Given for Medicalodge, Neosho, MO, on Sept. 16, 2007.
"But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ" (I Cor. 15:57).
Christ came to destroy the works of the devil and free those like me, who were held captive all our lives by our fear of death (Heb. 2:14-15; I John 3:8). And yet, astonishing though it may be, many Christian people are still afraid of death, even though we have the hope of the resurrection. It seems to me that all religions are organized around the idea of an "insurance policy" to protect the practitioner from either his fear of death, or his fear of what awaits in the afterlife. This writing could be called "Religious Addiction, Part II," but since it falls under the major premise we've been considering, "Unconditional Surrender" to God, we'll leave the title as it stands.
If Jesus came to destroy the works of the devil who has power over death, as the Apostle John asserts, then does the fact that so many Bible believing, Jesus professing Christians still fear death prove that He failed in that mission? Is our old enemy, that slithery serpent who tempted Eve, the winner in the contest then? Did Satan best Jesus three falls out of four and leave the creation in the same horrible mess of sin and corruption it was before Christ died? Did Jesus come shame faced before the Father's throne, forced to confess, "I did the best I could, Dad, but I couldn't get them to repent and be saved. Because of my failure, You'll have to burn them for eternity."????? Are we all responsible to save ourselves from death and hell by the works of our own hands, in our own strength, by our religious efforts? Are the principalities and powers and elemental spirits of the Universe laughing up their sleeves at the puny efforts of Almighty God to save His creation? Is Satan heating up the fires of hell, preparing the Bar-B-Que pits to receive those Christians who think the answer is "Yes" to these questions and everyone else, for that matter?
"But people still die," you protest, "so why shouldn't I be afraid of death?" As one who has struggled with the fear of death all my life, I can tell you that when you are afraid of death or anything else, it is a sure sign that you have NOT experienced God's perfect love, for John wrote, "There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and he who fears is not perfected in love" (I John 4:18). The ONLY way I ever got victory over any of my fears was to pray, "Father, You have not loved me perfectly in this area. I ask You to do that now because there's nothing more I can do." Unconditionally surrendering myself and my fear to God has been my answer over the years. He has never failed to deliver me from whatever it was that plagued me and robbed me of sleep at 3:00 A.M.
Our family is snake phobic. A little garter snake can cause me to shriek and run the other way. It would be quite amusing, if it weren't so sad; fear of snakes is merely a diversion, keeping us from seeing the truth. By focusing the real fear, which in my case, given my family's religious beliefs, is certainly death and hell, on to snakes, we have a tangible thing to avoid and to blame for our hysteria. It is but a symptom of a far deeper problem.
A friend wrote this week to ask, "Has your battle with fear been part of your overcoming path?" Though it was quite a surprise to me, the answer is, Yes, overcoming fear has been a major battle in my life. I was in denial of this fact for years because I shoved down my fear vigorously and vehemently and religiously. When I received the Baptism in the Spirit, and learned that I had "power over the evil one," as the Apostle John described "teenagers" in the Lord, I got a rush of confidence and convinced myself with various scriptures here and there, that I could ward off evil with this new found power of the Spirit.
One day, a young woman whom I was training to sell real estate came to me saying that she had a low offer to present a seller, who was a California highway patrol officer. She was terrified of the man. I said, "No problem. I'll go with you." I can still picture this scene of the two of us walking up the walk to his house. She asked, "Aren't you afraid?" I laughed and assured her, "I'm not afraid of anything."
Shortly after I had made that horribly arrogant statement, I was running one night, and I can still remember the spot on Valley High Street where the Lord said to me, "You were birthed in fear; you ingested it in your mother's milk. You have walked in fear your whole life." At that point I was somewhere around 37 years old, successful in my chosen profession, and it knocked me off my feet to realize that what I had assumed was courage, was just denial and bravado. I had been in counseling for years, had read dozens of "self-help" books, had scriptures posted everywhere in my house, my car, my purse, and yet, here the Lord pulled the covers off (as they say in AA), and showed me what lurked beneath my religious fervor.
From then until now, He has held my hand as He's walked me through one fear after another. He's the only answer there is, because in truth, fear is the natural response to the discovery of our inability to cope. We deceive ourselves with religious responses to life's problems or anxieties. Remember Job? He offered sacrifices continually on behalf of his children "lest they sinned" (Job 1:5). After the disasters came upon him, Job lamented, "For the thing that I fear comes upon me, and what I dread befalls me" (Job 3:25). Many Charismatic pundits have said this proves that fear causes bad things to happen to you and that's why you should never admit fear, but always make positive confessions. Yeah right, denial is a splendid solution to a basic human problem.
