Given for the Saints at Medicalodge, Neosho, MO, on 3/11/07.
"Then what becomes of our boasting? It is excluded. On what principle? On the principle of works? No, but on the principle of faith" (Rom. 3:27).
The word codependency means, "Excessive or emotional psychological reliance on a partner, typically a partner who requires support due to an illness or addiction." In a 12 step Codependency Recovery Program, Lenny and I learned that like alcoholism or drug addiction, "Codependency is primary, progressive, chronic and fatal." It is a symbiotic relationship between a person disabled by alcohol or drug addiction, physical or mental illness, and the codependent, who is "addicted" to the person he is rescuing. The end result is that the addict is enabled to continue to self-medicate with their "drug of choice." We learned a great deal from the group sessions we attended, and after reading many books on the subject, it struck me that religion is a huge factor in people getting into codependent relationships and staying in them, because the church has authorized and emphasized good works for centuries, as they incorporated tenets of the Law into Christian tradition.
The book of James is a prime factor in that, of course. It's interesting that his statement, "You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone" (James 2:24), is the polar opposite of Paul's declaration: "And then I went on to explain that we, who are Jews by birth and not gentile sinners, know that a man is justified not by performing what the Law commands but only by faith in Jesus Christ. We ourselves have believed in Christ Jesus, so that we may be made right with God by faith in Christ and not by obeying the Law's commands. For we have recognized that no one can achieve justification by doing the "works of Law" (Gal. 2:15-16, Phillips).
Does this mean that the Bible does in fact contradict itself? If you look at it as a legal requirement (by the letter), it can be confusing, which is why we need to be led by the Spirit. Trying to find life in the Bible without the Spirit to guide us is like trying to get through a maze blindfolded. We end up going in circles. What I've come to see is that the Bible is a book for all seasons, all ages, all circumstances. It really is NOT a road map to heaven as some have suggested, for Christ Himself is the WAY, nor is it a detailed, step by step primer on how to achieve righteousness. Rather, it is a confirmation of what the Lord is showing us by the Spirit, regardless of our level of maturity. New believers may very well need the book of James to steer them in the right direction. However, once they mature, they are ready for Paul's writings, which show why works flow out of a Spirit led life, not the other way round. We are not justified by works of the law, but by faith in Christ (Rom. 3:28), and yet in spite of that, Christians continue to run on a treadmill of works. Why?
Jesus said, "It is more blessed to give than to receive" (Acts 20:35), and that is as true of helping others as it is of giving money. One day when I was running down the street in my neighborhood, the Lord said, "You know how to give. Now, you need to learn how to receive." That didn't feel very good to me when He said it, and it felt even less comfortable when I had to walk in it. Giving is great. It feels wonderful to help someone, to see their appreciation, and to think that we have advanced the kingdom on earth, or so we tell ourselves. It can become truly an addictive pleasure, all in the name of the Lord, which is why codependency is such a powerful force in our religious traditions.
Codependency is addictive, life changing and life threatening, the essence of self effort, rather than living by the Spirit's leading. To those bound by guilt and duty to perform a service that they'd rather not do, the only way out is to die. As I was thinking about this, it came to me that once again, religion is offering the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Why do I think that? God is NOT codependent to His children or His creation. Here are a few examples. The book of Exodus records, "In the course of those many days the king of Egypt died. And the people of Israel groaned under their bondage, and cried out for help, and their cry under bondage came up to God. And God heard their groaning, and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob" (Ex. 2:23-24). Fast forward the tape to Stephen's speech before the Sanhedrin, and we learn that they were enslaved and mistreated for four hundred years (Acts 7:6). That's a long time for them to groan and cry out before God acted. Christians, on the other hand, would have formed a committee, taken up a collection, and dispatched help within twenty four hours.
In the book of Job, one of the oldest in the canon, he bitterly complained about his harsh treatment from God, lamenting, "his hand is heavy in spite of my groaning. If only I knew where to find him; if only I could go to his dwelling!" (Job. 23: 2-3). I have also wished I could find "God's house" so I could go have it out with Him. Job's grumbling, sounds for all the world like any outraged crime victim: "The groans of the dying rise from the city, and the souls of the wounded cry out for help. But God charges no one with wrongdoing" (Vs 12).
II Kings 25:8-21, gives the account of the Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar, who conquered Jerusalem, set fire to Solomon's temple and the royal palace, and carried everything of value, including many captives back to Babylon. From the fall of Jerusalem in 586 B.C., Israel was never again a sovereign nation until the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948. For over 2,500 years, the Jews cried out to God to give them the land He promised by Covenant oath to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, until finally, He performed His word. Christians can't wait fifteen minutes without helping someone in need, but if they didn't get this behavior based upon God's model, where did they get it then?
