Given for the Saints at Medicalodge, Neosho, MO on 4/27/08.
"For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities; for when I am weak, then I am strong" (II Cor. 12:10).
The Lord has given me this series on healing in response to various ones who are struggling with their inability to be strong, spiritual warriors for God, to get healings for themselves or loved ones who are sick, or even to understand the power of God for us today. It's very easy to blame the church for its many failures, but that doesn't bring much satisfaction, and it isn't the answer we're looking for. Others blame themselves for their lack of faith, thinking that everything rests upon their efforts. Most of us can identify with my friend's comments she made after reading "Organizing the Church, Healing, Part 6" (See Link at End). She wrote,
"Yes, that is what I yearn for...the spirit and wonderful things that happened during Christ's life, in the lives of the apostles and early Christians! I want to see and experience the miracles, the healings, the power, the communion with the Holy Spirit! ... I want to be able to speak with and hear the Holy Spirit and see the results of his work!"
Later, the Spirit brought her to an "ah-ha" moment: "I just realized something! Duh! I never before realized that all the scriptures included me! I unconsciously always thought they were just stories, promises, and events for the ones present when Jesus was alive. I didn't know that any scripture except the ones where Jesus says we have to come to the Father through him had anything to do with me! I didn't know that I had to suffer the pain of the cross in order to share in the glory of eternal life! I always thought I just had to confess Jesus as my Lord and Savior and everything else in my life would be made smooth for me if I lived the two great commandments, kept the ten commandments as best I could and asked forgiveness for my sins! I didn't know that I am a participant in the crucifixion! When we had our feet held to the fire, it never occurred to me that this was my portion of the pain of the cross. No wonder I've been kicking and screaming "foul and fault" to God! Am I in left field?" End Quote.
I rejoiced and praised God when I read this e-mail because the Spirit is moving her ever closer to the heart of the Father, through the refiner's fire He uses in all our lives, to bring us out of the death realm of the flesh into the Resurrection Life purchased by the blood of the Lamb. One of my little flock at Medicalodge has shared several times that the church she grew up in taught that if you just repent and accept Christ (meaning join that church, of course), then your problems are over. Sitting there in her wheel chair with diminished vision and speech caused by a brain aneurysm, she grinned and said, "It didn't work for me."
She's not alone in that. Failure does not fill church coffers or raise attendance. People want success, strength, and of course, they want a share in the glory as well. Many Televangelists are wealthy people because they charge for their formula for how to get healing, prosperity, and a closer walk with God, if it's not too inconvenient. If I sound cynical, it's because such futile promises are extremely manipulative, and lead, not to victory for the person trying to make it work, but to more helplessness with a huge dollop of unworthiness heaped on top.
God has often called me to write about the difference between self effort, which comes from the mind of man and leads to death, and Life in the Spirit, which is fellowship with Abba, our Father and Christ Jesus our Lord. About this difference, Martin Luther, in an article entitled "Freedom of a Christian," wrote: "Christian faith has appeared to many an easy thing; nay, not a few even reckon it among the social virtues, as it were; and this they do because they have not made proof of it experimentally, and have never tasted of what efficacy it is. For it is not possible for any man to write well about it, or to understand well what is rightly written, who has not at some time tasted of its spirit, under the pressure of tribulation; while he who has tasted of it, even to a very small extent, can never write, speak, think, or hear about it sufficiently. For it is a living fountain springing up unto eternal life, as Christ calls it in John 4." End Quote.
The Apostle Paul had a lot to say about the "pressure of tribulation," making it unlikely that he would have been a very successful Televangelist today. The Spirit opened my friend's eyes about our being a co-participant in the crucifixion while reading Paul's letter to the Romans. For this reason, Paul affirmed, "...but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us" (Rom. 5:3-5). The King James Version translates verse 3, as "tribulation worketh patience," which is why most of us learned early in our spiritual walk never to pray for patience! It helps to know that at the end of our turmoils and troubles, we will be gleaming like gold and as patient as Job!
