Given for the Saints at Medicalodge, Neosho, MO on 11/18/07.
"He who forms the mountains, creates the wind, and reveals his thoughts to man, he who turns dawn to darkness, and treads the high places of the earth: the LORD God Almighty is his name" (Amos 4:13, NIV).
The question posed by today's writing came from pondering with a friend why we struggle so, and "kick against the pricks" (good King James English there, Acts 9:5), as we seek to figure out our life, our calling, our neurotic responses, all of that. Our friend, knows that God has everything in hand and is in charge of everything he's dealing with, but when he looks at what appears to be wrong with in his own life, he gets depressed and angry at God because things never seem to get better, only worse and more complicated.
After I suggested that he can't see the forest for the trees because he is standing in the center of his own universe, he wrote, "Intellectually, I know the problem and intellectually, I also know that I don't know how to fix the problem... I think I am pissed off at God because I admit the internal, infernal dysfunction and have been honest with him and begged him to do something about it...and He hasn't.... I see it; I acknowledge it; I hate it and yet, God does nothing about it and I have learned that no form of religious activities or fake outward showing of pseudo-holiness does a bit of good. Matter of fact, I seem to desire to openly flaunt the fact that I am a screwed work, you know, sour mash or whatever it takes to cool down the inside fire of anger toward God's flippant, 'I am the King and don't have to answer to anyone.' If I can get my wrestling appointment with him (like Jacob did) I would do my best to kick his ass. I know I can't, but it will feel great just ending up exhausted and broken like a wild horse, so he can finally ride (use) me." End quote.
At the very least, here is an honest man! Here's a man who knows God well enough to say how He really feels and get it off his chest. Been there, done that. In fact, I dare say that when our issues threaten to overwhelm us, the underlying problem is we're mad at God about the way our life turned out. Having been blessed with good counseling, I learned how freeing it is to say how you feel without fear of judgment or condemnation. That wasn't true in most of our birth families, at least not in mine. Not only that, but we were taught that God was fierce, if not fire breathing, and we had to be respectful and approach Him fearfully with our heads bowed and hands folded in prayerful words.
That never worked very well for me, but it took the baptism in the Holy Spirit to demonstrate in a way no church service, sermon, or Bible reading ever did, that God loves me! He died for me! He's my daddy! That being the case, I finally realized that He is approachable. I can crawl up on His lap and tell Him my troubles. In some cases, due to my Fundamentalist upbringing, He was the cause of my troubles, because early on, I realized that I could never measure up to the WORDS I found in my Bible and what preachers said they meant.
For example, Jesus said, "Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect" (Matt. 5:48). I used the King James rendition there because that's the version which terrified me so as a young Christian. I told them about this last Sunday at Medicalodge and asked, "How can anyone be perfect?" One gal piped up and said, "Preachers seem to think we can," and that is exactly the point. I have many faults in the natural, but I am brutally honest, especially about myself. No matter who said what, I KNEW that I was not perfect, nor even in the same state as perfect, nor ever could be perfect no matter how hard I tried. That conclusion can lead to despair, poor self esteem, and FEAR!
The problem lies with poor translations and worse interpretations, which leave us not with relationship, but with LAW! Most of the indicatives (statement of what is), have been translated as imperatives (authoritative commands). This letter-of-the-law teaching has clouded the glorious reality we enjoy in Christ. Harry Fox explained: "The most impressive of God's gifts is the astonishing truth that long before any of us had adequately believed in God or repented of our sins or asked for forgiveness, God forgave us at the precise moment in which we crucified His Son on the Cross! In other words, per Romans 5:10, "While we were (His) ENEMIES we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son" (not when we were His obedient friends but were His disobedient enemies)!" End Quote.
The "Be ye perfect" text quoted above came in the passage where Jesus had given His "sermon on the mount" to the crowds following Him. As Harry pointed out in his writing "You ARE the Light of the World" (See Link at End). Jesus began by blessing them, not trying to whip them into shape using shame and guilt. He warned them about trying to find God through religious practices that only affected the soul, not the spirit: "For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven" (Matt 5;20). Certainly, the scribes and Pharisees were no slouches when it came to good works and determination, yet they did not impress Jesus, for He saw into their very souls, and knew that they were using the "fake it until you make it," philosophy, and it was not working.
Jesus raised the bar on what the Law had demanded, to make the point that the self righteous Pharisees who boasted about keeping the law, were woefully inadequate. He told them that it wasn't enough to physically avoid adulterous relationships, because if they looked upon a woman with lust, they had committed adultery with her in their hearts.
Like the Pharisees, there are many Christians who like to think they are not sinners because they haven't committed adultery, or killed anyone, or stolen anyone's goods, and yet Jesus said their hearts are whited sepulchers, full of dead men's bones. Did you ever notice that He was hardest on the self described righteous folks, but kind to sinners?
Jesus' comments to the folks gathered on the mountain that day reflect the difference between religion and life in the Spirit: "You have heard that it was said, 'Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect" (Matt. 5:45-48).
I believe what He's saying here is that because we are sons of our Father in heaven, we ARE [already] perfect in spirit. It has nothing to do with us, but everything to do with Christ's indwelling Spirit. When we see only our faults, we have failed to "reckon ourselves dead in Christ," focusing on flesh, not spirit (Rom. 6:11).
