Given for the Saints at Medicalodge, Neosho, MO, on 6/4/06
"It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery" (Gal. 5:1).
When the movie "The DaVinci Code" hit the movie theaters, the History Channel ran a series of programs, with the purpose of "decoding the code." I watched some of them because I didn't read the book, and have no plans to see the movie. I was unclear about the plot and curious about all the hoopla and fury it generated amongst the faithful. What I deduced from the programs I saw was that a) author Dan Brown probably got the idea from Henry Lincoln, which is what the law suit was about (Brown was sued for plagiarism, but the case was not proven); b) Mr. Brown has a great imagination and came up with a fantastic plot, which is pure fiction. Most of us suspect that the media and Hollywood couldn't find Jesus if He were standing right in front of them, and since they are seemingly not offended by anything, I figured these TV programs would end up saying that maybe it is possible Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene and the bloodline of their daughter runs through many kings of France.
In the book, the Catholic Church attempts to cover up this horror and indulges in lies, deception and murder to accomplish that. In fact, the programs I watched, even the one on the SciFi Channel, concluded no such thing, but pointed out over and over that according to art historians (who had researched DaVinci's painting of "The Last Supper," which is where the key to the code is supposedly hidden), church historians, Medieval scholars, and others who explored the so called science of the thing, the work is pure fiction. CNN's Paula Zahn interviewed a Catholic Bishop the day the movie premiered, and when asked if he hoped that Catholics wouldn't see it, he said that before he saw it, he would have answered, "Yes" but afterward, he found it so ridiculous that he didn't care if they did.
Several people have written to us asking if we thought this movie was the devil's greatest ploy to drag people away from their faith in Christ. I agree with a friend who after reading the book, says, "Only those who have never met Christ could believe the story. Duh, it's fiction!" However, the success of the book and the movie prove that mysteries sell. People love to indulge themselves in conspiracy theories, and if it involves a Catholic Church cover-up, so much the better. Corruption in high places also sells, and I believe that after all the controversy, the hoopla, the accusations back and forth, Dan Brown will profit financially by his novel. The movie grossed something like 250 million dollars the first week end it showed world wide, which should have made Mr. Brown smile.
Based on scientific evidence, it is clear even to those without faith that "The Last Supper" did not hide the code to the fantasy purported by Brown's novel. The Bible, however, was written in code, or so it sometimes seems to our logical Western minds, for the meaning of the text is hidden in symbols and seeming contradictions. Now, I grew up in a Fundamentalist Church, and nothing would get my blood pressure up like having someone say the Bible was full of contradictions, in order to prove that one couldn't use it as a guide to spirituality, or a roadmap to heaven, whichever came first. I had a few friends in high school with whom I would debate the issue, loudly and passionately, but the fact is that just denying the contradictions exist does not explain them away.
A case in point here is an e-mail from a dear brother who wrote us sharing a problem that many would never admit, i.e., that he continues his struggle to "walk pure before the Lord." He fights his "reprehensible flesh" that torments his mind with it's "gross nature." I don't know what his background is, but I would guess it was similar to the man who sent us the pamphlet called "Rapture Ready," which I wrote about in "Qualifying for the Kingdom." (See link at end.) His e-mail contained a scripture found in I Cor. 9:24-27, to emphasize what he was up against and what he needed to do about it. Here's the scripture: "Do you not know that in a race all the runners compete, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. Well, I do not run aimlessly, I do not box as one beating the air; but I pommel my body and subdue it, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified."
I feel sure the brother asked us the question because of our oft stated conviction that there is nothing whatsoever that man can add to the work of Christ. On the cross, He said, "It is finished" (John 19:30), and when the Holy Spirit shined His Light on the verse, I saw that it means just that: our salvation, glorification, sanctification, and holiness is a done deal. There is nothing that we can add to or take away from the perfect plan of God, the Gospel, for if we could, we'd be god and God would be out of a job. If anything depends upon me, then God is weak and unable to protect what He set in motion before the foundation of the world, and I'm doubly damned because I have no one to bail me out of the soup that I inevitably fall into, no matter how much I flail around trying to save myself. Depending on yourself is frustrating in the extreme, futile and foolish, because self effort always leads to failure, which is what the Law of Moses demonstrated. Nevertheless, requirements that you shape up and keep the rules to avoid hell, is what keeps many churches in business.
The question arises, "But why did Paul say he beats himself up every day if we aren't responsible for whipping ourselves into shape?" Here you have one example of an APPARENT contradiction. Part of the problem in solving these enigmas is that we often take one snippet of a thought to prove a whole theory. The point Paul is making in chapter nine is that he is indeed an Apostle of Christ. Apparently, some in Corinth had expressed doubt about it, but he offers two "proofs" that he is the real deal: 1) he has seen Christ the Lord and 2) the Corinthians themselves are the result, the evidence of his work in the Lord (Vs. 1). He reminds them that he has the right to food and drink (Vs. 4) and the right to take a believing wife along with him (Vs. 5). He makes the point that he would have been justified in taking money from the ministry to live on, but instead, he and Barnabas worked for a living (tentmakers) so they would not be a burden to those they served, saying, "If others have this right of support from you, shouldn't we have it all the more? But we did not use this right. On the contrary, we put up with anything rather than hinder the gospel of Christ" (Vs. 12). Paul is not above laying on a little guilt here and there, for after all, as they say, he did have a Jewish mother. Nevertheless, the chapter is about the freedom he enjoys in Christ, freedom which he set aside to win the Gentiles to Christ.
