Given for the Saints at Medicalodge, Neosho, MO, on 5/2/04
"The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God" (Rom. 6:10, NIV).
I'm bothered, perturbed, ready to put ashes on my head, tear my robes, and fall face down on the ground before the Lord. That's the Old Testament way of expressing deep grief, remorse or repentance. What brought on this visceral reaction was an e-mail from a very dear friend whom I've known for probably ten years. She had read what I had to say about guilt last week (See Link at End), and e-mailed me the following questions: "So, do I hear you right that nothing we do or the way we conduct our lives matters one bit? God doesn't care how we act here on earth? Do we need to be baptized? Can we do anything we want with no consequence? If all sins are already forgiven, then there really isn't any sin? Our world is getting so cruel, it is really spinning out of control. If there ever was a tortured soul, I'm one. I don't know what I believe anymore. You are so blessed to have such a clean picture of God and relationship with him. I'm envious! Of course, you've paid dearly from an earthly viewpoint. Often, I think I'm crazy. I think about things that no one else I know thinks about ..death. I can't decide if I'm crazy or about to die. Either way, it is going to happen whether I like it or not." End Quote
This is a woman who has been seeking the Lord all her life. Like many of us, she has traveled a circuitous route, and right now, apparently does not like the place on the path where she finds herself, but what got me in the gut was the fact that if she, who more or less knows where I'm coming from, misunderstood what I wrote that much, then what about those who don't know me at all? I confess that this is my flesh talking (not a pretty sight), for mature sons know that it is up to the Holy Spirit to show people what they need to see, not up to me and my puny words. If this were not true, I would have quit writing long ago. Since I believe the Holy Spirit triggered me with her questions, giving me the desire to write something that is plain and easily understood about the subject of sin, I also believe He will help me to do it, and I further ask Him to open the eyes and ears of those who need to be delivered from guilt or confusion about sin.
Sin, like politics, is one of those topics which everyone talks about, but no one agrees upon. At the extreme right side of the spectrum, you have the Conservatives, the Fundamentalists, which in every religion on earth, seem to need to clarify the rules about sin in black and white. Failure to keep their version of the rules can lead to death, dismemberment, excommunication, and worse yet, burning in hell forever. On the extreme left end of the continuum, are the Liberals, the ones who say, "Eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die. If the courts let criminals off by making a deal with the prosecutors, then why should I worry?" Why sweat the small stuff, in other words?
Under the Law of Moses, sins were exhaustively spelled out, with the punishment for each clearly stated right along with it. Most sex sin was punishable by stoning to death. Murder, witchcraft, idol worship and rebellion were also punishable by death. God Himself administered spectacular punishments to those who defied Moses. Fire rained down from heaven and burned up the rebels; the earth opened and swallowed them; the angel of death loosed various plagues which killed multitudes in one day; and worse yet, fiery serpents bit thousands, killing them with poisonous venom. It was enough to scare the devil out of an impressionable child reading these stories, which I have done for as long as I can remember. To my childish mind, God was a scary, nonnegotiable despot who brooked no insubordination, tolerated no deviation from His laws, and quickly punished the wicked. That's the way I saw Him UNTIL the Holy Spirit came into my life.
Remember the Holy Spirit's job description? Jesus said of Him, "But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come" (John 16:13). But what truth is He to bring us? There is only one TRUTH in the Universe and that is Christ Himself (John 14:6). I had heard all about Jesus, knew as many of the FACTS about Him as the scriptures declare, but I did not KNOW HIM! The Spirit came to reveal the Christ to me and in me.
Jesus said of Him, "He will bring glory to me by taking from what is mine and making it known to you. All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will take from what is mine and make it known to you" (Vs. 14-15). Lord, open our eyes to see the glorious promise in this passage. Everything that belongs to our Father is ours in Christ. But without the infilling, the quickening of the Holy Spirit, we can't acquire the inheritance Jesus promised. Suppose with me that a rich man died, leaving all his millions, lands, companies, and other riches to his son, who had run away from home when he was young. Now imagine that this son is languishing in the pigpens of the world, and does not know his father is dead. He's living in abject poverty, trying to fill his belly with the husks the swine leave behind. All the while, he is rich beyond his wildest imagination. He would have the world at his fingertips, if only he knew about the will his father made, naming him soul heir to the family fortune.
