Given for the Saints at Medicalodge, Neosho, MO, on 7/10/05.
"You will not surely die," the serpent said to the woman. "For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil" (Gen. 3:4-5).
The quest to understand good and evil has followed men and women since the day Eve took a bite of the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Governments and religions have been founded on the fruit of that tree, which for the sake of this discussion, we'll call "soul power." Remembering Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar's dream about the statue with head of gold, chest and arms of silver, belly and thighs of bronze, legs of iron, and feet of iron and clay, it's clear that all these empires were built by human hands, "soul power," in other words. When Daniel recounted the dream for the anxious king, he described a rock not made with human hands, which "struck the statue on its feet of iron and clay and smashed them. Then the iron, the clay, the bronze, the silver and the gold were broken to pieces at the same time and became like chaff on a threshing floor in the summer....But the rock that struck the statue became a huge mountain and filled the whole earth" (Dan. 2:32-35). Daniel gave the king the interpretation of the dream: "In the time of those kings, the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be destroyed, nor will it be left to another people. It will crush all those kingdoms and bring them to an end, but it will itself endure forever" (Dan. 2:44). This is another way to say that "soul power," which is temporary, will always be out shined, out gunned, and out lasted by "Spirit power," which is eternal, ordained by God Himself.
This writing, along with everything else I have written, is for me, for I have been on a life long quest to understand the difference between "soul power" and "Spirit power." Most of my life's endeavors, efforts, successes and failures have been fueled by "soul power," and came as a result of cognitively reacting to what I perceived as either good or evil. Like the statue in Nebuchadnezzar's dream, most of my undertakings in the flesh were broken to bits by "The Rock" which became a mountain and filled my whole earth. Cultural, societal and familial influences in my youth made me a very determined person. Perhaps it's the German in me, or just who I was born to be, but before my encounter with "The Rock," failure was not an option for me. Give me a job and then get out of my way, for I will do it or die trying! This is exactly why God had to grind my abilities, talents, and convictions to powder, which He did by turning off the faucet of our income in 1995, and allowing us to lose everything the world holds important, except family and friends and Himself, of course. Had we not walked through that Valley of the Shadow, we would never have discovered that God had a far better plan for our lives than the one Lenny and I had imagined for ourselves. We gave lip service to the sovereignty of Almighty God, but I, at least, didn't know it at a cellular level.
It's possible that I still thought God was in control of the spiritual, but He expected me to take care of the physical. That is what the church doctrine infers, after all. By the importance they place on their passion for knowing good and evil, one could conclude that they think Jesus' sacrifice was enough to get us saved from our past sins, but if we ever hope to get to heaven, we'll have to exercise our own will by choosing the good over the evil in our lives.
I have written and spoken about this difference between good and evil, "soul power" vs. "Spirit power" so often that I wondered if I should really go for it again this week, though I had a title and a graphic on hand. We had several e-mails and a phone call which affirmed to me that, yes, this is what God has in mind. I made a statement in last week's writing that would have gotten me run out of town on a rail, stoned or excommunicated by every church in this town. In case someone did not see it, the statement was in this paragraph: "Adam represents "soul power" perfectly. He ignored God's mandate, and ate of the forbidden fruit, which was purported by the serpent to have the power to make them like God, knowing good from evil (Gen. 3:4). The Church has changed this lie slightly by saying that knowing good from evil will help us to live lives pleasing to God, but it's still a lie! Eating the fruit of that tree brings death. Period. End of statement: "but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die" (Gen. 2:17)." End quote. A brother called to question this conclusion, which radically flies in the face of what we've all been taught by Sunday School teachers, preachers, elders, parents, grandparents, and friends all our lives.
So what am I saying, that it's OK NOT to be good, OK to do bad things? God forbid, as Paul expressed it. And his explanation is far better than mine: "For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ ("Spirit power"). If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It ("soul power") will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man's work" (I Cor. 3:11-13). On what foundation are you doing the good works which Christians hold so dear? Did the Spirit tell you to do it (whatever "it" may be), or did your sense of duty, guilt, and that nagging fear that you aren't doing enough compel you? I heard Billy Graham say on a TV interview that he was afraid he hadn't done enough for Christ. My heart bled for him, because to the degree our works for God were self effort ("soul power"), to that same degree they have no eternal weight of glory which only comes when we're led of and empowered by the Holy Spirit. This does not affect our eternal salvation, as Paul explained, "If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames" (Vs. 14-15). "Our God is a consuming fire" (Heb. 12:29), who will burn off the dross.
