Given for the Saints at Medicalodge, Neosho, MO, on 7/20/03
"For who sees anything different in you? What have you that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if it were not a gift?" (I Cor. 4:7).
When Harry Fox quoted the above verse in our phone conversation last Saturday, I knew at once that our title today would be, "What have you that you did not receive?" Paul's question is the essence of the difference between man's religion (works about which we could boast) and Life in the Spirit (a free gift from God to us). For several weeks now, we have discussed the tension between our spirit and our flesh. Christians are strung out along a continuum in this regard. Fundamentalists and Evangelicals (Passover) seem to be so firmly anchored in flesh that they have never understood that the life we now live in the flesh is by the faith OF the Son of God (Gal. 2:20), and that their old man, their carnal nature is dead and buried in Christ (Rom. 6:6-7). They give lip service to faith and grace, but mostly consider these a work, a sacrifice if you will, unto the Lord.
Charismatics (Pentecost) have tasted a sip of God's power in the Holy Spirit, and may recognize to a greater degree the spiritual aspects of our Christian walk, but most still make the gifts of the Spirit a result of the works which we do for God. Thus, if one person does not receive a certain gift, such as tongues, let's say, he believes it is because he is defective or deficient in some way, and sets about to vigorously correct this error on his own steam.
The kingdom/manifested sonship Christians (Tabernacles) have tasted the new wine and know that BOTH the kingdom and the King are with us now, but some have pushed the envelope and insist that all we will ever receive from God, we have now. We get stimulating e-mail from readers and friends about this diverse patchwork quilt of differing beliefs. I would like to share some thoughts that others have sent, which in turn, triggered the Spirit in me as well. There is no one right answer, no one right place to be, for GOD is the one responsible for our growth and maturity, as Paul's comments about Christ's responsibility to the church reflect: "Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish" (Eph. 5:25-27, RSV). Only in Christ are we holy! It is Christ's job to present the church to Himself, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing.
It is God, rather than man, who wields "the immeasurable greatness of his power in us who believe, according to the working of his great might which he accomplished in Christ when he raised him from the dead and made him sit at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come" (Eph. 1: 19-21). I am thrilled to know that the same power which raised Christ from the dead, and placed Him above every power and principality in this age and the one to come, LIVES IN ME AND LIVES IN YOU AS WELL. Not only that, but "he (the Father) has put all things under his feet and has made him the head over all things for the church, which is his body, the fulness of him who fills all in all" (Vs 22-21). So, how is it possible that we members of Christ's body, in whom all God's fulness dwells, lack for any good thing? How could it be that the supreme power in the universe, could dwell in sinfulness or corruption or deception or unbelief? Impossible!
Some still indicate that we just need to make the right choice to shape up and fly right. We must decide to do better, follow after Christ more diligently, read more of "the word" (by which they mean The Bible), and so on, to escape the frustration of the human condition. A friend wrote about this conflict, "God is in control of all this, and I sure don't understand all that, but in my spirit I can see where it's supposed to be. God said He would pour out his Spirit on all flesh. Well we know how our flesh acts don't we? It goes kicking and screaming against everything that is spiritual." I agree with his description of flesh vs. spirit, but not with his later conclusion that this is the way it will always be.
Another friend commented, "Remember Israel, the first generation did not make it into the promised land due to unbelief, according to Hebrews, chapter three and four. But a closer look at the word reveals that they were obstinate, disobedient and stiff-necked, not that they did not have the ability. They chose not to respond to the ABILITY." This brother is absolutely correct as far as the text is concerned. Israel did not enter into the promises of God because of unbelief, but the difference is that Israel lived under the Law of Moses, the Old Covenant, ratified by the blood of bulls and goats, a BILATERAL agreement between God and Israel. If they obeyed, they would be blessed and live in peace; if they rebelled, they would be under all the curses, diseases, wars, and punishments of the Law. We live under grace, purchased by the blood of the Lamb. We enjoy a UNILATERAL agreement between God and Himself. I repeat this often because the essence of the Gospel is God's promise to Abraham that in his seed should all nations be blessed (Gal. 3:8). Christ is the seed, Paul tells us (Gal. 3:16), the Cornerstone of the New Covenant. He is the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world, meaning that God always knew about the bad choices human beings would make, and what He was going to do about it. Christ is His answer to it all!
Declaring the end from the beginning (the Lamb slain from before the foundation of the world), God is not flummoxed, angered, discouraged or unmoved by the feelings of our infirmities. He knows us inside and out. He created us, after all, and in our spirits, we are already in His image and likeness. The flesh will take a little longer, but we will get there in flesh as well. Otherwise, what would be the point of the incarnation? If God were unable to deal with our flesh, Jesus might just as well have stayed home.
Perhaps no one can really explain WHY God invested Himself in flesh, but the fact is, He did! Jesus is the walking, talking, undeniable proof that God dwells in flesh. Christ, the only Begotten of the Father, the salvation of Israel, the Savior of the whole world was fully human. If He weren't, then He could not be the first born of many brethren. We would be half-breeds, but we're not. We are SONS! God has redeemed our flesh in Christ. Lenny saw in Spirit that this is why Christ's body did not remain in the tomb, but came forth in resurrection life!
John Gavazzoni made a comment in an e-mail this week that jumped off the page at me, because it addresses the confusion about flesh, whether it is fully manifested now or not; whether there's anything we have to do or not. He wrote, "I've really been impacted of late by the ever deepening realization of the very simple, yet profound centrality of the economy of God; that is, the expression, 'the finished work of Christ,' is not a very accurate expression of what God has done. Actually, Christ IS the finished work of God, rather than being He who had done someTHING FOR God. The economy of God centers in the finished Person, who is totally the generative and creative product of the Father."