Many Christians are in this exact situation today. They have inherited all the Father has given us in Christ, but they are still in the outer court of the Tabernacle, offering burnt offerings (the works of their own hands) for sin. To these unfortunates, Christ's death was insufficient, falling pathetically short of the goal, because they still believe that it is up to them to do something to appease the wrath of God and keep themselves from sin. My friend's question goes to the heart of this mindset. Christians who never really heard the gospel, the Good News, still believe that God is angry about sin and disobedience, and only by obeying Him, can they avoid His wrath. To say to such a one that the blood of Christ was sufficient to atone for the sins of the whole world (I John 2:2), is an affront to their religious ideas.
People who become outraged at the statement that God will ultimately save everyone have never understood the power of the blood, the plan of God for the ages, nor the sovereignty of God. To them, God is "an other," a being removed from them, to whom they must offer the works of their hands, the praise of their lips, and the intention of their heart. This is soul power in a nutshell. It is man centered religion, even as the Law of Moses was soul power in action.
I am probably quite a bit more flawed than most Christians, or maybe just a tad more truthful, but I have long understood that if anything depended on Jan's efforts, I might as well punch my ticket to hell, for that is where I would end up. As I listen to the rhetoric from Christians trying to impress me with their godliness, their stand against sin and corruption, and their devotion to doing the right thing, I think, "I could never be a good Christian, no matter how hard I try." That's the truth about me, and I'm so thankful the Holy Spirit revealed to me what Christ did for me at a time when I so desperately needed it.
I heard many say after viewing "The Passion of the Christ," "I didn't know what Jesus suffered for me," or "I didn't know how much He loved me." The Holy Spirit showed me that truth in a spectacular way, which I've since realized was my baptism in the Holy Spirit. The heavens opened up and I saw Christ on that cross for Jan. For the first time, the atonement was personal. It was real. It was for me. I was overcome with joy and sorrow and weeping. Since then, I have never really beat myself up about my sins, because I knew at a cellular level what God did about the sin problem. "He that knew no sin, was made to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God" (2 Cor. 5:21, Weymouth). Oh glorious truth, how can we embrace it?
How can we rid ourselves forever of this morbid fear of sin and death so prevalent among Christians today? Only by the power of the life giving Spirit, can we break free from the Law of sin and death. (Rom. 8:2). Sin and death belonged to the Law. It was the human condition after Adam fell from grace. As the centuries rolled on, man's awareness of the Father grew dim and faded completely away. Even the devout Jews in the Old Testament did not think of God as Father, but more as Lawgiver, Enforcer, Sovereign Lord, Almighty God, the Lord of Hosts. He is all of those and more; He is King of kings and Lord of Lords. He is our Father, our Elder Brother, our Counselor, our Great Physician, our best friend, the lover of our souls, the remodeler of our minds, and the restorer of our lives.
I believe that people who worry about sin have not really met Him as Savior, though they insist they are saved. He said, "But I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself" (John 12:32, NIV). I'm told that an acceptable synonym for "draw" is "drag." He will "drag" all men unto Himself. That is not a conditional commitment as the Law of Moses was (If you will, I will, but if you don't, I won't). Rather, it us a Unilateral (one party) promise from God to man. The question to consider here is "Did Jesus fail to do what He said" Anything that depends on men is bound to fail, but in the words of Balaam, who was hired by the king of Moab to put a curse on Israel, "God is not a man, that he should lie, nor a son of man, that he should change his mind. Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfill?" (Num. 23:19). Balaam was no spiritual giant; in fact, he was more associated with the black arts than the righteousness of God, but he could only speak truth when confronted with God's intention toward Israel. Likewise if Jesus said He would draw all men to Himself, dare we doubt that He succeeded?
There is no time limit on the promise, nor is God limited by death. I like the Weymouth translation of 2 Pet. 3:9: "The Lord is not slow in fulfilling His promise, in the sense in which some men speak of slowness. But He bears patiently with you, His desire being that no one should perish but that all should come to repentance." How much clearer does it have to be that God will have His way in the lives of men? That, "He works all things after the counsel of His own will?" (Eph. 1:11).
