Given for the Saints at Medicalodge, Neosho, MO, on 4/11/04
"I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by observing the law, or by believing what you heard?" (Gal. 3:2, NIV).
Most of us know what Paul's position on the law was, which can be summed up in this passage: "I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!" (2:21). Yet the fact that he had to ask the question at all to these brethren shows how difficult it often is to tell the difference between works (soul power) and grace (Spirit power). Christians often mistake their own desires for an unction of the Holy Spirit. I told them last Sunday at Medicalodge, that I've heard many people proudly assert, "I made a decision for Christ." To them, I would say, "Well, yes, you did, but not by yourself. The Holy Spirit gave you a swift kick in the right direction." Paul described this clearly in his letter to the church at Phillipi: "Not that I claim to have achieved all this, nor to have reached perfection already, but I keep going on, trying to grasp that purpose for which Christ Jesus grasped me" (Phil. 3:12, Phillips). He knew that it was the Lord who kicked him off his horse and changed his life's direction 180 degrees.
We watched "Jesus and Paul," Monday night, a documentary with Peter Jennings. Having seen his documentary "In search of Jesus," last year, I wasn't expecting much. (Needless to say, he never found Jesus). Jennings is the quintessential newsman, professional, thorough, and politically correct. I appreciate his style and his accuracy in reporting things of this world, so I mean no disrespect when I say about his spiritual expertise, "He couldn't pick Jesus out of a lineup." Like all good reporters, he was covering a story from all angles. You don't get to be the anchor for a major broadcasting company by being sloppy. And he wasn't sloppy in the job he did, just limited by soul power. If your spirit is not quickened by the Holy Spirit, all you've got to go on is your natural mind, which will take you far, maybe even to Mars, but won't even get you through the door into the kingdom of God.
Jennings was clearly interested in this kingdom of God, which surpassed in power the mighty Holy Roman Empire. It turns out that the Vatican sits adjacent to the spot where many Christians were slaughtered for Nero's pleasure. Viewing the Vatican as representative of the kingdom of God, Jennings was impressed that a lowly Jew such as Paul, could turn the world upside down with his preaching. Paul's accomplishments must have been doubly impressive to someone who has never encountered Spirit power (or if he has, he gave no indication of it.)
Jennings gave me a terrific example of soul power with his interviews of various experts and scholars, ranging from the Fundamentalist to the extreme liberal. One of them even labeled Paul as anti-Semitic, which is missing the truth by an astonishing degree. Some of them came up with the brilliant conclusion that Paul was the one who decided circumcision shouldn't be required of Gentile converts, because it was "bad for business," to paraphrase them. They reasoned that Paul changed the rules because circumcision was a serious decision for an adult male to undertake, with often fatal consequences (no sterilization before, or after the surgery causing infection to be a likely event, and there were no antibiotics). They surmised that had Paul not changed the rules, no one would have converted. As it was, his decision that circumcision was not necessary got him in hot water with his Jewish brothers. I listened to this with an "Oh brother" expression on my face, until it hit me that God had just given me a perfect example of soul power in full sway. I found myself praying for Jennings that he might actually recognize this Jesus whom he's been pursuing, for I suspect these little documentaries may satisfy some personal longing he may have. He admitted rather hesitatingly that there may be something to this Jesus, after all, judging by the results, a religion which swept the world and is still growing.
God gave us our minds, and without the infilling of the Spirit, that's all we have to go by. Last week, I quoted a reader who was irate that I acted like the bible stories were true. He wrote again after reading that writing, "And people who do not arrive at their conclusions by considering good and evil, who do not depend on the brain that God endowed them with, and who ignore scientific and scholarly research in shaping their opinions, are simply foolish! It's certainly not God that directs you to do that. Again, I ask you a very simple question: do you believe the story of the Tower of Bable is true? Quite frankly, your modus operandi of holding a holier-than-thou attitude and insisting that you are correct because God tells you so, is disturbing. It does explain however why a large percentage of those in mental wards are those who deem the Bible to be the inerrant words of God....because the disconnect to reality has already been established in their minds. Of course, I don't expect anyone can tell you anything if you're convinced that God tells you everything directly and that is a very dangerous place to be in because you are not open to correction or even a healthy dose of realty. Sorry about that." End Quote. So, my secret is out. I'm quite mad according to this man.