People get addicted to religion, specifically because it promises a solution to the problem of fear. I wore out a Bible by underlining and cross referencing scriptures guaranteed to help me fight the devil and demons, cure my illnesses, achieve financial success, and get victory over fear. In the end, I had a tattered Bible, and a lot of hype, but few results.
Once at a home prayer meeting, one of the elders told us that he believed his neighbor was possessed by demons because she was continually threatening suicide. He asked for volunteers to go right then to her house and cast the devil out of her. I went with them, thinking that with all our combined faith and spiritual energy, we should be able to whip the devil, no problem.
When we got there, she and her husband were sitting in a dimly lit parlor. We all joined hands and walked through the house, praying in tongues and casting, binding, and pleading the blood. It wasn't long before the hair began to stand up on the back of my neck and suddenly, this little adventure didn't seem as much fun as it had at first blush. I couldn't wait to get out of there. Nothing happened while we were there, and eventually, we left, hoping for the best.
The next morning, I got a phone call telling me that the woman had taken a chain saw to her neck sometime in the night, and her husband had found her body, lying in a pool of blood outside the back door. Horrified, I saw the folly of my presuppositions about the power of my faith and my ability to defeat the devil. The really creepy feeling I had in the house, together with the grisly suicide by the woman, convinced me that I wanted no part of fighting demons. Accordingly, the Spirit shined His light on a scripture I had underlined so long ago: "Neither give place to the devil" (Eph. 4:27, KJV). In that way He has of leading us into all truth, I got it in an instant. Leave the devil alone and keep walking.
As a graduate of "Copeland's Charismatic Boot Camp," I had learned to cast, bind and plead, seeing the devil everywhere and then casting him out. It was exhilarating at first, but soon it became very tiresome and I was weary of it. When the Lord showed me that verse in a new light, I was glad to know that I could relax and leave the devil to God who had created him for a purpose.
Chasing the devil is the activity of teenagers, according to the Apostle John, for they have found out they have power over the evil one. When we mature in Christ, we rest in the Father, who has always existed, a far better place to live and move and have our being than religion can provide (I John 2:13-14).
The fear factor is a part of all religion, for all religions have some elements in common, including the struggle to overcome fear which is the human condition after Adam's expulsion from the garden. Harry and Jeri Fox sent me a fascinating book entitled Death of a Guru by Rabi R. Maharaj (Harvest House Publishers). It is a compelling story about a Hindu boy, born into the Brahmin caste, destined by birth and karma, to become a priest, a guru, a high holy man. Upon his death, he would escape the wheel of reincarnation and enter into union with Brachman, who was all and all was Brachman. Like his father before him, Rabi worked diligently to attain oneness with the Universe by the practice of Yoga. In his daily Transcendental Mediation, he began to have visions of psychedelic colors, to hear unearthly music, and to visit exotic planets where the gods conversed with him, encouraging him to attain ever higher states of consciousness. Sometimes in his trances, he encountered the same horrible demonic creatures that are depicted by the images in Hindu, Buddhist, Shinto, and other religious temples. At other times, he experienced a sense of mystical unity with the universe. He reported, "I was the universe, Lord of all, omnipotent, omnipresent."
If this sounds like he was "trippin" on drugs, he later discovered that Transcendental Meditation produced the exact same results as LSD, hash and other psychedelic drugs. This young man who began to be worshipped and given gifts of money by the villagers for his blessings, was "knocked off his horse" by the real Lord of the Universe, Jesus Christ. On a visit to his aunt, he went for a walk in the jungle and was standing at the edge of a jutting cliff overlooking a forest of trees far below. Mesmerized by the life forces manifesting all around him, he said of it, "I was one with everything. We were all expressions of Brahman."
