Given for the Saints of the World, Nov. 22, 2009
It seems to me that the more we encounter sin (missing the mark) in our own lives and the lives of those we hold dear, the more we must cling onto the promises found in Scripture, or else be swept away by the waves of despair and hopelessness which all such encounters dredge up in us. Isaiah is one of my favorite prophets because he never just lays on the gloom and doom, the really bad news of sin and its consequences, without also giving us a glimpse behind the veil into the heart of the Father, into His eternal purpose for His children. "Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow" is one of those passages that deserves meditation, after which we break out in praise and thanksgiving. As I've continued to dialogue with several friends and Lenny about the topic of salvation and what it means on a cellular level, where the rubber meets the road in our lives, it comes to me that all of Christendom has tended to focus on the sin more than the solution: Christ in us, our hope of glory.
Judgment of others is the dirty little secret that hides in many Christians' hearts, perhaps because they seek to justify themselves and give themselves a little step up from where the rest of the world in order to be at the head of the line, so to speak. However, when we contemplate what Scripture says about that, we're quickly brought back down to the reality that ALL have sinned, beginning with Adam, who carried us along with him down the slippery slope to Mount Sinai. There we tasted the bitter dregs, the painful consequences of the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. One of our friends refers to her life as coming from the "bad" side of the tree, while at the same time she describes those of us who grew up in church as being on the "good" side of the tree.
According to the Genesis account, no matter what side of the tree you pick your fruit from, you're condemned to death the moment you partake of it. So, no one is above or below anyone else. As Paul said, we've ALL sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. Karl Barth used the metaphor I really like, "We're all standing on the same step before the righteousness of God."
This path we call The Glory Road is strewn with boulders and crevasses, many of which got there by our ingesting the fruit of the poisoned tree. We tried to mop up our mess with religious self effort, which the Law was designed to bring to futility. It did not work, which was the point of the Law. The mess is still there. However, even as we are lying flat on the ground with our faces in the mud, we hear Isaiah's beautiful encouragement: "Arise, shine; for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD has risen upon you. For behold, darkness shall cover the earth, and thick darkness the peoples; but the LORD will arise upon you, and his glory will be seen upon you. And nations shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising" (Isa. 60:1-3).
CHRIST, the light of the world IS clearly WHO the prophet is speaking of, and perhaps the sons of God are those to whom the nations and their kings will come. There are many in this hour who feel that the moment is upon us when this prophecy will be fulfilled, when the sons of God are manifested. I can't speak to that other than to say, like most of you, I long for the brightness of His rising to flow out and cover us, and from us, to the rest of the creation, beginning with ourselves and those we hold so dear.
How this will come to pass is a mystery, but I, at least, sometimes forget that it is not my place to call the play, or plan the mission, but only to go with the flow of our Father's plan which He made before the foundation of the world. Looking at the flesh always causes us to despair, which is why Paul said that we must determine to regard no man after the flesh: "This means that our knowledge of men can no longer be based on their outward lives (indeed, even though we knew Christ as a man we do not know him like that any longer)" (II Cor. 5:16, Phillips). Only with His help can we do this, but for me, it really is the only answer to the sin problem we see everywhere around us, in Christians and in the world. We look to the Savior, not the sinner for a change to occur.
Jonathan Mitchell, John Gavazzoni and a few others were discussing how we treat our brothers who have "missed the mark." John has observed several times that what's called for is nothing less than "a reformation at a cellular level," a phrase I really resonate to. What started the conversation was Jonathan Mitchell's excellent translation of Luke 17:3-4, which I want to include here:
3. "Be habitually holding your attention and your selves toward each other, and thus be considerate of and devoted to one another. If your brother (or: fellow believer; group or family member) should make a mistake or fail (may miss the goal or fall short; or: happens to sin or go into error), respectfully give him honorable advice and let him know of his value. Then, if he should change his mind and his thinking [while turning to Yahweh], make the [issue] flow away from him (or: forgive and release him).