We were talking about healing again in the Medicalodge service last Sunday, and as I frequently do, I ended with a prayer for God to heal their bodies, restore their minds, eyesight, and hearing, and fill them afresh with His Spirit. I had told them earlier that even though Jesus said greater things than He did we would do, nevertheless, most of us haven't even begun to do the things He did, let alone the "greater things." If it were up to Jan, I continued, they would all be healed and in such good shape that the staff at Medicalodge would send them home to care for themselves. It is not up to Jan or anyone else but God, and there they sit. Have I given up hope and faith that He will act? By no means, but admittedly, it is hard to wait. Lenny has pain from many sources, and we believe God will heal him, but when? Waiting is a tough assignment, as Job found out.
Doing something, almost anything, takes your mind off how difficult it is to wait. Bringing casseroles to the sick, giving alms to the homeless and afflicted, visiting those in prison or in nursing homes, helping people with whatever task they can't do for themselves, makes you feel like you're worth something, doing a good deed in the name of the Lord. Even if you are NOT working your way to heaven, it is indisputable that helping others makes you feel great! And, it certainly makes those in need feel better, cared about, loved even.
I had a dream about three weeks ago now that didn't make sense and I forgot about it until I began to think about this topic. Some people have spiritual or prophetic dreams. Mine are usually mundane and even silly, but this one had a profound message for me when God opened it up for me.
In the dream, Lenny was not my husband, but only an acquaintance. I had either attended his wedding or at least knew somehow that he had married an old, white haired woman named Bertha. Later on in the dream, when he and I were together, he asked me for sex. I snorted a refusal: "I'm not having sex with you. You're married to Bertha." He replied, "The marriage was never consummated."
I woke up immediately and the first thought that came to me was, "That's what's wrong with the church. The wedding has never been consummated."
Of course, I am not referring to the church Paul describes in his epistles, the one without spot or wrinkle, but rather to the visible church on Main St., USA. There are many ways to interpret dreams, but, I remembered that the Lord had told me my dream is about the church, which any honest person admits has problems. We know from scripture that the church is the Bride of Christ, and in that we're all still waiting for the Wedding Supper of the Lamb, that would mean that the marriage between Christ and His church (His body, His bride), hasn't been consummated yet. Next, He led me to the parable of the wise and foolish virgins, which, by the way, is a perfect picture of how NOT to be codependent.
As you'll recall, in Jesus' story (Matt. 25:1-13), the ten women were waiting for the bridegroom to appear, at which time, they would go into the wedding supper. They had lamps to give them light while they waited. The wise virgins had extra flasks of oil in case they had to wait a long time, which actually, happened because the bridegroom was late getting there. They all fell asleep while they were waiting. When the cry rang out that the bridegroom was coming, the wise virgins trimmed their lamps, but the foolish ones had no oil left. They immediately asked the wise ones to borrow some of theirs. If a Christian would find herself in this situation today, I believe the codependency factor would kick in so that probably 99.9% of them would be unable to say what the wise virgins said, "Perhaps there will not be enough for us and for you; go rather to the dealers and buy for yourselves" (Matt. 25: 9). Jesus did say, if a man asks you to carry his load one mile, carry it two; if he asks for your coat, give him your cloak also (Matt. 5:40-41). That sounds like we are always to give to anyone who asks, and most Christians certainly would do so, and yet, here are these wise virgins able to say "No," to those in need. How can this be?
Let's assume that the oil for the lamps represents the Holy Spirit, or God Himself. The only descernable difference between the foolish and the wise virgins is that the wise one had more of the Spirit. Because they had oil (guidance, leading), the wise virgins could tell the others "No." Of course, while the foolish virgins were out trying to find oil, the bridegroom arrived and the ones prepared for him went into the marriage supper. When the foolish ones returned and beat on the door seeking entrance, they were turned away. I've always heard preachers rant and rave that this means if you don't prepare yourself, you'll be left out of heaven and end up in hell, but I think there is a deeper meaning here, one that will edify and not frighten, one which will help and not hinder our relationship to God here on earth.
Let's go back to the dream for a moment, which reminded me that the wedding supper of the Lamb has not been consummated yet on earth as it has been in heaven. Without the total union of Christ and His Bride, there is no oil (power) available, for power flows from that union, even as Jesus flowed in the power of the Father when He was on earth. He and the Father are one. He said He only did what He saw the Father doing and only said what He heard the Father saying. That is UNION; that is power; that is GLORY and that is oil for our lamps today!
