"It was not through law that Abraham and his offspring received the promise, that he would be heir of the world, but through the righteousness that comes by faith" (Rom. 4:13).
The Lord roused me out of a sound sleep early Sunday morning with a poem. He hasn't done that in a number of years now and I knew I had to get up and write it down. The experience of receiving a poem always reminds me of childbirth because when the poem begins to come, like a child ready to break forth from the womb, there's no stopping it. Usually, I put poems at the end of the writing, but since this IS what the writing is about, I'm inserting it here.
Words call me from my sleep, harbingers of the dawn, powerful, crashing, stone on rock, preparing me to move on. What have I to say of this? What must I do, O' Lord, to find your perfect way?
"Faith, my child; my faith it is which calls you. My faith will not let you stay and take your comfort in words you know, in doctrines which delight and please. I will lead you on the path which you travel on your knees. The way up is always down through thorns and thistles sore, but I will show you how to go, and lead you through the door. All mankind will come along, grasping, searching for that place where you will never hunger when you meet me face to face."
The next event in God's spiritual "show and tell" was a "vision," a "video," if you will, that came to me during a nap after Medicalodge, Sunday afternoon. The scene took place in some kind of antechamber or waiting room for those waiting to cross the River Jordan. It reminded me of the Greek myth about Cheron, the old man who ferried the souls of the dead across the River Styx. I didn't see what kind of transport was used in my vision because the action took place in the room itself. God walked in and asked, "Who has faith in me? If you do, raise your hand." One man raised his hand, and God said, "Come with me." They left together. God returned and asked the question again. I noticed one poor man so gravely wounded or terminally ill that he had not the strength to lift even a finger or say a word, but he turned his tortured gaze to his Creator and looked Him full in the face. God said, "Come with me," whereupon, the man got to his feet and they left together. I woke up wondering what I was supposed to know from this bizarre manifestation.
There was no answer, but on Monday morning at 4:30 A.M., I had one of the most marvelous experiences I can remember since my Baptism in the Spirit, It was an "Arise, Shine for your light has come" moment (Isa. 60:1). Not fully awake, I was filled with Light and the glory of God, as Isaiah prophesied in that verse. With great clarity I saw the answer to the question,"What has Faith to do with it?" I felt and tasted and saw all around me, the REALITY of what I've been writing about for so long now, Life in the Spirit versus Religion (self effort).
Everything comes from God, and since the beginning point is Faith, it is the most important gift of all. I now see that the vision was to show me that Faith is the ending point as well, the Alpha and the Omega. It answered my question: What is Faith? The Hebrew writer defines faith as "the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen....And without faith it is impossible to PLEASE God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him" (Heb. 11:1,6).
Hebrews 11:6, reminded me of Karl Barth's discussion of Romans 3:27-28, in which he asserts that nothing pleases God except God Himself. Therefore FAITH is the action of God overcoming our mortality with His immortality, our perishable nature with His imperishable existence, our finite minds with His infinite mind, our doubts and fears with His blessed assurance, our feeble abilities with His almighty power. By His faith, we understand that it was God's power, "that the universe was formed at God's command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible" (Heb. 11:2), and that's the exact truth about each of us as well. We have come to this faith not by what we have done or not done, thought or not thought, but by that which is NOT visible, God Himself.
I eventually went back to sleep after having this glorious manifestation from God, but when I awoke, I couldn't put words around it, and in fact, it took two entire days of wrestling with it to get what the Lord was showing me. Words are pitifully inadequate vessels to contain the glory of God, so I have asked Him to share with you the wonder of God's provision for you and me and all mankind.
In helping me to understand this experience the Spirit reminded me of Abraham, whose faith was so applauded and revered by the three great religious groups which call him father and founder: Jews, Christians, and Muslims. There he was, our spiritual Rosetta Stone, the first man to hear the gospel, living in Ur of the Chaldees, a pagan among pagans, an ordinary Joe, a "blue collar worker" in modern parlance, probably worshipping the moon god (study note on Gen. 11:31; Josh. 24:2). He was not remarkable either for his character or his education or his abilities and achievements. The scriptures say nothing about any of that, perhaps to show us again, that our relationship to God has nothing to do with us, and everything to do with God moving on us and in us.
Before Abe asked, God answered, and came upon him with light from above and beyond this world (Isa. 65:1). The Chaldean pagan worshipper had an Isaiah 60:2, revelation: "Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord rises upon you. See, darkness covers the earth and thick darkness is over the peoples, but the Lord rises upon you and his glory appears over you" (Vs. 1-2). Truly, Abraham, who walked in darkness, saw a great light. He saw and felt and tasted something new, something so wonderful and beyond his experience, that he wanted more. That's exactly the reaction that we all have when God comes upon us, revealing Himself to us, even in a small way. We want more, MORE, MORE of Him.
God tapped Abraham on the shoulder and said, "Come with me to a land I will show you. I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse, and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you" (Gen. 12:1-3). Did you ever wonder why Abraham followed God out of his homeland, leaving his people and lifestyle behind, headed for a place he'd never heard of, and a destiny he had never even dreamed of? I did, but after being immersed in God's light and glory for a tiny little bit of time early Monday morning, April 28, 2008, I wonder no more. I see that our father in the faith, could have done nothing else. No power on earth could have kept him in Ur of the Chaldees after He experienced the living God up close and personal.