4. "Even if he should (or: may) be a failure unto you (or: sin into you) seven times a day, and then seven times should turn around to you, time after time saying, 'I continue in the process of changing my thinking [and am turning to Yahweh],' you will make it flow away from him (or: forgive and release him)."
Now isn't this the ministry of reconciliation? Jonathan
How different the world would be if instead of berating them for their sins, we would have first pointed out their worth, emphasizing their value rather than their sinfulness. They cannot receive the church's mandate for repentance because they do not know that God loves them and has already forgiven them.
Here's John's response to Jonathan's translation: "I believe every fragmentation of the human psyche is traceable to being afflicted by a sense of worthlessness. The truth that each of us is of incalculable worth to God, when it begins to penetrate our hearts, puts us on the road to well-being.
"Maybe it's that I'm getting older, and old memories of things that have moved me deeply keep flooding back, especially old hymns that at their core expressed the message of how God valued us so that He delivered up His Son for us, not merely for the whole race, but for each and every one of us individually. As one more recent song put it: "When He was on the cross, I was on His mind." But as I reflected on your translation, this one came back to me:
I saw One hanging on a tree in agony and blood.
He fixed His languid eyes on me, as near His cross I stood.
Oh, can it be upon a tree, the Savior died for me?
MY SOUL IS THRILLED, MY HEART is FILLED,
TO THINK HE DIED FOR ME.
"Nothing so thrills the soul or fills the heart, as does the passion of Christ. As Harry Robert Fox has said so many times, "We need to take time to soak in that truth." End Quote. John Gavazzoni.
It came to me as I was writing this that the sin problem is absolutely insolvable by human flesh. Our flesh was consigned to disobedience by God Himself and there is nothing we can do about it. Yet, that's only half the verse which transformed my life: Rom. 11:32. The other half is where the glory is, "that He (God) may have mercy upon all." God is the subject of both phrases: "He consigned all men to disobedience that He may have mercy upon all." What is our part in that? Only to believe it.
Jesus' followers asked Him, "What must we do, to be doing the works of God?" Jesus answered them, "This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent" (John 6:28-29). Some get all in a panic about this because they think they have to drum up the belief. That's why Paul reassured us that we are saved by grace through faith, "and this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God, not because of works, lest any man should boast" (Eph. 2:8-9). IF we could drum up enough faith to believe, then we could take part of the glory, but no man can steal God's glory and live.
The second thing that came to me when I was working on this piece is that the answer to the world's problems, all of them, beginning with sin and ending with the manifestation of the sons of God is the GLORY OF THE LORD. Again, Isaiah saw it and proclaimed it so long ago. He began on Mount Sinai and ended up on Mount Zion:
"In the wilderness prepare the way of the LORD, make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain. And the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together, for the mouth of the LORD has spoken" (Isa. 40:3-5). Notice that like all the Old Testament prophets, Isaiah KNEW who called the shots, who the chief actor was in every drama. God is the moving force, the one who gives life to the dead, the one who calls the things that are not as though they were, the one whose Glory will manifest so that ALL FLESH shall see it, experience it, taste it, and receive it and be transformed by it.
John Gavazzoni sent me the words to another old song that express our awe and appreciation to Almighty God for the gifts He has given us:
"Long my imprisoned spirit lay,
Fast bound by sin and nature's night.
Thine eye diffused a quickening ray,
I rose, the dungeon flamed with light.
My chains fell off, my heart was free,
I rose, went forth, and followed Thee."
Father, You are the lover of our souls, the light of our spirits and the healer of our bodies. We shall ever praise and follow You. You cut the chains which bound us; You restored our souls; You are leading us to the land of milk and honey. You set the captives free and raised us up from the miry clay which held us fast to earth and allowed us to soar on Eagle's wings to your bosom. We will praise and adore You, time without end. Amen. Jan Antonsson
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This site was created on 11/17/09
by Jan Antonsson, Webmeister