Given for the Saints of Medicalodge, Neosho, MO on 6/10/07.
"For I know the plans I have for you," says the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future" (Jer. 29:11).
I knew there would be a Part II of "Unconditional Surrender," but this title, "Final Frontier" is a surprise since there is nothing final about God, who is unending. Those of us who enjoyed the "Star Trek" series, recall that its creator, Gene Roddenbury, considered space the final frontier, but zooming through space at warp nine speed was tame compared to our travels through the kingdom of God on earth. Kingdom living is not for babes or the faint of heart. About the time we locate a nice camp ground, pitch our tent, set our tent pegs in place, and build the campfire, the Spirit whispers, "Enlarge the place of your tent, stretch your tent curtains wide, do not hold back; lengthen your cords, strengthen your stakes. For you will spread out to the right and to the left; your descendants will dispossess nations and settle in their desolate cities" (Isa. 54:2-3). Even as God is "new every morning," so are His dealings with us. He is as unique as each one of us is. That does not mean that He is chaotic and unstable in His dealings, but rather that He is fresh and innovative in the way He uniquely leads us to a fuller understanding of who He is and what He is about in our lives.
The graphic of a mother holding an infant speaks of tender love and care, protection, and yes, codependency. I've written about the crippling effects codependency can have on a family, but truthfully, if parents were not codependent to their infants and small children, none of them would grow up, for human babies are totally helpless, unable to feed, clothe, or protect themselves. Thus, we love them, care for them, protect them, instruct them in self preservation, godliness, and social graces, until the time comes to let them go. For me, it has truly been the "final frontier" of what I have been called to surrender, though I realize it may not be the last frontier.
As He often does, the Lord sent me something this past week which belongs in this writing. It is an excerpt from a book by Brian D. McLaren, entitled The Last Word and The Word After That. This particular section is entitled "Conversations About Hell." Here's a passage from this section which substantiates my conclusions about one cause of codependency. McLaren asks, "When the brilliant and influential American theologian Jonathan Edwards etched the image of an angry God upon our minds in a famous sermon in the eighteenth century, was he helping us or hurting us, telling the truth straight or slanting it?" Remember Jonathan Edwards' infamous sermon about an angry God holding us all over the fires of hell, like a spider dangling from a thread?
McLaren concludes: "Whatever you think of Edwards's sermon, the conventional doctrine of hell has too often engendered a view of a deity who suffers from borderline personality disorder or some worse sociopathic diagnosis: "God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life, and if you don't love God back and cooperate with God's plans in exactly the prescribed way, God will torture you with unimaginable abuse, forever"... that sort of thing. Human parents who "love" their children with these kinds of implied ultimatums tend to produce the most dysfunctional families, and perhaps the dysfunctions of the Christian religion can be traced not to God as God really is but to views of God that are not easy for people to swallow while remaining sane and functional." End Quote
This paragraph rang a bell with me, because I know quite a lot about dysfunctional families. McLaren infers that threatening folks with hell fire produces the dysfunction which plagues so many of us, or another way to look at it is that fear of hell is the "oil" which fuels the engine of neurotic behavior, the hallmark of dysfunctional families. I'm sure I'm not the only one who heard, "I'll have to stand before the Judgment Seat of Christ and give an answer for how I raised you." That misshapen and totally unscriptural concept produces the codependency which cripples us and generates many of the neurotic and dogmatic rules with which we often cripple our children, all in the name of saving them from hell.
The broader points filter down into "rules and regs" that most Fundamentalists/Evangelicals know well, including what you can eat or drink; what type of recreation you may engage in; and above all, what you can believe the Bible says and still be a member in good standing of your church. Failure to comply with any of these sacrosanct religious dogmas will land you in trouble with "the powers that be" now, and worse, may lead to everlasting torment later. This doctrine is psychologically damaging and emotionally disabling.
Years ago, the Spirit gave me insight into a scripture that sounds horrible on the face of it: "The LORD is slow to anger, abounding in love and forgiving sin and rebellion. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation" (Num. 14:18). Because the Bible does not contradict itself, this verse has to mean something other than a parent will have to answer for the sins of the children. My proof text for that conclusion is Ezekiel 18:20: "The soul who sins is the one who will die. The son will not share the guilt of the father, nor will the father share the guilt of the son. The righteousness of the righteous man will be credited to him, and the wickedness of the wicked will be charged against him." So, in fact, NO ONE will have to stand before the Judgment Seat of Christ and give an account of how he or she reared their children.
As I was pondering what could be the reconciliation of these two opposing sounding thoughts regarding the sins of the fathers being visited upon the children to the third and fourth generation, and the one in Eze. 18:20, it came to me decades ago, that perhaps the "sins" which are visited upon the children are not actually transgressions; not "sex, drugs, and rock and roll," but in fact the neurotic behaviors which runs in families. Having had wonderful counseling in my life, I am well acquainted with the neurotic stuff that has rolled like a river through my life. It isn't sin, per se, and in fact, Arthur Janov (Primal Scream), believes that neuroses may keep us from becoming psychotic. Be that as it may, neuroses might be as good a definition as any of what the carnal nature actually is. When we try to take our neurotic prejudices, fears, and predispositions into the kingdom, we quickly find that God has heated up His "divine blow torch" in order to burn them off. I've been complaining to God for at least 25 years now about why He saved us from our sins, but left our neurotic stuff clinging to us like barnacles on a ship? When is He going to put us in "dry dock" and get them all scraped off?
He has not answered me, but from personal experience and conversations we've had with other fellow travelers on The Glory Road, I can see that the Holy Spirit has prearranged circumstances and situations which disable our neurotic stuff, thus depriving our codependency of the fuel it needs to continue. There comes a time in every Christian's life when we have to face up to ourselves. It may happen quickly, or more likely, may take many decades to bring us to the place of giving up, unconditionally surrendering all to the Lord. What makes this painful, scary process possible is realizing that He IS in control of all things. He "works ALL THINGS after the counsel of His own will" (Eph. 1:11).