Paul discussed Abraham's "conversion" in terms of his faith being "credited to him as righteousness." He asked, "Was it after he was circumcised, or before? It was not after, but BEFORE! And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised" (Rom. 4:9-10). Why make such a big deal about WHEN his faith was credited to him as righteousness? It was to show, as Barth explains so excellently, that faith is NOT a work of man. It is NOT
"....a boasting in the law of works, which, so long as it is retained, makes even a beginning of the disclosure of the righteousness of God impossible. The man who boasts that he possesses something which justifies him before God and man, even if that something be his own insecurity and brokeness, still retains confidence in human self-justification. No, the solid ground upon which the law of works stands must be completely broken up. No work, be it most delicately spiritual, or be it even a work of self-negation, is worthy of serious attention....
"Only faith survives: faith which is not a work, not even a negative work; not an achievement, not even the achievement of humility; not a thing which exists before God and man in its own right. Faith is the ground, the new order, the light, where boasting ends and the true righteousness of God begins."
What a wonderful definition of Paul's statement, "Now when a man works, his wages are not credited to him as a gift, but as an obligation. However to the man who does not work but trusts God who JUSTIFIES THE WICKED, his faith is credited as righteousness" (Rom. 4:4-5). How many Christians are there, I wonder, sitting in the pews across the planet, who understand how it can be that GOD JUSTIFIES THE WICKED? I suspect, not many, because IF they did, IF they saw that "all men are standing on the same step before God" (Barth and Paul in Rom. 11:32), they would be far less likely to judge and condemn others, including those who are not even wicked, but merely different than they are, who dress differently, speak in a different accent, and worship God in a different way.
To put this where the rubber meets the road, Paul's statement that Abraham was justified BEFORE he was circumcised (Rom. 4:10), is no doubt incomprehensible to the Jews today, even as to the Church of Christ, saying that a man is justified BEFORE he is baptized is incomprehensible; or to the Baptists, saying that a man is justified BEFORE he asks Jesus to be his personal savior is incomprehensible, and therefore to them, not true. Every religious group has its own work by which they believe a man is justified and I'm sure you can add to this list from your personal experience.
Several people have asked me about Barth's book, The Epistle to the Romans, and I would encourage anyone who feels led to get it at the library or buy it (Amazon.com, link at end). Any difficulty in understanding it may be, because Barth has the audacity to take Paul's letter to the Romans as gospel truth. When Barth fleshes out the implications of Paul's writing, the reader must lay all his trophies down on the altar of God's righteousness, and give up any idea that anything he may have done for God or the church, any good deed, any evangelistic fervor to lead others to Christ, any act of contrition, submission, or repentance, has any merit whatsoever in terms of his right standing before God. As Paul wrote to the Corinthians, all men's works, be they good or evil, must go through the refiner's fire (I Cor. 3:11-15). That is impossible to understand without Christ's faith working in us.
I believe Barth's statement which follows describes what happened to Abraham and also to us who have been gifted God's faith to believe:
"There is nothing but God Himself, God only; and there the place is no place; for it is the 'MOMENT' when men are moved by God, by the true God, the Creator and Redeemer of men and of all human things; the 'MOMENT' when men surrender themselves and all that they are to God. The 'MOMENT' of the movement of men by God is beyond men, it cannot be enclosed in a system or a method or a 'way.' It rests in the good pleasure of God, and its occasion is to be sought and found only in Him. 'The law of the Spirit of life' (Rom. 8:2), is the point of view, ...by which all human boasting is excluded." End Quote.
It is not surprising that Barth was criticized and condemned by the German theologians when his first edition was published in 1922, and he would surely be stoned and trashed today, especially here in the Bible Belt, were he to proclaim that everything depends upon God. Those of us who grew up in church, may have a difficult journey when God calls us to a new and living way, a life lived from the Life of Christ, rather than from the counsel of men. We have been programmed to follow orders and to consider ourselves unworthy and incapable (especially if we are of the female persuasion), of following our own light from God. Before I sat down to write this, a moment of great insecurity came over me because who am I to say anything about the majesty and glory of God? Nevertheless, I offer my experience not as a signpost or a "thou shalt" of any kind, but merely as a testimony for others to take to God to see if it be for them or not.
I also pray daily for those who are still beating themselves up over their real and imagined failures. A friend wrote, "I have probably believed in the past that it (her problems and difficulties), had something to do with my not being a 'good enough' Christian. I still struggle with the belief that when something 'bad' happens to me, it's due to some bad decision on my part. So, I find myself praying and pleading with God to please not let me make another bad decision, especially concerning my daughters." End quote. We've all been there at some time.
For her and all of us struggling with problems, illnesses, hurts, unforgiveness, or anything else characteristic of the human condition, the answer to the question, "What has Faith to do with it?" is that FAITH has everything to do with what we want and long for. When His light arises upon us, we see that GOD is the one whose Faith delivers us from circling Mount Sinai endlessly beneath the cruel desert sun; it is the vehicle which transports us in Spirit to Mount Zion, to the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the living God, where in the company of innumerable angels in joyful assembly, we worship Him who is all and in all.
God is still saying "Let there be light," and His voice still commands His light to brood over the face of the deep, scattering the darkness of the human soul, giving form to that which was without form, and filling the great void which we were without Christ, with Christ Himself.
Father, arise upon us with healing in Your wings, and power in Your words to flow from us to sickly sons and a famished world. We worship and adore You and fall on our faces before You, and glorify Your name forever and ever. Amen. Jan Antonsson
To be continued....
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
Victory Through Helplessness, Healing, Part VII
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 04/29/08,
by Jan Antonsson, webmeister,
and last updated 11/19/08.