Based on the Hebrew writer's affirmation, Lenny says we can expect no less than Christ endured: "But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, now crowned with glory and honor because he suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone. In bringing many sons to glory, it was fitting that God, for whom and through whom everything exists, should make the author of their salvation perfect through suffering" (Heb. 2:9-10). Not popular, but scriptural, nonetheless.
Suffering leaves us weak, and physically drained, no matter how we spin it, and it is in that place, depleted of our own strength and ability, that we do see Jesus. Once He subdues our flesh, God moves in and does through us what we could NEVER do on our own. My take on it is that since we are created in the image and likeness of God, the temptation to "play God" and act like Him overtakes us. No doubt this is why Eve swallowed the serpent's lies whole. I asked them Sunday, "What was Eve thinking?" No one knows for sure, of course, but she and Adam were the first prototypes of human kind. Closest to their Creator, it apparently wasn't enough to be LIKE Him. They wanted to BE Him. That really hasn't changed much down through the seemingly endless ages of man.
For years, I have been interested in Harry Fox and John Gavazzoni's references to Karl Barth's book, Commentary on Romans. I tried reading some of it decades ago, but it was "tough sledding," too dense to grasp quickly, so I put it aside for the time. Lenny and I worked seven days a week when we were selling Real Estate, and I had a lot on my mind during that time. Like everyone else, I wanted something I could read and understand easily. I had another problem with Barth as well, which I might as well confess. It struck me that theologians were members of an elitist club of "good old boys" who delighted in using complex words and sentence structure to show how superior they were to the rest of us.
Thanks to Harry Fox's faithful and patient mentoring over the years, I had come to appreciate that the gospel is simple. It is the power of GOD (not man) unto salvation. Churches and televangelists have made it difficult, complicated, hard to comply with and harder still to understand God's glorious work among human kind. Therefore, I resented the theologican's use of hard to understand words and phrases, considering it the height of conceit and pride. I said this was a confession, and I now admit that the pride was in me. My degrees in English and Spanish literature, and the excellent grades in same I had worked so hard to earn, had puffed me up and when I had difficulty with Barth and Buber, among others, I thought the problem was in them, not me.
In his gentle way, Harry said recently, "You'd have trouble trying to read something in Japanese because you don't know the vocabulary, but it's not that you can't understand it once you do." I took his point and ordered a copy of Barth's Commentary on Romans. The vocabulary is not daunting in this translation, though his thoughts are complex and deep, but well worth the effort. Regarding the world's failed relationship with God, he wrote,
"Secretly we are ourselves the masters in this relationship. We are not concerned with God, but with our own requirements, to which God must adjust Himself... Our well-regulated, pleasurable life longs for some hours of devotion, some prolongation into infinity. And so, when we set God upon the throne of the world, we mean by God ourselves. In believing on Him, we justify, enjoy, and adore ourselves." What an excellent description of the Pharisees, then and now. He continued, "Such is our relation to God apart from and without Christ, on this side resurrection, and before we are called to order. God Himself is not acknowledged as God, and what is called 'God' is in fact Man.
"Men have imprisoned and encased the truth, the righteousness of God; they have trimmed it to their own measure, and thereby robbed it both of its earnestness and of its significance. They have made it ordinary, harmless, and useless; and thereby transformed it into untruth...
"The speech of God can always be heard out of the whirlwind. Always it requires of us that we should perceive how unwisely we speak of that which is too high for us, too far beyond our understanding, when in praising God or in complaining of Him, we plead with Him as with One who is like unto us." End Quote.
This explains our problems with God's failure to answer our demands in a way which seems good to us. Job's idea of religion fell far short of the glory of God, and like all of us, when his works were ineffective, he complained; he groaned; he whined. Using the yardstick of his own righteousness, he justified himself to his "Baptist friends" (Lenny's joke), who came to straighten out his theology. He defended himself vigorously and stood against what he knew was not true, i.e., that he was at fault for the tribulation which fell upon himself and his entire family, wiping out all he held dear. He knew it was God at work, though he couldn't understand it until God spoke to him out of the whirlwind. At the end of the encounter, Job got it. He saw it. He understood it and he said, "My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you." (Job 42:4). Many today have only heard about God, either from the preacher, or maybe from reading the Bible, but have never met Him personally. There's nothing quite so effective as tribulation to introduce us to God in ways we never knew before.