The dear old Saints at Medicalodge are the ONLY group in this town to whom I could say this (and this is only because God sent me there and opened their ears to hear the truth of God's eternal purpose). We light a candle each Sunday morning to remind us who He is. When I ask them why we light a candle, one says, "God is light," and another one says, "God is fire. He burns off the dross." Far from being something to fear, this glorious truth sets us free.
Mount Sinai was the location where "soul power" became codified into law. Under the Law of Moses, a man had to choose whom he would serve, God or Satan. Under grace, by the very fact that Christ gave His blood to set us free from law and ordinances (Col. 2:11-23), we do not have to choose by our own efforts. The "hope of glory" in us chooses for us (Col. 1:27). Those under law did not have the Holy Spirit, except when God granted them a divine visitation for special jobs, as in the preparation of the Tabernacle (Ex. 31:6; 36:1-2; 38:23), or when He sovereignly empowered men to speak on His behalf. The phrase "the word of the Lord" appears 254 times in the Bible, showing that when God spoke, He empowered men to act on His behalf, as He does today. The average Old Covenant Israelite, however, had to grit his teeth and bear it, serving God by the force of his own will power. Even a quick review of the Old Testament reveals that this was totally a failure. Men and women cannot please God with only their own self effort ("soul power"). It's as impossible as walking on water unless God holds you up, OR you know where the rocks are. Otherwise, it's a sinking proposition all around.
Regarding the good works inspired by guilt or obligation, as I tell them at Medicalodge, these are not sinful, exactly, but they do miss the mark of the high calling of Jesus Christ. These works may impress your church, your family, and your friends, but God is not honored by anything that He has not ordained. The urge to take a little glory seems to be built into the human model, for men and women have always tried to get a piece of the glory pie. Inherent in that foible is also the reluctance to admit guilt. When God asked Adam why he was hiding, his first excuse was that he was naked. We don't know how much time elapsed from Adam and Eve's creation until this scene when they were lurking among the greenery, but for however long it was, they had been waltzing around as bare as the day they came into the world, and yet, they were not ashamed (Gen. 2:25). When they ate the fruit, their eyes were opened, and their guilt caused them to hide from God (Gen. 3:10). Until then, they had not known guilt, or shame or fear. Knowing good from evil brought all these evils upon them, another reason why just knowing good from evil does not make us good.
If man could do good just because he knew what the good thing to do was, then all would be well, and if he could avoid evil just by knowing what it was, then we wouldn't have been in this soup of sin and shame in the first place. Adam and Eve KNEW that eating the fruit of that tree was wrong! God Himself had told them this, but it did not keep them from eating it. From that day to this, knowing good from evil has never made anyone pleasing to God, nor kept us from sinning. To prove this point, the Lord gave them the Law through Moses. To set the stage, God set up the following visual effects which Cecil B. DeMille would have envied: "Then Moses led the people out of the camp to meet with God, and they stood at the foot of the mountain. Mount Sinai was covered with smoke, because the LORD descended on it in fire. The smoke billowed up from it like smoke from a furnace, the whole mountain trembled violently, and the sound of the trumpet grew louder and louder. Then Moses spoke and the voice of God answered him" (Ex. 19:17-19).
What happened next proves that fear is a very poor motivator indeed. If so called gospel preachers understood this, they'd give up the threats and scare tactics they use to get people up front at the altar call. After hearing the ten commandments, the text recounts, "When the people saw the thunder and lightning and heard the trumpet and saw the mountain in smoke, they trembled with fear. They stayed at a distance and said to Moses, "Speak to us yourself and we will listen. But do not have God speak to us or we will die." Moses said to the people, "Do not be afraid. God has come to test you, so that the fear of God will be with you to keep you from sinning" (Ex. 10:18-20). Sadly, Moses' assumption that the fear of God would keep them from sinning was unfounded. It was a conclusion which originated in his mind, not God's. He received a powerful lesson on "soul power" from this experience, but as it turned out, it didn't help him to do the right thing any more than it did the zillions of Israelites he was leading.