Poor baby, I clearly drove him "round the twist," because it has always been the case that if God doesn't open your eyes and ears, you can neither see nor hear. Isaiah commented: "They know nothing, they understand nothing; their eyes are plastered over so they cannot see, and their minds closed so they cannot understand" (Isa 44:18, NIV). Jesus followed up with, "For this people's heart has become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts and turn, and I would heal them.' But blessed are your eyes because they see, and your ears because they hear. For I tell you the truth, many prophets and righteous men longed to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it" (Matt. 13:15-17, NIV).
This is according to God's plan, as Paul explained about God leaving the Jews TEMPORARILY outside the veil: "What then? What Israel sought so earnestly it did not obtain, but the elect did. The others were hardened, as it is written: "God gave them a spirit of stupor, eyes so that they could not see and ears so that they could not hear, to this very day" (Rom. 11:7-8, NIV). Notice that God is the one who closes and opens people's eyes. Why? If man could do it alone, he alone would take all the glory, and then he could legitimately say, "I made a decision for Christ." In Pauline theology, it is always God who plans; God who initiates or stops our efforts; God who calls us and turns on the light in individual hearts. "It is obviously not a question of human will or human effort, but of divine mercy" (Rom. 9:16, Phil). Because our Father is not willing that "any should perish, but that all should reach repentance," (2 Pet. 3:9), He made provision for the Jews. A definitive statements about the salvation of all is found in Romans, chapter eleven. Paul declares that these Jews who persecuted him, stoned him, beat him, and imprisoned him, will ALL be saved. (Rom. 11:26).
How can this be? God's ways are higher than the heavens than our ways, and unless He reveals them to us, we can't find them out, but Paul, more than anyone but Christ, gives us insight into the heart of the Father. The reason God can save everyone, as improbable as that seems to those enslaved by religion, is that our salvation, everyone's salvation is by grace, not works! As He ever has, God is working through a remnant today even as He did through Paul and the other disciples. Peter Jennings was amazed that a lowly Jew could spread the gospel message throughout the Roman Empire, because he's thinking about it with his mind, not the Spirit of God. Paul himself gave the answer Jennings sought about how it could be done, and I pray God will open his eyes to see it in all its glory. Paul's explanation is, "So too, at the present time there is a remnant chosen by grace. And if by grace, then it is no longer by works; if it were, grace would no longer be grace" (Rom. 11:5-6, NIV).
You could scarcely find a Christian who, if asked how we're saved, would not answer "By grace," but what does that mean exactly? As I remarked in the beginning, it is difficult to grasp because everywhere you look, you see Christians who proclaim grace, but are busily performing works to achieve right standing with God, or to secure their salvation, or to get a greater reward.
Sunday night, I was lying in bed watching the news, and not being very sleepy, I clicked around to see what was on at that hour. A religious broadcast came on produced by a church in Joplin. When I saw who was doing the preaching, I was all set to click it off, because the guy has driven me nuts in the past, but I felt the Holy Spirit's gentle persuasion to leave it on. Would you believe that the pastor's topic was works? His text was one of those scary scriptures that frighten Christians so much: "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?' Then I will tell them plainly, 'I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!'" (Matt. 7:21-23, NIV). If the Holy Spirit hadn't stopped my remote clicking finger, I'd have been outta there in a heart beat, for I thought I knew what was coming: another hell fire and damnation sermon. But I was wrong; that's not what he spoke about.
He said, instead, that he thinks this passage does not refer to our eternal salvation, but rather, is about our rewards in heaven. He didn't elaborate, but I got the image of a bigger mansion in glory, with hot and cold running champagne out of the golden faucets, maid service, pool and spa, well manicured lawns and gardens, and well you get the picture. (Don't be too hard on me, we used to preview mansions like that in North Ranch, CA, when we were in real estate.) His delivery style made me smile. He constantly asked, "How many know.....?" His questions included these: "How many know that lots of folks prophesy?" He went on to comment that since so many prophesy and they are NOT saying the same thing, it leads one to think that God is very confused, or perhaps schizophrenic. I understand exactly what he's saying. Christians are all over the map in what they are proclaiming. Does this mean they are in error? Not necessarily. Part of the sectarian mindset, and one characteristic of a cult as well, is the belief that only their group has the right doctrine.