The e-mails and phone conversations we get reflect a great angst out there in Christendom among folks who continue to despair because they don't measure up to someone else's yardstick of self worth. The crowds who followed Jesus everywhere He went knew that He was "the real deal," the "mother lode" of what they had been seeking and hadn't found until He came. He drew them like bears to honey, and they never went away unsatisfied.
You don't read about anyone who went to Him for healing going away grumbling that the pain was still there; people He raised from the dead, weren't sickly and pitiful. They were full of life, God's life. Why? Because the same Spirit which raised Christ from the dead had touched their mortal bodies, and they thrived and went about praising God.
I recently heard Bennie Henn mention the current crisis in Pakistan. His remedy? He advised his listeners to pray, read the Bible, and oh yes, send money. Not to pick on the poor man who, as Lenny says, is no doubt doing the best he can, but really, did you ever once hear Jesus ask for anything in return for what He did? Did He end the sermon on the mount with a request for money? Did Peter pass the hat on the Day of Pentecost so the infant church could survive? Did Paul hit up the churches for more support? No, no, and no! In fact, Paul told the Corinthians that he preached the gospel to them "free of charge," (II Cor. 11:7) and also declared that he was not a burden to anyone (Vs. 9).
The so called prosperity gurus hawking their wares on Television have declared a false gospel. Paul called men who twist the truth for their own gain, "false apostles, deceitful workmen, masquerading as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. It is not surprising, then, if his servants masquerade as servants of righteousness. Their end will be what their actions deserve" (II Cor. 11: 13-15). Interestingly, CNN reported that a Senator has initiated an investigation of how these mega church preachers are spending the money they are raking in. They all have tax exempt status because they purport to preach the gospel, but many are living the good life, driving Bentleys and Rolls Royces, living in mansions, one even had a $23,000 marble toilet made for himself. Bennie Henn and Kenneth Copeland were the two names I recognized under investigation. Oral Roberts' son Richard is also under investigation for misappropriation of funds donated to Oral Roberts University. If he is convicted, it could jeopardize the status of the University.
Innocent or not, there is the APPEARANCE of greed and graft which is very troublesome. It's no surprise that the world wants nothing to do with the church as it struts and frets its hour on the world's stage. Better than a Congressional investigation, I would like to turn the Apostle Paul loose on them for a while and hear what he would say, but then, he has already said all that needs to be said in his letters to the churches he established.
What's the answer to all this angst and corruption within and without God's children? God has only one answer and that is Christ in us and we in Him. Paul assured us, "For no matter how many promises God has made, they are "Yes" in Christ. And so through him the "Amen" is spoken by us to the glory of God. Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come" (II Cor. 1:20-22). Since God has all power and works all things after the counsel of His own will, and since Christ is the one responsible for presenting the church to himself "without stain or winkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless," we need not worry or fret about the inequities we see in the extant church. God is working, often unseen, within the churches, all of them, even as He is working within us, usually unseen, to conform us all to the image and likeness of Christ (Eph. 1:11; Eph. 5:27; Rom. 8:29).
That being the case, why don't we feel better about ourselves? Each of us must work it out ourselves with fear and trembling, but here's how the Spirit dealt with me when I feared I could never be pleasing to God because I fell so far short of the ideal Christian (or what I had been led to believe was the ideal Christian).
The Spirit helps me feel God's power when I read the great and precious promises. I wrote them on 3" x 5" cards and taped them to the mirror in my bathroom, on the fridge, on the dash of my car, and kept a set in my purse. The Spirit reminded me that I could believe what I saw in myself, OR I could believe what the Bible says about me. I chose to focus on WHO I am in Christ by the Spirit.
Looking at things that way, it became easier over time, to understand that Jan is God's problem, not mine. He has already accomplished His work in me, and even if I can't fully see the result, it doesn't change the inevitable outcome. In Hebrews 4:3, we read that God's "work has been finished since the creation of the world," and Paul declared that "God consigned all men to disobedience, that he may have mercy upon all!" (Rom. 11:32). Those scriptures alone tell me that God has it all in hand, always has, and always will.
When we take our spiritual temperature by looking at our flesh, we are standing in the center of our own Universe, thinking everything revolves around us. In the 4th Century B.C., Aristotle posed the theory that the earth was the center of the Universe and everything revolved around it. The ignorance and superstition rampant during the Dark Ages upheld the belief, fueled by the Catholic Church's need for power and control. Galileo's invention of the telescope, proved this was not the case. The Church viewed his conclusion as heresy, because the idea that earth was not the center of the Universe threatened their power base.
Certainly the idea that God has total control of everything and everyone threatens the power base of many Christians today. That's OK, because we have to be threatened before we surrender, and we have to surrender before we can come to peace: peace with God and peace with ourselves.
Father, we bow before the glory of Your presence and the power of your hands which made the universe and everything in it, and for your voice which declared Your handiwork, "Very Good." We praise You for the blood of the Lamb, which restored us to fellowship with You; help us to rest in Your finished work and cease our own struggles. From everlasting to everlasting, You are our Creator, our Glory, and our Father. Amen. Jan Antonsson
17178 Highway 59, Neosho, MO 64850 (Snail Mail)
You ARE the Light of the World by Harry Fox
The Glory Road
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This page was uploaded to the web on 11/12/07
by Jan Antonsson, Webmeister,
And last edited 11/18/07.