Then the Apostle makes a most remarkable statement, which is that he is "compelled to preach. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel! If I preach voluntarily, I have a reward; if not voluntarily, I am simply discharging the trust committed to me" (Vs. 16-17). This does NOT sound like Paul is responsible for figuring out what he should do for Christ, but that his steps were ordered, his job description given, and the result was nothing less than the prize of many souls brought into the kingdom.
Paul is a man driven by the goal set before him, winning the Gentiles for Christ. He asserts that when he's with the Jews, he becomes a Jew, and when with the Gentiles, he becomes a Gentile. This does not indicate that he was two faced, but simply that he recognized the tremendous culture gap between Jew and Gentile, and how he must conduct himself to succeed in his God given mission. He concludes: "To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some. I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings" (Vs. 22-23). Only after he has laid this foundation for his operating method does he strengthen his thoughts with the metaphor about training for the race and buffeting his body to get in shape to win the race and achieve the prize set before him. It is extremely tempting to think that arduous self sacrifice and physical deprivation are the keys to holiness. Perhaps scriptures such as these explain the arcane practices engaged in by some monks of old who wore hair shirts and flagellated themselves with whips to try to curtail and control their carnal nature.
It sounds spiritual to some, I suppose, but for those who have tried it, like Martin Luther, it failed to produce the desired results. Think of it like all the ridiculous claims made by advertisers of diet products. This product will keep you from having belly fat; that one will keep you from stress eating; another one will help you lose weight without diet and exercise. Yeah right, and cats can fly. In any event, when you take one segment of scripture and make a whole theology out of it, be assured that it won't fly either, though it may hasten getting to the end of your spiritual rope so all you have left is depending on God. Martin Luther tried for years to suppress what he imagined were his carnal failings, and fought the devil vigorously in the process. He was an honest man, and at the end of his struggles, God finally shined the Light for Luther on Rom. 1:17, "The Just shall live by faith." Yes, yes, I do know that James insisted that "Faith without works is dead" (James 2:20;26); many denominations take his words as their marching orders and their justification for laying works on the flock as a legal requirement. The Apostle concluded in Gal. 3:11-12, "Clearly no one is justified before God by the law, because, The righteous will live by faith." The law is not based on faith; on the contrary, "The man who does these things will live by them."
When you insist that you must do works to prove you have faith, you are attempting to live by Law. The harmony of the seeming conflict between, "It's all up to us," and "God does it all," is found in Gal. 2:20, "I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith OF the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me" (Eph. 2:8, KJV). We will do His works by HIS faith, as He compels us to do them (as Paul was compelled to preach the gospel).
Back to the brother who is concerned about the grossness of his flesh, Paul has the answer to that as well. It's so simple a dead man can get it: "For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin, because ANYONE WHO HAS DIED HAS BEEN FREED FROM SIN" (Rom. 6:6-7). Last time I looked, a dead man cannot lust, murder, envy, lie, or even try harder to be good. He is dead in Christ, and the life he now lives is in Christ (Vs. 8). This is the good news, so rejoice in it: "But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves to God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Rom. 6:22-23).
Salvation, holiness, and victory in Christ are all gifts of God. I have found from experience, however, that He will let us struggle and struggle until we wear ourselves totally out trying to do the right thing, be perfect, quit sinning, or whatever else our flesh thinks is spiritual. When we have exhausted ourselves and are lying on the floor with our tongues hanging out, the Spirit gently nudges us with the glorious truth, "Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are IN CHRIST JESUS, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death" (Rom. 8:1-2). Maybe it wouldn't seem as sweet if we hadn't killed ourselves trying to get there on our own steam, but I remind myself that crucifixion is one death you cannot accomplish alone. Christ did it for us and since we are in HIM, we have the victory in Jesus that the grand old hymn talks about.
These are just words until the Spirit breathes life into them, so if you are still struggling, take heart. He knows where you are and how much energy you'll have to expend before you're ready to give up, but I testify to you that you WILL give up eventually. You will surrender; You will repent of your own foolishness, your self efforts, and then no one will be able to keep you silent. You will shout it from the roof tops that God is all and in all (Eph. 4:6; Col. 3:11). You will know from the depths of your being "that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father" (Phil 2:10-11). You will REST in the truth that God is the one who "works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose" (Phil 2:13). Lord haste that day.
Someone who has been born again cannot believe the premise of "The DaVinci Code," any more than he can believe the Bible is not valid because of contradictions. Mysteries in scripture come from listening to traditions of men, rather than being guided into the truth by the Holy Spirit. I like the Phillips translation of I John 2:27: "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."
Father we thank You that our struggles are over; our victory in Christ is won. Make us instruments of Your peace, bearers of the glad tidings wherever You send us. Help us speak peace to the heathen and we will rejoice. We give you praise and honor and worship to Your Holy name. Amen. Jan Antonsson
Jan and Lenny Antonsson
17178 Highway 59, Neosho, MO 64850 (Snail Mail)
Qualifying For The Kingdom
Decoding The Covenants
Decoding the Atonement
The Glory Road
This writing was uploaded to the web 05/30/06,
by Jan Antonsson, webmeister,
and last updated 10/08/08.