Given for the Saints at Medicalodge, Neosho, MO, 4/4/04
"That is why it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his descendants, not only to the adherents of the law but also to those who share the faith of Abraham, for he is the father of us all" (Rom. 4:16, RSV).
My thanks to Harry Fox for reminding me that there are many good and uplifting aspects of the soul realm. To nourish our souls, God gave us smiling babies, magnificent sunsets, adorable kittens and puppies, red and gold leaves in the fall, flowers in the spring, the ocean waves crashing against the rocks, and inspired symphonies, art and sculpture, to name but a few things which edify us. The goal today is to explore the difference between soul power, which is limited, and Spirit power, which is omnipotent in fulfilling God's eternal plan for His creation.
Soul power is a fascinating topic, and possibly one that many Christians have not considered, because they have never discerned the difference between what comes from their soul and the Holy Spirit of God. Such discernment is itself a gift of the Spirit (1Cor. 12:10). I'll share part of an e-mail which came after last week's writing by the same name because it is a classic example of soul power (See Link at End for last week's writing).. I had included the story found in Genesis 11, regarding the Tower of Babel, because it shows how potent soul power can be: "And the LORD said, "Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language; and this is only the beginning of what they will do; and nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them. Come, let us go down, and there confuse their language, that they may not understand one another's speech" (Gen. 11:6-7, RSV). A reader quoted it back to me and then commented, "This story is a clear example of what a myth is. It simply never happened and is no more credible than the story of Noah's ark. All historical records that relate to the supposed time frame of the tower of Babel show that mankind already spoke in hundreds (if not thousands) of different languages. At the time of this story there were already many Chinese dialects, for example. I appreciate that you are only trying to help people, Jan, and do not question your motives, however I suggest that you do some serious historical and extra-biblical study so you can get a grasp on just how inaccurate and ludicrous the stories in the Bible are." End quote.
I feel sure this man is honestly expressing his convictions, though why he would want to be on my e-mail announcement list still escapes me. When I suggested to him that his e-mail was a prime example of soul power, and observed that he might want to skip reading any more of my writings, he admonished me "not to be like the vast majority of 'teachers' who run away when asked some hard questions about their teachings." People who live out of their own minds arrive at their conclusions by feeding on the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, depending on human intelligence, scientific or scholarly research to shape their opinions. The man is where God has him for now, and is not my problem. When we began the Internet ministry, I tried to reason with everyone who wanted to argue. Soon, the Lord showed me that I am only to report what He shows me and leave the rest to Him.
Another reader we've never heard from before, wrote, "I inadvertently reached your site and wish to ask a question. Has there been a discovery of Abraham's DNA in modern man that is traced back to Abraham." There are, of course, no chance meetings. Everything is designed by the Lord to reveal Himself to us, and when I read the e-mail, I knew what today's title would be.
The question itself intrigued me for Abraham's efforts are the classic example of soul power being outshined, outgunned and over shadowed to the power of 10 by the Spirit's power. I am referring to the fact that when Abraham and Sarah took it upon themselves to help God out in keeping His promise to give them an heir, they created a race of people, the Arabs, who even today are still bombing and maiming Isaac's descendants. Not knowing the man who wrote, I'm not sure if he is serious about tracing DNA, or if he's using that as a metaphor for our spiritual lineage.
If he is serious about tracing DNA, we did hear an interesting piece on "60 Minutes" a couple years ago, about some of the black Jews in Ethiopia tracing their physical lineage back to Moses and the tribe of Levi. As it turned out, DNA did confirm their claim. This came about, as I recall, because they were planning to immigrate to Israel. As an aside, if you can prove your ancestry is Jewish, you can live in the state of Israel with all the benefits provided their people. They will teach you the language, find you a job, and give you whatever financial help you may need to get on your feet. The Jews are exercising soul power to fulfill God's promise to Abraham that his heirs would own the land of Canaan.
If, however, this reader was alluding to "spiritual DNA," i.e., Paul's statement that Abraham was the "father of us all," then we need to consider the this verse: "as it is written, "I have made you the father of many nations," in the presence of the God in whom he believed, who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist" (Rom. 4:17). Humans need to see, touch, hear, feel and sense things to believe they are real. That's one of the limitations of soul power. Spiritual power has no such limitation. First century Jews were quite puffed up by their physical lineage to Abraham, but Jesus said to them, "...and do not presume to say to yourselves, 'We have Abraham as our father'; for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham" (Matt. 3:9, RSV). Ouch! That must have hurt!
