The Glory Road Blog, A Kingdom Highway
January 7, 2017
“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly” (John 10:10, RSV).
Those of you who are “Star Wars” aficionados, will recognize the title. When I first saw the movie where the phrase was used over 20 years ago, it struck me that the writer had some idea of the incredible Power greater than himself. I believe it was Obi-Wan Kenobi who said, “The Force is the strength of every living thing.” Not bad for a movie. It turns out, however, that the struggle portrayed between good and evil in these movies, reminded me of how some Christians view spiritual power today. They see God on one side and Satan on the other, and it’s up to us to influence the outcome. Oh well, “Star Wars” is only a movie, though the writers did see to it that good won out over evil. Would to God that more Christians knew that this is the guaranteed end of our personal “movie.”
It struck me forcefully on New Year’s Day, that the Gospel is the life force which was unleashed in the Cosmos by the resurrection of Christ. Paul declared that the gospel “is the power of God for salvation to every one who has faith, to the Jew first and also to the Greek” (Romans 1:16, RSV). The word “power” is the crucial point here. There are many levels of the gospel. There’s level one which is the force which brings us to repentance, sometimes out of fear of hell when we die if we don’t. A dear friend of mine said she hated the word gospel, because it conjured up all those hell fire and damnation sermons she had heard as a child. I heard them too, and don’t often use the word for that reason.
Most of us understand the gospel as an intellectual concept, rather than a life force. It takes sometimes decades, as in my case, for it to percolate down to the cellular level and reveal to my spirit the power of God at work in all of us. The reason for that is the “works” aspect of the gospel most of us cut our teeth on. In order to receive the power of it, we were told over and over, we must repent, obey, be baptized, serve God and our fellow man. All of that can be wearying and unfulfilling if we’re just doing it because we were told we had to, to obtain heaven.
My readers have progressed far beyond that concept, and most of you are where I am, or you wouldn’t still be reading what I write. You and I have tasted the goodness and yes, even the severity of God, have been baptized in His Spirit and received His grace in our lives on a daily basis. We all know that God does powerful and mighty things, but what brings tears to my eyes quicker than big miracles, are the tiny ones He does every day to guide my path and ease my way.
Mother had given me small diamond ear studs years ago, which I don’t often wear, but I had taken them with me to California over Christmas. When I got home, I found to my dismay that the lock on one of my suitcases was missing. There was a printed form note in there from the TSA saying that they had exercised their right to open my luggage to be sure there was nothing dangerous in there. Say what?
When I unpacked the bag, one of the ear studs was missing. My first thought was that some baggage handler had helped himself or herself to it. They are not valuable earrings, but mother gave them to me, and I was sad, mad, and ready to phone, fax, text, or email LAX and/or the TSA.
I was too tired to do any of that after a day of travel which had begun at 4:20 A.M., and so I went to bed and prayed that God would help me with my anger and angst. He speaks to me in many ways as He does to you. After I was in bed, the thought came that perhaps the earring had fallen on the carpet or was still in my luggage. I got my flashlight, which is helpful in finding tiny items which are missing, and first looked on the floor of the bedroom where the open suitcase was. It wasn’t there, so I shined my light into the suitcase itself, into the zipped compartment where the earrings were, and sure enough, there was the little ear stud which had fallen out of the pouch it was in, and was down in the zippered part itself. Yay God!
Like I said, the earrings were not important, not expensive, just sentimental to me, and God cared enough about that to show me how to find the missing ear stud. Clearly, His Life Force is with each of us continuously, leading, guiding, comforting and easing our way: the power of God revealed in small things.
Here is Jonathan Mitchell’s translation of Romans 1:16: “For you see, I am not in the habit of being ashamed of (= I am proud of and thrilled about) the Good News (message of goodness and well-being), for it continues being (or: is) God’s power (ability; capacity) [leading] into deliverance (being rescued; salvation; health and wholeness; restoration to the original state and condition) in everyone (for everyone; to everyone) continuously having faith and trusting (or: believing and relying upon [it]): for (to; in) Jew first, also for (to; in) Greek (or: Hellenist).”
I had asked Jonathan if my impression was accurate that Paul was speaking of God’s life force when he referred to the gospel as the POWER of God unto salvation, he emailed me the following:
“RE: Romans 1:16, I think that you are correct on this. Power with ability (both meanings of dunamis) are indeed a force. And His words are Spirit and Life. I mused recently that God breathed Himself into Adam, in the beginning. Of the many things that we can say of God, should we not include that He is Life, and Existence, and ALL in all? To me He is so much more than Father/Mother, Son and Holy Breath-effect). Yes, He is Family. And family produces life.” End Quote.
Jonathan’s confirmation of my intuition about the word Gospel expands the word from the realm of the theological, the spiritual, and the religious, and transports it into the reality of God’s everyday life force, yours and mine and everyone else’s. But you might well ask, “Then why doesn’t everyone know it and obey it?”
To answer that, perhaps it would help to consider what the Gospel is not. It is not a doctrine, not a manipulative ploy to intimidate sinners to repent, not the property of any one group of believers, not subject to any group or individual’s own interpretation (See II Peter 1:20). It is not a work which must be performed or a doctrine which must be obeyed in order to be saved. What is it then? My observation and experience with the Gospel is that it truly is a life force, unleashed upon humanity upon the second coming of Christ on the Day of Pentecost. It manifested as tongues of fire on the disciples’ heads (Fire is a symbol of God; see Hebrews 12:29).
The Gospel is the super manifestation of God’s love by which “He disarmed the principalities and powers and made a public example of them, triumphing over them in him” (Colossians 2:15, RSV). God “chose us in him (Christ) before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him” (Ephesians 1:4). The result of this amazing gift? “He destined us in love to be his sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace which he freely bestowed on us in the Beloved” (Vs. 5-6). As a result of God’s will for us, His children, “He has made known to us in all wisdom and insight the mystery of his will, according to his purpose which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fulness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth” (Vs. 9-10).
These are staggering promises and declarations, my friends. What will we do with them? Shall we toss them aside and go back to the legalistic, sectarian demands of faith which most churches today impose on the faithful? Or shall we believe Paul’s assertions could possibly be true? “But I don’t have the faith,” someone is sure to say. Of course not, who does? It is not our faith which enters into this, according to Paul, but the faith of Christ, lest anyone should boast (Ephesians 2:9). The Apostle to the Gentiles further made the case that it is Christ’s faith when he wrote the Galatians, “I am crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me. And the life which I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith [of] the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me” (Galatians 2:20, KJV). Many translations read “by faith [in] the son of God,” which has caused many to believe that it is our faith the Apostle is talking about.
Jonathan Mitchell’s translation of the verse concurs with the KJV: “Now that which I, at the present moment, continue living within flesh (=a physical body), I am constantly living with faith, trust and confidence, in and by that [faith] which is the Son of God (or: in union with the trust and confidence that is from God’s Son).”
Since God chose us in Christ from before the foundation of the world, and it is Christ’s faith by which we live in this world, we are more than conquerors in Him. With Paul we can joyfully say, “O death, where is thy victory? O death, where is thy sting? ‘The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ’” (I Corinthians 15:55-57, RSV).
We can therefore now declare with confidence, “The Force is with you!”
Father, we thank You and praise You, now and forever, for gifting us the faith of Christ to believe the Gospel, your Life Force, for calling each of us to be your sons and daughters, for living Your life through us, in us, and from us to others You put in our path. We join our voices with “the voice of a great multitude, and as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of mighty thunderings, saying, Alleluia: for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth.” “Now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen.” Jan Antonsson
Jan Austin Antonsson
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