For the Saints at Medicalodge, Neosho, MO, on Easter Sunday, 4/8/07.
"The last enemy to be destroyed is death" (I Cor. 15:26).
Death, the antithesis of life in Christ, still stalks the human psyche, taking on many shapes and forms, robbing the Saints of joy and peace and God's unconditional love. Christ came to give us everlasting life, beginning now, but the world, the flesh, and the devil have robbed us of experiencing it. Most of Christendom has pushed our victory into some future time when they say Christ will come and establish His kingdom. That's depressing to someone who is languishing in a personal hell of guilt, shame, and self recrimination, and needs help right now! Two verses come to mind. The first is Heb 2:14, which identifies the executioner: "Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same nature, that through death he might destroy him who has the power of death, that is, the devil." The second verse is I John 3:8, very good news for those who may not have heard that the devil is a defeated foe: "He who commits sin is of the devil; for the devil has sinned from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil." When I ask the dear old Saints at Medicalodge if they think Christ failed in His mission to destroy the devil's works, they smile at me and say, "NO."
With all the best intentions, no doubt, gospel preachers have pounded the pulpits for centuries, warning about hell fire as the final destination of the wicked. The mission statement of The Glory Road ministry has been from the beginning to share God's Good News, in as many ways as we can say it, using the many, many scriptures which confirm the glorious truth: "If I be lifted up from the earth, I will draw ALL men unto me" (John 12:32). Many people cannot get past all the sermons they have heard, and the translations which talk about hell without explaining that it refers to Gehenna, a physical location outside Jerusalem. They are sincere, believe they are right and everyone else is wrong, and they are God's problem, because mere words won't change their minds.
The man who wrote last week, ("Sam," not his real name), responded to the piece called "God is Love" (See Link at End), which I sent him. Proving yet again how pitiful and pathetic words really are to change anyone's mind, Sam wrote after reading last week's article. He said,
"You must be born again and I am not nor do I know or feel His Love, as I [have] been married four times. All my family hates me and I [am] all alone in my fourth marriage, have diabetes, am a drunk, no hope for me except maybe He will remember me and not count every idle word I said as Jesus said I must be accounted for... there is no hope as I will have mercy on who I will have mercy... blessed be His Saints as I know what I am....and I sure do not want anyone to feel sorry for me as I was not chosen a vessel of honor...I know soon I [will] be gone and will not matter anymore as mine is a wasted life....just be thankful you are chosen!
"I have [been] defeated, I tried and I lost, all I ask for was to know Him and have a brother or sister..but that's not gonna happen is this world, give it up as I have, I am not chosen...thank you for your time..Sam."
Here's a man who heard the preachers loud and clear and believed their words, which no doubt helped bring him down in defeat and terrible isolation. It is plain to me that he drinks in an attempt to self-medicate his emotional pain, and because, no doubt, he is an alcoholic, which by the way is a dis-ease, not a moral weakness as so many think. God can heal him of all that ails him, and I've been praying for him since we received his first e-mail, for my words are pitiful and ineffective. Only the same Spirit who raised Christ from the dead has the power to minister life to his spirit and remove the bonds of death from his mind and soul.
What I said to him is this:
"Clearly, you've heard enough hell fire and damnation sermons to be convinced you are damned. This is NOT true. You ARE chosen. Everyone is chosen in Christ. Here's the scriptural proof, if that may help: "For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam ALL die, so also in Christ shall ALL be made alive" (I Cor. 15: 21-22).
"You are included in the ALL who died in Adam and in the ALL made alive in Christ. Don't you see, Sam (Lord, please help Sam see this), your present condition is a "God job." The preachers got it backwards. Nothing depends upon us, but everything depends on God, who will save every last one of us. Have you tried AA? They do a really good job helping people get sober.
"I know words won't cut it for you, so I've been praying and will continue to pray that God will reveal Himself and His Great Love for you in a way you can feel." (End of my e-mail to Sam).
