their comments. In a dialogue with a dear brother this week, he wrote, "So in a way you're right about the perfecting of the saints, but it is already here, when we get out of our selfish skin. Jesus is perfect. Jesus is our lives. It is not us that live, but Christ that lives in us. We are perfect, and just don't know it. Renewing the mind to his completeness in us is all that is needed. It's here. It is finished. We're perfected. We just still don't believe we are."
I do not disagree with his conclusion, but the fact remains that it does not depend on us to make it happen! The ultimate finished product is all about God's efforts, not ours! A human baby is born perfect, complete, exactly the way he was created to be, but still, in spite of his perfection, an infant cannot pitch a soft ball, or paint a picture on a canvas, or play the piano or sing an aria. He must grow into whatever work God had planned for his life (II Tim. 1:9-10).
This brings me back to Mary, who nursed and nurtured the infant Son of God. He was a normal baby, with normal baby needs. She had to change His diapers (or whatever they used in those days), teach Him not to put his fingers in the fire, and comfort Him when He fell down and skinned His knee. Surely there were times when she wondered about what the angel had said to her.
And how devastated must she have been to see Him hanging there on the cross in agony? What did it all mean? Had she misunderstood the angel? Did she take a wrong turn some where? Had she been a poor mother to Him? How did He end up like this? Fast forward to the resurrection, and imagine with me what joy must have flooded her soul, as she realized along with the Centurion, that "Truly this was the Son of God!" (Matt. 27:54). Sometimes it takes years for us to realize that God's promises are really true, and He has accomplished what He promised He would do.
The Apostle James spoke about the man, "...who observes his natural face in a mirror; for he observes himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like" (James 1:23,24, RSV). This describes a good many of us in our walk with God. We look at our natural face, and then go away and forget who we really are. We forget that we were created in His image and likeness, called before the foundation of the world, sons of the Most High. This is why we must be born from above, that we may see clearly who we are in Him. God knows how the carnal nature operates, but He chose to live His life in and through us anyway, so that given enough heat and pressure, these mud creatures will be shining brighter than the most brilliant diamond when He unveils His masterpiece, Christ in US!
His work is all done, finished, complete, but it is not YET fully manifested in time, for the creation still groans and we likewise still groan for the redemption of our bodies. Here is the Phillips' translation of a truth that the Spirit revealed to me years ago: "It is plain to anyone with eyes to see that at the present time all created life groans in a sort of universal travail. And it is plain, too, that we who have a foretaste of the Spirit are in a state of painful tension, while we wait for that redemption of our bodies which will mean that we have realized our full sonship in him" (Rom. 8:22,23). Certainly it is plain to anyone with eyes to see that we're still waiting for the final unveiling in flesh. God's ultimate masterpiece is the Body of Christ in all its splendor and glory.
Meanwhile, nothing that happens in our lives can separate us from the unconditional love of God, no matter what it looks like to our natural eyes. Jesus said of Himself that He has all power in heaven and earth (Matt. 28:18), which confirms Lenny's observation about problems that, "It's all God's fault," (The buck stops on God's desk). Christ was the Lamb slain before the foundation of the world (Rev. 13:8), verifying that our Father knew in advance, that everything which happens to us will work out according to His plan of the ages; the cross insured the success of His master plan. When He reveals to us His complete Sovereignty in all things, we realize that He's not upset by anything or anyone because our lives are unfolding according to the divine blueprint. Lord haste the day when we realize this truth, for only then can we enter into rest.
In speaking of God's eternal purpose, Isaiah said of Him, "declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, 'My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose'" (Isa. 46:10, RSV). Because God works all things after the counsel of His own will (Eph. 1:11), we do not have to use semantics or play word games or make excuses to prove that we are already complete in Christ. He spoke it and His word (Christ) never returns unto Him void (Isa. 55:11).
Surrounded as we are by our cloud of witnesses, and by His grace, we will lay aside the encumbrances (family neurosis, doctrines of men, and stinking thinking) and run with patience the race God set before us, keeping "our eyes fixed on Jesus the source and the goal of our faith. For he himself endured a cross and thought nothing of its shame because of the joy he knew would follow his suffering; and he is now seated at the right hand of God's throne" (Heb. 12:2, Phillips).
Father, open our eyes to see that we already possess the prize, our Lord Jesus Christ, seated on the throne of our lives today. We have no ability to wait patiently for the redemption of our bodies, but You do. My flesh trembles to say what the Spirit encourages me to say: "Do what You must to transform us into Your image and likeness." We wait with eager anticipation to see the unveiling of Your Masterpiece in glorified flesh. Amen. Jan Antonsson
Jan and Lenny Antonsson
17178 Highway 59, Neosho, MO 64850 (Snail Mail)
"The Only Way to Go is Up"
The Glory Road
We always enjoy hearing from you!
This page us uploaded to the web on 7/5/03
by Jan Antonsson, Webmeister,
and last edited on 10/27/08.