How Does God Work All Things Together For Good?

Romans 8:28 contains an awesome promise from God. It is a promise that many like to Romans8Pillowquote when things aren’t going their way.

And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.

Have you ever wondered how God does that? What does something ending in good look like?

Many times in the American church, this looks like someone getting their “breakthrough”. Sure, that is great (the word breakthrough also sounds pretty cool too). But I think there is an unhealthiness that creeps in and perverts the Christian life to where our breakthrough centers around us.

I have been to meetings where week after week, even year after year, the messages were pretty heavily focused on not giving up because our “breakthrough” was just around the corner.

“Keep believing for your financial breakthrough. Don’t stop confessing that you’ll get that job promotion. You’ve sown into your breakthrough, so you’ll reap soon. Don’t worry, what the devil meant for evil, God’s going to work together for good.”

Things like this were constantly said, but it seemed as if nobody was really getting anywhere. Were we to simply try harder each week? Believe more, confess Scripture more, maybe even fast for breakthrough?

Another thing believers go after is their “healing”. “Someone hurt my feelings so I need me some healing.” Again, nothing wrong with healing as God calls Himself our Healer. But I have seen this to where we are introspective and mostly concerned with feeling better about what someone did to us without regard to the fact that we have already been accepted by God and we should be able to forgive and bless those who offend us and not just be concerned with our own well being. Maybe that offensive person could come to the Lord through your Christ-like reactions to them and you could have the privilege of spending eternity with them :)

Please hear my heart. I’m not wanting to put down anyone who is trying to encourage the Body of Christ, nor am I against getting goodies like healings and breakthroughs  from God our Papa. But could it be that our view of the Christian life tends to get introspective and need oriented?

Here’s a thought. In the verse after Romans 8:28, God gives us insight on what this “all things work together for good” thing looks like.

For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren (Rom. 8:29).

So could it be that the way God is working these “things” of this life into good is by using them to conform us into His image?

In every situation, both God and the enemy are endeavoring to conform us to their images. Discouragement, bitterness, depression, etc. are all characteristics of the devil. That is what he is like. In Daniel, it mentions that there is a demonic strategy to wear down the saints. This evil plot is not just meant to defeat us but rather, the devil and his cohorts are worn out and misery loves company.

If somebody wrongs me, then the best way that the situation could turn out for me is not by having said person get their backside whooped. Although that is the mindset of this fallen age, we have not so learned Christ. If somebody wrongs me, the best thing that could happen is that I, as someone dead to the world but alive in Christ, would react with absolutely no offense and love the hell out of them!

Please do not think that I am preaching a “hyper-sovereignty” Calvinist type of message; where everything that happens is because of God or because He is allowing it. What I am saying is that God is good at making lemonade out of lemons He did not plant. It does not say God causes all things or that all things are good, but that God causes all things to work together for good. He is the One who is for us in the midst of the open war that is known as this present age.

By conforming us to the image of Christ, God is making us invincible to this fallen age by instilling in us a love that is out of this world. What can anyone do to someone who is so beside themselves in love with Jesus to where you cannot hurt them? What can your enemy do to you when you are addressing him as “friend”? How can I be concerned with only my own needs when I am overflowing with His love and acceptance?

So this being like Jesus stuff is not a religious sentiment or a catch phrase without substance. It is the essence of why we are here and God does this really cool thing where He takes everything that comes our way and turns it into our helper in growing up into Christ. What an awesome Dad we have! This is why Romans 8:28 is for “those called according to His purpose.” Our purpose is to look like Him; “in His image” was always the intent.

When it says that the promise is for those “who love God”, this is a description of a believer (one who was first loved by God) and not a condition we must constantly try to meet. However, when we are in tune with the love of God, this promise will make a lot more sense as we will value what He values, bringing the image of Christ forth in us. We will discern how the very character of Jesus, the One we love, is rising up in the bad situation and re-writing it into something great. We will say, “God, that was amazing how you did that. I now feel more love for you and the people that I thought I could never love.”