It isn't that this lineage is unimportant, for in his genealogy, Matthew begins, "The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham" (Matt. 1:1). Throughout scripture, all three of the patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are mentioned together. In this way, the Holy Spirit is making a distinction between Isaac, the gift of God through the power of the life giving Spirit, and Ishmael, the result of soul power: the conniving by Sarah and Abraham to get an heir through Hagar, Sarah's slave (Gen. 16:1-5). Ishmael was born when Abram was eighty-six years old (Gen. 16:16). The children of Abraham's firstborn have caused trouble and wreaked havoc upon the descendants of Isaac until this day. To be fair to the Palestinians, they are descended from Abraham through Ishmael, the oldest son of Abraham, and according to that culture, no matter whether the mother was wife or mistress, the eldest son was legitimately entitled to the birthright. God had other plans, even as He did in choosing Jacob, the younger over Esau, the elder, and Ephraim, the younger, over Manasseh, the elder (Gen. 48:17-19). The Apostle Paul gives this as a prime example of God's sovereign election (Rom. 9:11-16).
We all do the best we can to follow the shepherd, but often, it becomes apparent that our efforts were self inspired, rather than Spirit led. I'll give you an example of that. We went to Little Rock, AR, last week to the VA to get an acupuncture treatment for Lenny, hoping it would ease the pain he suffers. I had inquired about the procedure and kept pushing and calling until we finally got an appointment. When we got there, the technician told him that it wouldn't work because we live too far away (Our home is 245 miles one way from the VA hospital). She said he would need to have 3-4 treatments a week, which would be impossible given the distance we'd have to travel. Having just written last week about my "madcap plans" to try to save our house, it hit me forcefully that this futile trip to Little Rock was another of those ideas which sound great at the time, but do not have authorization from the Spirit. It was not God's idea that we go, but Jan's. And yet, in that glorious, but often invisible way God has of taking our lemons and making lemonade out of them, He gave me another excellent example of soul power for this writing.
Thankfully, God does NOT hold these little detours against us, for the bible says that, "Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness" (Rom. 4:3; Gal. 3:6). Abraham was exactly like us. He wanted to believe and he tried to believe, but there's an account in Genesis 17, that I personally relate to very well. When Abraham was 99 years old, and had already produced an heir through Hagar, God appeared to him and said Sarah would birth a son from her own womb. His reaction was what mine would be: "Abraham fell face down; he laughed and said to himself, "Will a son be born to a man a hundred years old? Will Sarah bear a child at the age of ninety?" (Gen. 17:17). Immediately, Abraham asked if God would bless Ishmael (even though to legalistic eyes, he was a mistake). The answer shows the unconditional love of God: "Yes, but your wife Sarah will bear you a son, and you will call him Isaac. I will establish my covenant with him as an everlasting covenant for his descendants after him. And as for Ishmael, I have heard you: I will surely bless him; I will make him fruitful and will greatly increase his numbers. He will be the father of twelve rulers, and I will make him into a great nation. But my covenant I will establish with Isaac, whom Sarah will bear to you by this time next year" (Gen. 17:19-21, NIV). And it happened exactly as the Lord had said!
God is, as John Gavazzoni so masterfully puts it, nonnegotiable in His plan to conform us to the image and likeness of His son, and almost beyond human comprehension, His unconditional love covers the worst mistake we ever made or could make, and that love follows our descendants down through the ages, as well. It's what allows parents to sleep at night, knowing that God loves our children as much as He loves us, and even though we regularly make mistakes in our children's lives, nevertheless, He overshadows all our self effort with love and grace and power. The one who calls the things that are NOT as though they were, will bring resurrection life into our lives and in our children's.
Even before the cross, by the Spirit, David knew what was coming: "Blessed are they whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord will never count against him" (Rom. 4:7-8). We can all fall on our faces in gratitude that this is the truth about our Father, and His relationship to us. Paul goes on in Romans four, to ask, "Is this blessedness only for the circumcised, or also for the uncircumcised?" (Vs. 9). This is important in trying to answer the man's question about the need to trace our ancestry to Abraham by means of DNA. Paul answers it plainly and succinctly, "And he is also the father of the circumcised who not only are circumcised but who also walk in the footsteps of the faith that our father Abraham had before he was circumcised. It was not through law that Abraham and his offspring received the promise that he would be heir of the world, but through the righteousness that comes by faith" (Vs. 12-13). What Paul is saying there is that it was not through soul power (human will), that Abraham received the promise, but because the mouth of the Lord had spoken it!