Easter is a powerful reminder that Christ paid the price to bring each of us out of our personal tombs: "For to this end we toil and strive, because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all men, especially of those who believe" (I Tim. 4:10). This is one of those verses which may be confusing until the Spirit opens our eyes to see Paul's clear declaration that Jesus is the Savior of all men. Those who believe this is "a conditional covenant," rather than the unconditional covenant God made with Abraham that in His seed would all nations be blessed, say, "Ah ha. You have to do something. You have to believe." Indeed, we do have to believe, but it is not our works or our efforts which brings us to belief in the saving grace of God. Rather, it is the faith of Christ imparted to us in the hour of our deliverance from sin, which rises up in us and generates faith, giving us the strength to repent. Paul said that faith is a gift, so we can't boast that there was something we did to earn God's grace (Eph. 2:8-9). Some have reached this crucial moment of realization, the moment of understanding the grace of God, but others have not yet seen it.
Jesus said to Thomas after the resurrection, "Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe" (John 20:29). He knew the means by which we can believe without seeing Him, and on another occasion, He told them in preparation for His imminent death and departure, "Nevertheless I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you" (John 16:7). This Counselor, the Holy Spirit, was and is to be a glorious gift to all of us. Here's His job description: "When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you" (John 16:13-15).
The Holy Spirit is "the earnest of our inheritance, the guarantee," that the rest of what God has for us in Christ is coming, in the same way that an earnest money deposit in a real estate transaction is a guarantee of the Buyer's good faith in bringing the remaining funds needed to close the sale (II Cor. 1:22; 5:5). Sam says he has never been born again, which I intuit he feels is his fault. It's interesting to me that the church world has many rules for what you must do to be saved, but they usually do not say what you must do to be born again. No one can get born again by his own efforts any more than we could get ourselves physically born the first time. Impossible. Our parents brought us into this world without our help, and the Holy Spirit births us into the realm of Spirit, also without our help. Then, we enter and see the kingdom; we know God as our Father, Christ as our Brother, and the fellowship of the body of Saints. This is NOT something we can achieve for ourselves.
We dialogue regularly with folks who have received the Good News of God's salvation of all with joy, and yet, they continue to wrestle with sin consciousness, personal bad behavior, and inability to change themselves. They flail about and bad mouth themselves, feeling like failures in the spirit realm. Sam is clearly such a person. He wrote back saying, "I tried AA but found no unconditional help; in fact they called the cops on me as did some churches here when I asked for help! All I ask for is the Holy Spirit and get just the opposite. I would do anything to know Christ and the power of His resurrection.....It says the anointing you have you need no one to teach you...well I do not have the anointing...thank you, Sam." End quote.
The reason I mentioned AA to him was because they do have a better success rate than churches have in getting people sober and helping them stay sober. One reason for that, in spite of Sam's experience, is that they do not put conditions on who can come for help. A person can be falling down drunk and not be turned away from a meeting, something that probably wouldn't happen if he staggered into church. AA asserts, "Getting sober is impossible, but with God's help people do it." It is based on a Twelve Step Recovery Program (See Link at End), which many of you may be familiar with. Notice Step One: "We admitted we were powerless over alcohol, that our lives had become unmanageable." It's the powerless aspect that separates AA from most Christian churches, who continue to insist that a person can and must do something to stop sinning.
I answered Sam's e-mail with the comment, "Sounds like you've tried man's organizations, church and AA. Now, you're just left with God. Is that what frightens you?" The thing that's scary to some people about God is, you just can't control Him. He does what He does, and whether we're ready or not, here He is right in the middle of our lives. We've taken a tremendous step when we confess that we are powerless; we have no control. When we finally admit that, we stop flailing and breast beating and look to God, which is Step two: "Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity." We're ready to take Step Three when we're emotionally black and blue from trying and failing, trying and failing to do it ourselves: "Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him." In this progression, the person owns up to his own limitations and places his destiny in the hands of a "higher power," whatever that may mean to him personally.
I have found this process extremely effective in gaining the victory Christ died to give me over my own personal failures (not alcoholism, but other things which cloud my vision of the kingdom). When I have trouble forgiving someone, for instance, I say, "Lord, I've tried and I know I should forgive him, but I can't. I turn it over to you and know that You in me can do it." It's the same process for being delivered from fear, or anger, worry, or anything else that robs me of my peace. God is in charge of my life, and when I celebrate that control as a gift, rather than a threat, He gives me the victory in our Lord Jesus Christ. Until I began writing this, I didn't see the connection between what I've been practicing in overcoming my failures and the 12-Step Program, but it's obviously there, and I joyfully testify that God honors our admission of powerlessness by flooding us with grace.