I hope this excites us to where we aren’t so caught up in what we need from God as far as external blessings that may leave us just as needy and worried the next time trouble comes. I pray that we stop carrying around hurts and offenses from others as we realize our identity as sons who look like His love. This is really the greatest blessing we can have from God; to share one nature with Him and getting to look like Him in this world.

John G. Lake, a man who was passionate about knowing God and had seen hundreds of thousands of miracles through his ministry had this to say about partaking in the likeness of Christ:

“So my heart has not been satisfied at all that I have been saved, not because the Lord has baptized me in the Holy Ghost, nor because God has used me in His ministry. Not at all.

I have had a vision before my soul that fascinates my heart night and day. The pure, radiant, wondrous Son of God, Jesus Christ, Who purposes in His grace to keep me in His hands and in His heart, until by the grace of God you come forth in the holy likeness and the heavenly power and the magnificence and glory and wonder of His understanding, a Son of God in deed and in truth.” – taken from his sermon, The Development of Christian Consciousness

I find it interesting that Lake’s deep journey into the supernatural Christian life led him to this burning desire, looking just like Jesus. John G. Lake was simply captured by God’s ultimate desire for the Christian.

One of the greatest examples of this Romans 8:28 truth is in the life of Joseph, who was a type of Christ. When Joseph met his brothers years after his betrayal, instead of ordering them to be executed he said,

As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive (Gen. 50:20).

Even though Joseph had prestige, power, and wealth, he said that the good that came from his betrayal was “that many would be saved.” He did not mention the fact that he ended up getting a good job (second in command in all of Egypt) or a nice house. When the image of Jesus is formed in us, we become all about other people as our hearts are satisfied in His love and we obtain His heart for people.

The nature of Jesus Christ is the true treasure that will last for eternity. What better outcome to a situation can there be then to walk away unscathed, victorious, and looking like Jesus, the One who overcame the world?

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The Second Breath

When my oldest child Gabriel was born, I held him up to me as he took his first breath. He then opened his little eyes just slightly. I was quite honored to have been the first person he had ever seen.

This reminds me of the another father and son story. After God fashioned man, He breathed life into him. Instantly he was alive and beholding his Father as a pure untainted being. Adam was the created son, one who knew and walked with the Father.

But after he ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, something happened. The knowledge of God was overtaken in him by the knowledge of good (that one letter makes a huge difference) and evil. It was then all about what he should do and not do and how he should be and not be. He had eaten the law rather than life.

The saddest thing of it all was that he did not know who his father was anymore. He ran and hid from his own perceived image of the One who loved him. As a result of forgetting his father’s nature, he also forgot his own identity.

But there was Someone who never was confused about who He was and who man was made to be. Like the father in the Prodigal Son story, our Heavenly Father pursued us while we were a long ways off from Him.

Even though man had fallen far from his purpose and identity, there came a Man who would “seek and save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10). But He was not recognized for who He really was.

No one up until that time had truly known the Father. This is important to remember when we think about the people in the Old Testament. Moses, who met God on the mountain and brought the law covenant did not see the face of God. Neither did suffering Job with whom we sympathize. Wise Daniel, who prophetically saw deeply into the future did not see the full picture. None of them “got it”.

But then there was another. He lived with us and ate with us; he loved us just where we were. But there was something different. To His closest friends whom He had loved to the fullest, He unashamedly says, “He who has seen Me has seen the Father.” (John 14:9)

There He was! He was right there but they did not fully grasp or take in the knowledge of their Father. Jesus was only One who knew Him. He had demonstrated the nature of the Father by healing and setting free all who came to Him. He showed people that God multiplies food rather than sending famine and calms storms rather than sending them. He made it perfectly clear who the true good guy was and exposed the lies of the fall, religion, and the devil that had tainted the people’s view of God.

Even then, his own disciples wanted to call down fire from heaven on some that rejected them (Luke 9). Seemed right; Elijah had done something similar way back when. Jesus essentially says, “Nope. You guys missed it. That’s not the Father. He and I are in the saving business, not destruction.”

Then one night, He tells His friends He must leave them. Their world starts to get rocked. What was going to happen? Who would lead them to victory over their internal and external enemies if He were gone? But there was a plan. He says something, the likes of which they had never heard.

Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you (John 14:19-20).

Though these men had God with them in Jesus, He was about to be in them. They still did not get it really. After Jesus dies, they start to assume their old fishing trade. Even though the Christ had been with them, the fall of man was still in them.

Then He appears again. What is the first thing He does? He breathes on them. Jesus, the God-man breathed into man again! I believe it was then that the boys finally got it. Man saw His Father again.

So Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you; as the Father has sent Me, I also send you.” And when He had said this, He breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit (John 20:21-22).”

Everything was being made right. God had looked on His creation, marred and defiled by the fallen age and satan, the god of this world and breathed again. This time, it was the very Holy Spirit of God. This was a new creation being formed. God was in them and they were in God.

Christ absorbed the fall of man and paid sin’s price. He then became the author of eternal salvation to all who receive Him. He permanently united God and man in His body on the cross. After His resurrection, He goes back and breathes this reality into His own.

Paul said, “The first man, Adam,became a living soul. The last Adam became a life-giving spirit (1 Cor. 15:45).”

He now wants to breathe life into the situations that still resemble the curse that resulted from the first man’s unbelief and disobedience. He wants to breathe through the ones that have themselves had this new birth. Ones who know their Father and have had their sins and curses blown away by the breath of life.

We really can know Him and live free from sin and evil in the midst of the fallen world. Thank God that there was a second breath!

God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world. And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature… (Heb. 1:1-3)

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What is the “Now” Word?

As we progress into a new year, I’m sure there are many “now” words being proclaimed. Everyone wants to know what God is saying for this year. I too like to know what people are hearing from God as well as what His heart is for this time in my life and for His body, the church.

But on a global level for this age we live in, what is the word that God is speaking? What does He want people to know and focus on? What should His people be conveying to the people who do not yet know God?

I recently had a good study time in the first few chapters of Romans where things became more clear to me as to where we are on God’s timeline. Its been said by some that the book of Romans is the greatest exposition of the Christian faith. I would have to agree. It gives a detailed description of God’s redemptive plan for humanity whereas some of the other popular books, like Revelation, are more mysterious in nature. Let’s look at some key points.

Chapter 1 starts off with declaring the good news of Jesus. Indeed, this is a good place to start off.

This Good News was promised long ago by God’s prophets in the Old Testament. It is the Good News about his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, who came as a human baby, born into King David’s royal family line; and by being raised from the dead he was proved to be the mighty Son of God, with the holy nature of God himself (Rom.1:2-4 TLB).

After this, Paul goes on to expose the depravity of man’s condition without God. But isn’t it interesting that he does not start off this way right off the bat? Many of the gospel tract pamphlets floating around out there start off with, “for man so sinned” instead of “for God so loved”. But anyway, we get a glimpse into the fall of man with passages like this:

And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting; being filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality,wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, evil-mindedness; they are whisperers,  backbiters, haters of God, violent, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, unforgiving, unmerciful; who, knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them.(Rom. 1:28-32 ).

Sounds pretty ugly. Man had indeed fallen far from his purpose into the disease of sin. If you were a Jew, one of God’s chosen, you might have said, “That’s right. Those Gentile dogs are horrible.” Likewise, many modern Christians might read this and say, “Those worldly secular folks. For shame!” But look at what Paul says right after this:

“Well,” you may be saying, “what terrible people you have been talking about!” But wait a minute! You are just as bad. When you say they are wicked and should be punished, you are talking about yourselves, for you do these very same things (Rom. 2:1 TLB).

So basically, the lawless Gentiles had missed it, but the Jews, who did have the law and were called to be set apart, had likewise missed it. So this might seem to get even more depressing. The Jews who were God’s representatives and had the law were just as infected with the disease as the “outsiders”. See, the purpose of the law is to get us to recognize the disease and give up on our efforts to heal ourselves.

For no one can ever be made right with God by doing what the law commands. The law simply shows us how sinful we are. (Rom. 3:20, NLT)

Paul then goes on to explain that these sober descriptions of mankind’s condition, albeit true, are trumped by the “but now” statement in Chapter 3.