Technically speaking, Abraham lived before the Law was given, but in Paul's delineation of the gospel, we see that God's law is written in nature. "For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse" (Rom. 1:20, NIV).
Reading on in that chapter, we come to a perfect explanation of the difference between soul power and Spirit power: "They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator, who is forever praised. Amen" (Rom. 1:25). Soul power creates idols made with hands to gain access to the fruits and gifts of the Spirit as well as entrance into the kingdom. No, we don't worship Baal or Molech or Asherah as the Israelites did to their shame. Our idols are quite a bit more subtle. Religion itself can be an idol if we are practicing its tenets to gain right standing with God, or using our works as an attempt to deflect His wrath. Job used his own works as a buffer against God's wrath (Job 1:4), but in the end, he saw God Himself: "My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you. Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes" (Job 42:5-6).
Like Job, I have repented in dust and ashes of my works. Am I totally free from works now? "Probably not," based on last week's experience, but the good news is that God never wastes any problem, any trial, any trouble, be it physical sickness, financial ruin, or any kind of deprivation, in His grand plan to bring us through to the image and likeness of His Son. He uses everything to show us His unconditional love for us, and His determination to bring us into maturity. Lenny says when he asks, "Why all this pain?"; he always hears, "He learned obedience by the things which He suffered" (Heb. 5:8).
The glorious good news of the Gospel is that God is worthy of trust! Because He could swear by no greater, He swore by Himself. For His holy name's sake, Ezekiel affirmed, He will bring our deeds done by soul power (good and bad), to naught and He will cleanse us from all our idols (Ezek. 36:25). The result of such cleansing will amaze and astound the world: "'This is what the Sovereign LORD says: On the day I cleanse you from all your sins, I will resettle your towns, and the ruins will be rebuilt. The desolate land will be cultivated instead of lying desolate in the sight of all who pass through it. They will say, "This land that was laid waste has become like the garden of Eden; the cities that were lying in ruins, desolate and destroyed, are now fortified and inhabited." Then the nations around you that remain will know that I the LORD have rebuilt what was destroyed and have replanted what was desolate. I the LORD have spoken, and I will do it'" (Ezek. 36: 33-36, NIV). This chapter is one of the most glorious examples of grace found in the bible.
Soul power alone ultimately capable only of leaving the land desolate, the cities in ruins. Spirit power will rebuild what was destroyed and replant what was desolate by the power of Unconditional love.
After reading my writing last week, John Gavazzoni commented that the God given soul capacity for dominion was intended to be energized by love, the ultimate power, which is inherent in eating of the tree of Life. I appreciated that nice summation. It explains why Adam and Eve were thrown out of the garden, with cherubim wielding flaming swords keeping them from returning. To live forever without the completion of God's love would be to stay in an endless hell. God took care of that easily, knowing that He will rebuild our ruins and replant our vineyards that sin and self effort laid waste. The church spends enormous time, energy, and money to get us to repent of our sins, but seemingly, they fail to see that self-effort is right up there with the "big sins," and does as much as sex, drugs, and rock and roll to keep us from true and intimate fellowship with our Father. Lenny said the Lord told him once that he was so busy working FOR God, that he had no time to KNOW God.
God's plan of the ages, fulfilled in Christ Jesus our Lord, is summed up in the tremendous promise found in Isa. 40:5: "And the glory of the LORD will be revealed, and all mankind together will see it. For the mouth of the LORD has spoken." As always, it is HIS words, not our own which deliver LIFE!
Father, we thank You for delivering us from the works of our own hands, and the destructive consequences of our own actions, so that we can now partake freely of the Tree of Life and fellowship with You forever. May we share Your life with all creation. Amen. Jan Antonsson
Jan and Lenny Antonsson
17178 Highway 59, Neosho, MO 64850 (Snail Mail)
"Faith or Works, Soul Power III"
"Ambassadors for the Kingdom, Soul Power, IV"
"Three Blind Mice, the Guilt Factor, Soul Power, V"
"Soul Power Revisited, Soul Power VI,
"That Tree, Soul Power VII"
"The Far Country, Soul Power VIII"
The Glory Road
We always enjoy hearing from you!
This page was uploaded to the web on 4/1/04
by Jan Antonsson, Webmeister,
and last edited on 10/18/08.