He also honors our prayers on behalf of others. Lenny has had a lot of experience in intercessory prayer. I haven't been called as an intercessor, but sometimes I "stand in the gap," for another, doing for the person what he may not be able to do for himself. Several of you wrote regarding Sam, who certainly needs intercession. Here's a sweet e-mail which came today.
"Let's agree that the Lord will overwhelm him with grace! He did it for us, why not him? Grace is terribly humbling, that may be why he is instinctively running from God. Let's agree our Father will block every escape hole, box him in, and slosh grace all over him."
Another friend wrote, "As I read Sam's note to you, my heart is crying out. This is why God has walked us through the things He has, but you know what, most people have walked through much suffering and garbage, dysfunctional families. So what is so different in our lives????? God has given us eyes to see His hand in it and realize at some point His purpose. In it all, as He transforms us, we will be His hand, heart, and words to those around us who have not "seen." May we show forth His glory in fullness."
If you feel led, join us in lifting Sam to the throne of God. He is languishing in the tomb right now, but Jesus is on the way. I love what He said to Martha on the occasion of Lazarus' death: "I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and whoever lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?" (John 11:25-26). We do NOT have to wait until we die to experience resurrection, thank God, for Christ stands outside our tomb and cries, "Come out! Loose her and let her go!"
The Lord gave me a poem in April, 2001, that I want to include here, for it speaks to Sam and anyone else who needs to be resurrected from the dead.
I Left The Tomb Today
I walked to the door of my tomb today; the stone at the entrance was rolled away. I went outside; the weather was fine; the light was perfect, "sonlight" divine.
But what about all the stuff still inside? The things I'd long been trying to hide? The ego and pride and the people pleasing, fear and worry, which my soul was seizing; the heartache and stress of emotional pain that clutched my heart again and again. The guilt for sins long ago forgiven, held on to without any logical reason.
What should I do, Lord, with this debris? If I carry it with me, I'll never be free.
"Leave it behind, child. It belongs in the tomb; you come with me, into God's womb, where you'll become a son of the Most High. Gifted eternal life, you will never die. Reach out your hand and take hold of me. I'll never leave you and you will always be free."
I asked for courage to take the next step; as I took the Lord's hand, my heart in me leapt, to think that I could walk away from that mess, just leave it behind, and I have to confess, that at first I felt naked without my woes, which used to cover me from my head to my toes.
"Cheer up, and be glad," He said with a smile, "You'll never miss them, not even once in awhile."
So the two of us walked away hand in hand, to a brighter day in a far better land. I was raised from the dead, no tomb for me; the kingdom surrounds us where all are free. There's room on this journey for you to come too; leave your troubles behind. They will but hinder you. The Glory Road beckons, paved with pure gold, with sights and blessings great to behold.
As we travel with Him, we observe the story, that He's writing in us, full of grace and glory. Our journey into freedom is one step at a time, here a little, there a little, written line upon line. When God's womb is through forming His son, the struggles will be over, and all battles won. (End of Poem).
"For since by man came death, by Man came also the resurrection of the dead." (KJV)
RESURRECTION IS THE DEFAULT SETTING FOR ALL OF GOD'S CREATION!
Father, we turn our lives over to you, because only You can roll away the stone, carry us out of the tomb, and place our feet on Mount Zion with You. We worship and praise You for setting us free, for calling us sons, and for making Your dwelling within us. Give Sam and all who don't know You a personal revelation of Your grace and love. We give You all the glory, now and forever. Amen. Jan Antonsson
Jan and Lenny Antonsson
17178 Highway 59, Neosho, MO 64850 (Snail Mail)
I Left The Tomb Today
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, V: The Codependency Factor
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, X: Victory Over Death
Back to Basics, XI: Provision
Twelve Step-Program and History
The Glory Road
We're always happy to hear from you!
This page was uploaded to the web on 04/04/07
by Jan Antonsson, Webmeister,