Every Saturday morning, I enjoy a time of phone fellowship with Harry Robert and Jeri Fox. It is a divine appointment in which we share our adventures on The Glory Road, pray for each other, and encourage each other. During this week's fellowship, Harry shared a great story that demonstrates that there are no time constraints in the Kingdom. He had received a letter this week from a woman who had attended a Church of Christ where Harry was the minister in 1957. She said, she wanted to let him know how much hearing the gospel from him had meant to her in her Christian walk. He had no idea that she had been impacted in any way because she had moved to the East Coast, but fifty years later, Harry learned how God had used his words in this woman's life.
I told them that if I could retain only one verse from the entire Bible, it would be Romans 11:32: "For God has consigned (penned up) all men to disobedience that He may have mercy upon all." That is an all inclusive, block buster statement by the Apostle Paul that shows the absolute power and authority of God over all men, the righteous and the unrighteous. Harry said, one such scripture for him is Rom 9:20-21: "But who are you, O man, to talk back to God? "Shall what is formed say to him who formed it, 'Why did you make me like this?' " Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for noble purposes and some for common use?" That resonates with me, because I have wondered why God made me the way I am.
Harry reminded me that Paul's thought probably came from Jeremiah, who was told by the Lord to go down to the Potter's house, where the prophet would get a message. Here's the account: "But the pot he was shaping from the clay was marred in his hands; so the potter formed it into another pot, shaping it as seemed best to him. Then the word of the LORD came to me: "O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter does?" declares the LORD. "Like clay in the hand of the potter, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel" (Jer. 18:4-6). This is an answer to Paul's question about whether the potter has the right to make "one part of the lump a lovely vase, and with another a pipe for sewage" (Rom 9:21, Phillips). Harry's point about the verse in Jeremiah is that if God makes a "pipe for sewage," or a marred vessel, He can put it back on the wheel and make a perfect vessel out of it. And this, my friends, is how it is that God can, if He chooses, save everyone, no matter how wicked, how unrighteous, or how disobedient they may be. He puts them "back on the wheel" and creates a work of beauty out of a "sow's ear," on this side of Jordan or the other.
That brings me back to the analogy of barnacles on a ship. A ship can do nothing to remove the barnacles itself. No amount of wishing, or washing can get them off. They have to be painstakingly scraped off, which, when considering our neurotic stuff, is a "God job" through and through.
I find it incredibly comforting that God is responsible for our children's spiritual growth. The driving compulsion of codependency is that WE are responsible for how they turn out, which plunges us into hell now if things don't look as good as we'd like. This over exaggerated sense of our own importance in their final outcome, causes us to either over discipline or over protect them as children, and to attempt to rescue them from any and all problems they face as adolescents and even into adulthood. Carried to it's worst outcome, our children never learn to go to God, for they know we'll bail them out of whatever dilemma in which they find themselves. My conviction about that is if we continue to stand in His way, He will "take us out." God is non negotiable in His determination to have His way with each one of us.
Clearly, "God has no grandchildren." Each one is responsible before God for how we live our lives. Let me remind myself and anyone else who needs it, that CHRIST is the One responsible to "present the church (that's us AND our children and grandchildren) to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish" (Eph. 5:27).
The essence of codependent parenting is the failure to rightly divide the scripture into Old Covenant (the Law) and New Covenant (grace) teaching. There are countless jokes told by Jewish comedians about their Jewish mothers laying guilt on them. That's a natural consequence of trying to live by law. Once in a while, I reread Deut., Chapter 28, just to remind myself of what Christ delivered us from. Trying to keep your children from committing these myriad sins would be a full time job, and laying on the guilt might work for a while, but quickly, it loses it's power and merely hardens the conscience of the person being "guilted." The Law of Moses was an external religion, built on self effort, designed I think, to show them and us, that knowing good from evil isn't the point, because no one can keep the Law. The New Covenant has a radically different approach, based upon the indwelling Spirit who does God's will through us. Under Law, everything depended upon man's obedience; under grace, everything depends upon the indwelling Christ, our hope of glory, "the END of the Law" (Rom. 10:4).
Don't you ever wonder what a church might be like that did not lay guilt on its members, but instead, turned them over to the tender mercies of the Holy Spirit, who would mentor them into righteousness (right relationship) with God? Yes, I acknowledge that Elders and Deacons and ministers of the gospel have a responsibility to minister to the flock, but when a person comes into the new birth experience, who is his Mother or Father? It isn't the pastor, priest, elder, or deacon, but God Himself. Jeri Fox pointed out that the new birth insures that we have a parent who cannot fail, who leads, guides, disciplines, and provides for us in ways that no one with skin on can do. What a marvelous plan our Father has for our growth and perfection in righteousness.
Father, we thank you that You are there, ahead, around, and behind us, shepherding us safely through all our "final frontiers." You turn all the minuses in our lives into pluses. In Christ, we cannot lose for winning, and neither can our children and grandchildren to the third and fourth generation. You alone are worthy of honor and praise and glory. Amen. Jan Antonsson
To Be continued......
Jan and Lenny Antonsson
17178 Highway 59, Neosho, MO 64850 (Snail Mail)
Final Frontier, Unconditional Surrender III
Religious Addiction, Unconditional Surrender IV
The Codependency Factor, Back to Basics V
The Last Word and the Word After That by Brian D. McLaren
The Glory Road
We're always happy to hear from you
This page was uploaded to the web on 06/05/07
by Jan Antonsson, Webmeister,
and last edited on 06/20/07.