I saw clearly that the discord about whether the sons are fully manifested and if not, what must we do to accomplish it, is a failure to understand God's plan. JESUS IS THE FINISHED WORK OF GOD, and we are in Him!
The same friend who said the flesh is kicking and screaming against everything spiritual asked a very good question: "Do you know of a scripture that tells us of a day when this will no longer be true? When the flesh and the carnal mind are gone forever, never to be involved with us again? I haven't found one, but if you know of one, please send it to me."
Regarding his question, I shared two scriptures that the Spirit shined the light on for me. Here's the first: "We know that the whole creation has been groaning in travail together until now; and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies" (Rom. 8:22,23, RSV). What we are waiting for is the adoption as sons (the full manifestation of us in the image and likeness of the fully manifested Christ), which will be evidenced by the redemption of our bodies, our flesh. Hallelujah!
That corresponds then with the second scripture, where Paul tells us, "For I assure you, my brothers, it is utterly impossible for flesh and blood to possess the kingdom of God. The transitory could never possess the everlasting" (I Cor. 15:50). Here Paul is agreeing with what this brother wrote, that it is impossible for the flesh to be pleasing to God. Thankfully, this is not the end of the story, for the Apostle assured us, "Listen, and I will tell you a secret. We shall not all die, but suddenly, in the twinkling of an eye, every one of us will be changed as the last trumpet sounds! For the trumpet will sound and the dead shall be raised beyond the reach of corruption, and we shall be changed" (Vs. 51-52).
This is what we long for, that we shall be changed without going through physical death. There is a generation of believers who will experience this, and I am one who feels that the drum beat of Spirit is for us, in this generation. We will know when it happens, "For this perishable nature of ours must be wrapped in imperishability, these bodies which are mortal must he wrapped in immortality. So when the perishable is lost in the imperishable, the mortal lost in the immortal, this scripture will come true: Death is swallowed up in victory. Where now, O death, is your victory; where now is your stinging power?" (Vs. 53-55).
In this glorious moment, there will be nothing in flesh to stand against the power of God. "Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain. And the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together, for the mouth of the LORD has spoken" (Isaiah 40:4,5, RSV). I always thrill to hear this aria sung when Handal's Messiah is performed, probably because there were so many mountains and valleys in Jan. Next to Jesus, Isaiah is my favorite prophet, because he writes from first hand experience of being in the Throne Room of God, and bringing the Good News back to us on earth. The Glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and ALL FLESH, yours and mine, shall see it together. This is speaking of earth, my friends; we will not have to wait for heaven to see it.
In the meantime, Paul exhorts us to reckon ourselves dead (Rom. 6:11), buried with Christ and risen with Him to live in Spirit. This revelation has delivered me from the snares of sin and self loathing, and is a place which many still strive to achieve on their own steam, but never will, for the law will never take us into God's rest. This is the hope of the gospel that is within me. I rest in it, glory in it, and am constantly energized by it.
Christ is fully manifested, completely visible for the creation to behold, and yet, the creation still groans. Why? The creation groans for the manifestation of the sons of God. That's us! We groan for it as well, Paul says, because we lack only one thing, he tells us. What thing is that Paul? The redemption of our bodies (Rom. 8:23). It is the human condition to think there is something we must do to get it. But even as we had nothing to do with generating the power to raise Christ from the dead, even so we have nothing to do with manifesting ourselves. That's a God job from divine thought to His completion in human flesh.
Linda Keith sent us an intriguing article called "Realms of Glory" by David Orton. This paragraph speaks of the hope Lenny and I share based on what God has shown us: "And again, there is a prophetic forerunner movement preparing the way for the next move of God, for what I believe will be the greatest manifestation of Christ that history will ever record. It will be the closest approximation of the kingdom of God on earth yet. And will be ushered in by an unprecedented level of the supernatural, in fact it will far exceed what we read of in the Book of Acts and in revival history, the glory of the latter house will truly be greater than the former (see Hag 2:9). God has kept the best wine until last (see Jn 2:10); and as the scripture declares, "The end of a thing is better than its beginning" (Eccl 7:8)." End Quote.
Here's the verse we began with in the Phillip's version: "For who makes you different from anybody else, and what have you got that was not given to you? And if anything has been given to you, why boast of it as if you had achieved it yourself?" (I Cor. 4:7, Phil). Every transmitter (giver) needs a receiver to make the connection. God left nothing to chance, for everything He transmits (gives) to us is received by the Christ within us, making the circle of giving and receiving complete. We have the fulness of God in Christ, available within us now. This leaves us with absolutely nothing about which to boast. Did He give you the gift of salvation? Did you do anything to deserve it? Can you ever repay Him the kindness and mercy He showed you in Christ? Since no one can legitimately answer "Yes," to those questions, we're in agreement here. God's work in Christ is finished in Spirit. In flesh, however, we are still underdone, awaiting the moment when the revelation of Christ infuses every cell, molecule, and atom of our being, for Paul affirmed, "Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven" (I Cor. 15:49, RSV). We had nothing to do with bearing the image of the man of dust and we have nothing to do with bearing the image of the man of heaven. The man of heaven has a glorified body on earth (the church), and we shall each one have nothing less than that!
Father, we thank You for Your glorious plan of the ages revealed in Christ, and we thank You that You have called us to be Your sons, but most of all, we thank You that You bear the responsibility for the calling, the transforming, the justifying and the glorifying. We give You all honor and power and authority and blessing, both now and in the ages to come. Amen. 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 7/19/03
by Jan Antonsson, Webmeister,
and last edited on 10/27/08.