When the people had cried out to him that there was no water for them, God told him to strike the rock at Horeb "and water will come out of it for the people to drink" (Ex. 17:3-7). Under similar circumstances, later on, God told Moses to speak to the rock (not strike it as He had at Horeb), and it would bring forth water. Moses was angry at the people's grumbling and unbelief, and in his exasperation, he struck the rock. The good news is that his self effort brought forth water for the people (Num. 20:2-11), but the bad news is "But the LORD said to Moses and Aaron, "Because you did not trust in me enough to honor me as holy in the sight of the Israelites, you will not bring this community into the land I give them" (Vs. 12). Please notice though, that while Moses did not get the earthly reward he sought, i.e., leading the Children of Israel into the Promised Land, nevertheless, he did not lose his eternal reward, as evidenced by the fact that He appeared with Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration (Matt. 17:1-7). Once again, we see that God's judgments are for this earth (Isa. (26:9).
I tell them at Medicalodge that the people for whom you do good works using "soul power" will be blessed, even as the Israelites were blessed by having water to drink when Moses struck the rock, but God is not pleased or honored by our self effort. I have a friend who is really into "good works." She takes old ladies to their doctor's visit or hair appointment, or to church; she prepares food for the elderly, the sick and shut-ins; does many other things which genuinely help people in need. However, she loves to tell you about it, and when she does, I think of Jesus' words: "Be careful not to do your 'acts of righteousness' before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven" (Matt. 6:1).
So how can we tell the difference between a good work done by "soul power" and the real deal? None of us want to be like the men who did really spiritual sounding good works, like prophesying, casting out demons, and working miracles, but in spite of all that, still heard the Lord say, "I never knew you; depart from me, you evildoers" (Matt. 7:22-23). Now, that's down right scary. Most people quit reading at that verse, but look at the next one: "Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock" (Matt. 7:24-25). This, by the way, is the SAME rock upon which Jesus told Peter He would build His church (Matt. 16:18). And no, this does NOT mean Peter was the first Pope, as Catholics claim. Christ meant that He would build His church on Peter's confession: "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." (Matt. 16:16). Here again, we see that it is the words of God Himself which direct our steps rather than the ideas of men. When Jesus told them to listen to His words and put them into practice, He was not referring to a leather bound book with red lettering called "The Bible." His comment on that to Satan is a good example of what we're talking about here: "But he answered, "It is written, 'Man shall not live by bread alone ("soul power"), but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God '" ("Spirit power"; Matt. 4:4).
Many Christians have elevated "the good book" to the godhead itself, and try to live by what they think it says, or by what someone in their church thinks it says. The day is coming when men's eyes and ears will be opened so they will follow the Spirit of God, NOT the doctrines of men. Lord, haste the day when we believe John's affirmation, "Yet I know that the touch of his Spirit never leaves you, and you don't really need a human teacher. You know that his Spirit teaches you about all things, always telling you the truth and never telling you a lie. So, as he has taught you, live continually in him" (I John 2:27, Phillips). On that day, Jeremiah's prophecy will be fulfilled: "No longer will a man teach his neighbor, or a man his brother, saying, 'Know the LORD,' because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest," declares the LORD. For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more" (Jer. 31:34).
Father, we thank You for the indwelling Spirit who leads us into all truth, delivering us from the mountain that can be touched, which is burning with fire, darkness, gloom, storm, fear and guilt. We thank You that You have brought us unto Yourself, called us sons, justified and glorified us in the name of Jesus. You have set our feet on Mount Zion, the heavenly Jerusalem, the City of the living God, with innumerable companies of angels, the Church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. Everlasting praise to You, our Father, our Rock. Amen Jan Antonsson
Jan and Lenny Antonsson
17178 Highway 59, Neosho, MO 64850 (Snail Mail)
"Abraham's DNA, Soul Power II,"
"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"
"The Far Country, Soul Power VIII"
The Glory Road
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This page was uploaded to the web on 7/7/05
by Jan Antonsson, Webmeister,
and last edited on 10/14/08.