Before the union is consummated, we, like the foolish virgins, experience the pain of separation, which Jesus likened unto childbirth: "When a woman is in travail she has sorrow, because her hour has come; but when she is delivered of the child, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a child is born into the world. So you have sorrow now, but I will see you again and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you. In that day you will ask nothing of me. Truly, truly, I say to you, if you ask anything of the Father, he will give it to you in my name. Hitherto you have asked nothing in my name; ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full" (John 16:21-24). There are those who say that this day has already come and all we have to do is speak into being what we want. This is the essence of "The Secret," which Oprah featured on a recent show. I didn't see it, but when a friend asked me about it, explaining what it was, I told her that it's just a thinly disguised version of Eastern Mysticism: "The Universe wants you to have it. All you have to do is ask."
It is also the basis of the "name it and claim it" religious formula beloved by Charismatics, and all of it is fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. The day you eat of it, you will surely die, for it is not born of union with Christ and the Father, but rather comes out of the mind of man. Jesus healed the sick, raised the dead, cast out demons, walked on water, fed the five thousand and did countless other miracles, and is still doing them today, not for His glory, nor to display His unlimited power, but out of His unconditional love for us. All miracles, beginning with salvation, which is the biggest miracle of all, are by grace through faith, not of our doing, lest any man should boast, "For God has made us what we are, created in Christ Jesus to do those good deeds which he planned for us to do" (Eph. 2:8-10, Phillips).
This verse also explains why we get such a psychological boost when we help others. It is the reason why the church has stressed good works for nearly 2,000 years. If they could, they would tell us to heal the sick, raise the dead, and cast out demons, but they can't pull that off. When I said this at Medicalodge, one woman asked, "What about Benny Henn?" My only comment was, "Bring him over here, turn him loose and then we'll talk about it." We do what we do to pass the time until God consummates His plan of the ages. Paul said that the MYSTERY hidden for ages (the Secret), is NOW revealed in Jesus Christ. All power to lead an overcoming life flows from our Union with Him.
And by the way, for all her faults, the extant church on earth has done a good job of leading people to Christ, which perhaps is her only job right now. Christ Himself is responsible for presenting the church to Himself without spot or wrinkle (Eph. 5:27). That's an impossible task for anyone but Him!
Here is Paul's mission statement of God's purpose for the church: "To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to make all men see what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things; that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places. This was according to the eternal purpose which he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Eph. 3:8-11). It is through the church, the body and bride of Christ, that all this power will flow. We see it with our spiritual eyes, but it has not yet been consistently manifested in flesh. Trying to make it happen before the marriage union is consummated is like trying to produce a child without a sperm to fertilize the egg. "With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible" (Matt. 19:26).
Religious leaders, as I said, dare not command us to heal the sick and raise the dead, but they can suggest that helping others is a good place to start. Somewhere along the way, the joy of giving and helping became an addiction, a knee jerk reaction when we see someone in need. What's wrong with that, you ask? Again I say that GOD is not codependent. He often lets us "stew in our own juice," as my grandmother put it, until He is ready to take us off the hook. I'm sure all of us have prayed until our souls were raw in an effort to get someone healed, only to find that God had other plans. When Lazarus fell ill, Jesus tarried two days before going to the family (John 11:6). He got there seemingly too late, but as we know, this was for "God's glory so that God's Son may be glorified through it" (John 11:4). We want to rush in and save people from their pain, but God knows just how much pain it takes to open us up to receive Him. His ways are truly not our ways because He knows the end from the beginning.
The only way to walk then, which scripture affirms, is by the Spirit (John 16:13-14; I John 2:27). There is a way that sounds right to a man, but the end thereof is death, because so often, the "good sounding way" is merely fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. It is the fruit of the Spirit which produces life changing results, and reveals the glory of God to the world.
Father, we love You; we know You are transforming us into the image and likeness of Christ. Help us to get out of Your way and wait until You do Your perfect love is manifested in our lives. In love and praise, we ask it, amen. Jan Antonsson
17178 Highway 59, Neosho, MO 64850 (Snail Mail)
Back to Basics: The Sovereignty of God
Back to Basics, II: Sovereignty and Reconciliation
Back to Basics, III: A Practicum on Sovereignty
Back to Basics, IV: Out of the Box
Back to Basics, VI: The Tomb Is Still Empty
Back to Basics, VII: Where Is Hell?
Back to Basics, VIII: God Is Love
Back to Basics, IX: By Man Came Also
Back to Basics, X: Victory Over Death
Back to Basics, XI: Provision
The Glory Road
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This page was uploaded to the web on 03/07/07
by Jan Antonsson, Webmeister,