Suddenly, he heard an ominous rustling in the underbrush, where he saw an enormous snake with thick body coming directly toward him. He felt hypnotized, paralyzed, wanting desperately to run but unable to move. Nor was there any way of escape because the precipice was at his back and the snake was in front of him. The god Shiva (the Destroyer), which he regularly worshipped, wore a huge hissing cobra around his neck, and Yoga practitioners frequently reported seeing that snake in their trances. This snake confronting Rabi bore a striking resemblance to the one around Shiva's neck, and he felt sure that the Destroyer was about to get him this time. In the midst of his fright, Rabi remembered something his mother had told him before leaving him with his aunt and returning to India. She had said, "If ever you're in real danger and nothing else seems to work, there's another god you can pray to. His name is Jesus."
As an aside, Hindus had millions of gods, so perhaps she was just "covering her bets" so to speak, but nevertheless, Rabi cried out, "Jesus! Help me!" Even though his voice was choked with fear, the snake dropped its strike pose, turned around and quickly wriggled off into the underbrush.
Thus began Rabi's search to find out who and what this Jesus was. This short book (about 200 pages) was fascinating and compelling to me. I couldn't put it down. As Rabi went on to become a great voice for Christ in Europe and also in the East, he found that he had incredible success in ministering to drug addicts, hooked on the ineffable mysteries of the universe unlocked in their drug induced trances. He was able to share with them that the experiences they had on drugs were the same ones he had experienced during Transcendental Meditation. He had experienced a "doctrine of demons" and he became convinced that Satan was masterminding an invasion of the West with Eastern mysticism. He concluded, "The evidence of demonic power operating through drugs and Eastern mysticism confronted me daily."
What has that to do with us? Reading the book confirmed a lot for me regarding the subtle and sometimes not so subtle influence of Eastern Mysticism on Western Christianity. As Harry Fox would put it, the East went mystical and the West went rational, leaving a void. Filling the void with anything but Christ is a one way ticket to disappointment, disillusionment, and worse. In his travels, Rabi saw the roots of Hinduism in Rosicrucianism and Freemasonry, Christian Science, Science of Mind, Religious Science, Unity and even Mormonism.
There are "kingdom/sonship" writers today who invite us to dismiss what we can see and feel as merely illusion, assuring us that we already have it (whatever it may be) if we only believe, confess, or whatever. Like the Hindus, some insist that what we need is already inside us and all we need to do is dig it out by meditation and centering ourselves, in order that we can come to full self-realization. If that were true, Christ would not have had to come and die, but He did, so that we can participate in His life within us.
Christ came in the flesh to overcome our flesh from the inside out. Yes, faith does have a part in it, but denial does not. The faith with which we overcome is HIS faith, after all, a gift of God (Eph. 2:8-9). As John Gavazzoni pointed out, God is both transcendence (an other) and immanence (within us). John recently commented, "God, as eternal, transcends space and time, yet all good theology also affirms His immanence in the whole space-time continuum. He is above and within. He is the eternal God, but also Emmanuel, God WITH us. That's not just a decision on God's part, that's intrinsic to His nature." End Quote. Our minds struggle with the tension that someone who lives in us could also be an other from us, and yet, in Spirit, it is a harmonious truth.
Lenny is a mystic who has always seen our oneness with God and God's oneness with all creation. He has always seen that the problem with legalism is that it views God only as "an other." However, he well understands that seeing ourselves as one with God does not mean that we are god as the Hindus and New Age practitioners proclaim. God transcends our sonship with His omniscience, omnipresence, and omnipotence. Here's the difference: I celebrate the fact that God lives within me and I in Him; yet I cannot say to Lenny, "Be healed" and see it come to pass. I've tried. It does not work because God is transcendent to me, though He is immanent through me. He is so much more than I am. Trying to blur the lines between transcendence and immanence is religion's folly. God is God; He is my Father, my Savior, my Healer, and my champion. Only ONE sits on the throne and it is not I, but Christ, the King of kings and Lord of lords. Hallelujah!
Father, we thank you that all fear has been swallowed up in the love and victory of our Lord Jesus Christ, and that You reign in our hearts with joy, peace love, mercy and kindness. Make us messengers of Your Good News to our sick and sighing planet, and to the entire creation in your time. Amen. Jan Antonsson
Jan and Lenny Antonsson
17178 Highway 59, Neosho, MO 64850 (Snail Mail)
Final Frontier, Unconditional Surrender II
Critical Mass, Unconditional Surrender III
Religious Addiction, Unconditional Surrender IV
Transcendence and Immanence by John Gavazzoni
The Glory Road
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This page was uploaded to the web on 06/30/07
by Jan Antonsson, Webmeister,
and last edited on 09/16/07.