And like Job and Paul, when we are thrust into the suffering which always causes us to realize our impotence, our helplessness to do anything at all to save ourselves, or justify ourselves, we walk through the valley of despair until we see at a cellular level, that nothing ever really depended upon us at all! God is all and in all, and upon Him, ALL depends.
After last week's writing, John Gavazzoni wrote: "Daring to extrapolate the full implications of Jesus' statement, "Without Me, you can do nothing," I reached the conclusion years ago that the point of intersection of the sovereignty of God and the collective believers' subjective state is an intersection of the Father's decision to act, and our fully recognized state of utter helplessness until He does.
"I expect to see indication of the impending, final, consummate move of God in an accelerated realization of our poverty of spirit; that is, of having no autonomous spiritual resources in ourselves. As long as we imagine that God is awaiting our facilitating of His purpose, we deceive ourselves into thinking that we are not, in fact, spiritually bankrupt in and of ourselves and bereft of any ability to contribute to the doing of God.
"Nowhere are we told that we are to be God's helpers, but rather, "God is our help in time of need." But we must face how great is our need. Does the Lord simply step in to add His strength to ours? Is that the meaning of the Lord as our Helper? No, certainly not! He is the Helper of the utterly helpless, not of those who merely need Him to supercharge their efforts...
"There is no positive place in the administration of God for joint-enterprise; no place for, 'If you will do your part, God will do His'; 'God helps those who help themselves'; 'God is waiting for you to......'; 'You need to let God....';'
"The Lord has granted us in Christ a noncontributing, fully participating partnership in the fulfillment of His purpose for man for His glory, a glory that He freely gives by grace to us without any element of meriting the same. Thus, nothing can substitute for a good dose of failure to qualify one for this mode of participation. The world exalts those whom it judges to 'have the right stuff,' but it is very apparent in scripture's record of the history of the men and women within whom God worked, that their preparation for service brought them, not to a place where they said, 'I'm ready, Lord; I've got the right stuff,' but rather, if I may paraphrase a rhetorical collage of their combined attitude: 'What, me? You've got to be kidding, Lord. I don't have what it takes'." End Quote.
John has given us another excellent way to understand that everything we have and do is only by God's grace: "Grace is the gift of Christ, who exposes the gulf which separates God and man, and, by exposing it, bridges it." (Barth)
Father, we thank You that You have revealed your "unobservable, undiscoverable Majesty" to us in Christ, so that we may fellowship with You in heavenly places. How can we, the work of Your hands, ever advise You on anything, counsel You on anything, or set the boundaries on anything? It is enough that we may call You, Abba, and You call us Your children. Amen. Jan Antonsson
Jan and Lenny Antonsson
17178 Highway 59, Neosho, MO 64850 (Snail Mail Address)
Healing, or Stealing God's Glory?
Risky Business, Healing, Part II
The Royal Priesthood, Healing, Part III
Rest in the GIFT, Healing, Part IV
Restoring the Glory Land, Healing, Part V
Organizing the Church, Healing, Part VI
What Does Faith Have to do With It? Healing, Part VIII
The Death of Death, Healing, Part IX
The Death He Died, Healing, Part X
Freed From Sin, Healing Part XI
Money, the Kingdom, and Bifocal Vision, Healing, Part XII
Flesh, Spirit, & the New Man, Healing, Part XIII
The Church, the Gospel, and God's Will, Healing, Part XIV
The End of the Law, Healing, Part XV
The Divine Possibility, Healing, Part XVI
What Shall We do? Healing, Part XVII
The Tyranny of the Vegetable Eaters, Healing, Part XVIII
The Epistle to the Romans by Karl Barth
The Glory Road
This writing was uploaded to the web 04/24/08,
by Jan Antonsson, webmeister,
and last updated 11/19/08.