It occurred to me that my friend has expressed a question about sin that others may be afraid to voice, namely, if all men are going to be saved, of what importance is sin? Is God bothered by it? The answer is that God is so concerned about the question of sin, and it is so very important to Him, that He gave His only begotten Son to deliver us from the POWER of sin, which had enslaved mankind from Adam forward. Make no mistake about how God sees sin. It is an abomination to Him. (See Deut. 7:25; 12:31; 18:12; 22:5; 23:18; 25:16; Mal: 2:11; Luke 16:15). Speaking of abomination, please note what the prophet Jeremiah said about Israel's pagan practice of sacrificing their children to the flames: "They built the high places of Baal in the valley of the son of Hinnom, to offer up their sons and daughters to Molech, though I did not command them, nor did it enter into my mind, that they should do this abomination, to cause Judah to sin" (Jer. 32:35). God said through the prophet that consigning children to die by fire never entered His mind, and yet, most of Christendom today ascribes this abominable practice to God, saying that He will burn perhaps 99% of His children in the flames of hell for all eternity. This false doctrine reflects ignorance of scripture and blasphemy against God.
Another woman who read Lenny's, "Religion, or Light from God" (See link at end), about unconditional love, recently asked him if he loves everyone unconditionally. He replied that it is only God who can love anyone unconditionally through us. It is HIS responsibility to flow through us. Anything we drum up ourselves falls short of the mark because it was conceived and orchestrated through soul power. He went on to say that when Jesus baptizes us with the Holy Spirit and power, He comes to dwell within us, to reveal God's righteousness to us and through us.
Lastly, God is the one who "has all men penned together in the prison of disobedience, that he may have mercy upon them all" (Rom. 11:32, Phillips). This led some to ask Paul if we should continue to sin so grace may abound. His answer is as good today as it was then: "By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?" (Rom. 6:2-3). I hope you will take the time to read Romans, chapter six, because it is rich in gospel truth.
This brings me to my friend's question about whether we must be baptized. Baptism symbolizes Christ's death, burial and resurrection: "We know that our old self was crucified with him so that the sinful body might be destroyed, and we might no longer be enslaved to sin. For he who has died is freed from sin" (Rom. 6:6-7). To me, baptism is to salvation, what circumcision was to God's covenant with Abraham. It is a physical symbol that we have heard the word of the Lord, and that we accept His promises. And as in the case of Abraham, we obey God not to get the reward and avoid punishment, but because He gave us the faith to believe the promise He made to us. As to whether baptism is necessary for salvation, I think we have to go by Paul's assertion that God will have mercy upon ALL, the washed and unwashed. I believe what he wrote about circumcision would apply to baptism as well: "Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything; what counts is a new creation" (Gal. 6:15).
As Lenny expressed it, baptism is "The Funeral Celebration" (See link at end), for the old man, who is buried with Christ in Baptism and raised to walk in Resurrection Life.
Regarding those who continue to sin, John said in 1 John 3:8, that people who continually sin are children of the devil, but not to worry, "The Son of God appeared for the purpose of undoing the work of the Devil." In the next verse, He explains how Christ foiled the devil's snares: "No one who is a child of God is habitually guilty of sin. A God-given germ of life remains in him, and he cannot habitually sin, because he is a child of God" (Vs. 9). So, we're back to what Jesus said, i.e., that we must receive the Holy Spirit because He leads us into all truth. He brings to us the germ (seed) of life which is Christ and plants it in our hearts. It is this life force within us that keeps us from sin, and fills us with God's unconditional love so that we have no desire to hurt anyone, to steal from anyone, nor to commit sin against anyone. The focus has changed. Now, we do not avoid sin because we fear hell fire or excommunication, but rather, because the love of God fills us so that we have no desire to sin. "He who has died is freed from sin," Paul said, reminding us that dead men do not lust, steel, envy, murder, or bear false witness against each other.
Father, help us to see that our sin nature is dead, nailed to the cross, and that it is by Your glorious power that we live our lives and serve You. Reveal Yourself to us in ever greater fulness, Father, that we might be light bringers and love bearers to the dark and angry world. Amen. Jan Antonsson
Jan and Lenny Antonsson!
17178 Highway 59, Neosho, MO 64850 (Snail Mail)
"Three Blind Mice, the Guilt Factor, Soul Power 5"
"Religion or Light from God?" by Lenny
"The Funeral Celebration," by Lenny
The Glory Road,
We always enjoy hearing from you!
This page was uploaded to the web on 4/29/04
by Jan Antonsson, Webmeister,
and last edited on 10/18/08.