Then the Sunday night preacher asked, "How many know it's a good thing to cast out demons?" Perhaps not enough people raised their hands, because he said with a smile, "You'd know it was a good thing if you had a demon in you." But the question he asked that interested me most was, "How many know that there is nothing you can do to earn salvation?" They all raised their hands. He continued, "But you know that it's good to do good works don't you?" He seemed to have a vague concept of the difference between good works that you think of yourself as opposed to those the Holy Spirit asks you to do, but he urged them to do them all anyway. To me, that was schizophrenic, talking out of both sides of his mouth. Perhaps he is convinced that we're not working for salvation, but merely for more rewards in heaven.
I have a question for him, and anyone else who is addicted to good works, attempting to gain rewards in heaven. What greater reward could there be than God Himself? He had said to Abraham, "I am your shield, your very great reward" (Gen. 15:1). And if the Holy Spirit anoints us to do a work, which is the only kind that have any eternal weight, how could we get the glory, when the Spirit gave us the instruction and the strength to follow through? In the passage quoted in Matt. 7, Jesus plainly said, "Not every one who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven" (Vs. 21). Set aside any fear that you may not make the cut to enter the kingdom, and look at it again. Who gets in? "He who does the will of my Father who is in heaven." Whose will is being exercised here? If my works are HIS will, then He alone gets the glory for them.
In this passage, Jesus also talks about bearing fruit, and states that "every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire" (Vs. 19). Again, this is a promise, not a threat, that the cleansing fire of God will burn up the unproductive aspects of our life, clearing out the deadwood and leaving us fully functioning as He created us to be. Only those who have passed through the flames can really tell the difference between His works (Spirit power) and our works (soul power). While I'm at it, let me address the complaint the man had about me that I talk about the Lord showing me this or that. He accused me of setting myself up as someone special. Nothing is farther than the truth. Rather I am bearing witness again, that without the Holy Spirit, there would be no writing, no Internet ministry, no web pages built, no ministry at Medicalodge. It is ALL Him. He uses my fingers flying over the piano and computer keys and my mouth, but He is the source of it all. Can a cell in your little finger on your right hand say, "I pressed the return key?" No, a single cell can do nothing without the whole finger, which can do nothing if it is separated from the body, which is dead as a doornail if it is NOT connected to the head, Christ Jesus!
The preacher mentioned several times that Jesus often spoke of rewards, and indeed He did, but as Lenny pointed out when we were discussing this, "Jesus was the bridge between law and grace. The people who followed Him were still living under law, which was built on rewards and punishments." Jesus spoke of "your reward in heaven" (Matt 5:12; 6:1; Luke 6:23). If you substitute the word "spirit" for "heaven," you get an entirely different slant on this controversial topic. Our reward is in "spirit." Jesus came to bring a spiritual kingdom, which He said, "comes not with observation" (Luke 17:20). You can't see it with your eyes, in other words. The first century Jews were looking for a visible, powerful kingdom that would restore them to their rightful place in the land promised to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Jesus spoke to them in language they were familiar with, but still, they missed Him because Paul said, God had blinded their eyes for a season.
There's a fascinating verse in Luke about the subject of rewards. "I tell you the truth," Jesus replied, "no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age (homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields, and with them, persecutions) and in the age to come, eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last first" (Mk. 10:29-31). These rewards are in the present age, and in the age to come, the reward is ETERNAL LIFE! What many seem unaware of is that Jesus' death on the cross gifted us this reward! His resurrection from the dead ushered in THE AGE TO COME! Jesus spoke of things now, but one of the scholars on the Jenning's TV show surmised that when Jesus didn't come back when his followers thought He would, they began to second guess His words, concluding that maybe they had missed the timing of it. They projected His second coming out into the future, when in fact, He came back in power and majesty on the Day of Pentecost, only 50 days after His resurrection! He's alive and well today! You cannot see Him by soul power, but with the eyes of our understanding enlightened by the Holy Spirit, we see Him as He is, NOW! "Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom" (2 Cor. 3:17).
Father, we thank You for revealing the mysteries of Your kingdom, which confound the wise, and reveal the foolishness of the carnal mind. Let us be light bearers to the darkened world, pouring out living water to the thirsty land and feeding the hungry. We give You all the glory, for You alone are worthy of honor and power and blessing. Amen. Jan Antonsson
Jan and Lenny Antonsson
17178 Highway 59, Neosho, MO 64850 (Snail Mail)
"Soul Power, I"
"Abraham's DNA, Soul Power, II"
"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
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This page was uploaded to the web on 4/7/04
by Jan Antonsson, Webmeister,
and last edited on 10/18/08.