But now God has shown us a way to be made right with him without keeping the requirements of the law, as was promised in the writings of Moses and the prophets long ago. We are made right with God by placing our faith in Jesus Christ. And this is true for everyone who believes, no matter who we are (Rom 3:21-22 NLT).

It does not take a prophet or a genius to see the corruption that resulted from sin. But what is the now word? It is that it God actually paid for the unjust to be justified. We can now return to our original purpose God had in store for us through escaping the sin that enslaved us.

For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. Yet God, with undeserved kindness, declares that we are righteous. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins. For God presented Jesus as the sacrifice for sin. People are made right with God when they believe that Jesus sacrificed his life, shedding his blood. This sacrifice shows that God was being fair when he held back and did not punish those who sinned in times past, for he was looking ahead and including them in what he would do in this present time. God did this to demonstrate his righteousness, for he himself is fair and just, and he declares sinners to be right in his sight when they believe in Jesus. (Rom. 3:24-26, NLT)

The now word is not how sinful the world is. That is true news but old news. Nether is the now word about how Jesus is going to swoop down out of heaven and rescue His poor and pitiful church. The second coming of Jesus is a true word, but a future word. In fact, it does not take an eschatological expert to see that the Father has chosen to keep this a “future” word. That is not the now word. We preach Christ and Him crucified, not Him coming back on a white horse.

The problem is we humans focus on things that are true, but just not the “word” for now. It does not take any faith or vision to focus on how bad everything around me is. Neither is it considered “hope” to want to escape via first-class rapture while the sinful world gets what they deserve. We must return to the now word! We must not be side-tracked by words of doom and gloom by some “prophets” that contradict the clear declaration of the message of grace.

Paul had a very real experience with this fresh word. He said that he lived from a central focus; the now word had become his now lifestyle.

Our firm decision is to work from this focused center: One man died for everyone. That puts everyone in the same boat. He included everyone in his death so that everyone could also be included in his life, a resurrection life, a far better life than people ever lived on their own.

Because of this decision we don’t evaluate people by what they have or how they look. We looked at the Messiah that way once and got it all wrong, as you know. We certainly don’t look at him that way anymore. Now we look inside, and what we see is that anyone united with the Messiah gets a fresh start, is created new. The old life is gone; a new life burgeons! (2.Cor. 5:14-17, MSG)

Now is the time to not count men’s sins against them but to focus on the God who wants to reconcile with them. Now is not the time to view them according to their sin, but according to God’s Son. He has already tasted death for them. Now He wants to give them life; if only they will accept the free gift.

And all of this is a gift from God, who brought us back to himself through Christ. And God has given us this task of reconciling people to him. For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them. And he gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation. So we are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making his appeal through us. We speak for Christ when we plead, “Come back to God!” For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ.

As God’s partners, we beg you not to accept this marvelous gift of God’s kindness and then ignore it. For God says,

“At just the right time, I heard you.
    On the day of salvation, I helped you.”

Indeed, the “right time” is now. Today is the day of salvation

(2.Cor. 5:18-6:2, NLT)

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You ARE Light

As a Christian, have you ever tried to become the light of the world? Maybe you felt it was your duty to go and shine by correcting everyone with the “truth” or that you had to prove you were light by preaching to everyone you met.

I know that I have felt that kind of pressure many times. But there is a verse that I would run into that would boggle my mind.

For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light (Eph. 5:8).

What does this mean? So light is something we are, rather than do? It would appear so. This is simply another angle by which we can look into the new birth.

I love this verse. It says, “You are something, so you can walk and act like it.” Compare this the disappointing religion that tells us to act a certain way to make ourselves into something that we are not. This is all about our permission as sons, not a burden placed on slaves.

Our new nature is love and the nature of love is to give. For God so loved, He gave… By contrast, the way of the fallen nature is to get. It is to gain for itself at the expense of others. A preacher once said that sin is a four letter word spelled SELF.

We are told that God …has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires (2 Peter 1:4).

The corruption of the world is “through lust.” Lust does not simply refer to an unhealthy sexual desire, but a compulsion that ever seeks to fill itself and cannot be ultimately satisfied. It is the M.O. of the unrenewed man. It destroys relationship as its goal is always aimed at gratifying self in some way.

The true nature of light is to give. It is always shining forth. The Bible calls us light and says that the righteous will shine like stars.

black_holeIn contrast, a black hole is said to be a collapsed star. It is something that, in my non-scientific terms, sucks up all of the light that enters it. It is always consuming but never giving.

The Merrian-Webster Dictionary defines a black hole as:

1

a celestial object that has a gravitational field so strong that light cannot escape it and that is believed to be created especially in the collapse of a very massive star

2

 something that consumes a resource continually <a financial black hole>

Sounds reminiscent of the fall of man to me.

Now to get a bit more mystical. I think that as a redeemed person, light describes the substance of our spirit-man. God has been showing me that when we “walk as children of light”, we are shining forth our true identity, which is selfless love.

…for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth (Eph. 5:9).

This lifestyle is all about not being self-conscious and inwardly focused. It is about our connection with the true Light Himself and shining out of a place of divine contentment and pleasure. We have been loved, therefore we love one another. Jesus’ command is joyfully fulfilled.

When a believer does something out of a motive of selfishness (as we all have), our nature of light is prevented from shining through. But we must recognize that this is our nature now in order to bounce back when we miss it. This is not mind over matter, but simply knowing the true matter from which God has created our new man.

Isaiah prophesied about this light that would come to and shine from God’s people. This has become a very popular prophesy.

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.
Nations will come to your light,
    and kings to the brightness of your dawn. (Isaiah 60:1-3)

Who is our light? Has He come? Yes, it is Christ is in us, our hope of glory (Col.1:27).

Again we are told about our permission to rise and shine. Why arise now and not wait for some supernatural event or measurable spiritual growth? For your light HAS come.

The way I have heard the next part of this verse preached is that darkness will cover the Earth AND light will shine among God’s people. However, when you really read this passage it does not say AND, it says BUT. The darkness will cover the earth, but God’s light (the answer to the darkness) will be seen on us. Then the people trapped in this darkness, will come to us and our brightness. It does not say that we will have to go to them even, but that they will be attracted to the brightness.

We must realize that our future is already secure in eternity. Now its our job to bring eternity into the present. The goal of the Christian life is not to make heaven our home but to make earth like heaven. It is not about surviving, but overcoming. We were born into conflict. This is unavoidable. But now we get to manifest Christ in the midst of the conflict and light things up.

Posted in Presence of God, Righteousness | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Back to the Glory

I used to say that when we receive Jesus and are saved, we are brought back to the garden back_to_future_car(referring to the garden of Eden). I no longer say that because I don’t think it is completely accurate. What we as born again children of God have is actually better!

One of the most commonly used verses in modern day evangelism might be Romans 3:23, which says:

For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.

Most of the instances in which I have heard this verse preached emphasized the “all have sinned” part. But what about the rest? How does the fact that all of us have sinned link to “AND fall short of the glory of God”? This is because we were meant to live in the glory of God.

The birds have the air in which they can be their birdiest. The fish can only be who they are in the realm of water. And we were made to live in the presence of God (which I am defining as the glory).

The glory, in the way the bible uses it, can refer to a weightiness or excellence of character. It basically is the full essence of someone’s person. God had intended at creation that all of who He is would envelop all of who man was. His creativity, His love and power, all good things from Him animating and shaping our personalities.

The Psalmist, amazed and bewildered, pondered over this reality when he said,

What is man that You are mindful of him, and the son of [earthborn] man that You care for him? Yet You have made him but a little lower than God [or heavenly beings], and You have crowned him with glory and honor. You made him to have dominion over the works of Your hands; You have put all things under his feet (Ps. 8:4-6, AMP)

This is the tragedy of sin; not living in our purpose. Being homeless in the truest sense of the word.

Adam and Eve lived in a perfect environment. In it, they spent time with God in the cool of the day. But then the choice of the self-existence, though eating the forbidden fruit, perverted their souls and sense of reality. God in His mercy, not rejection, had to remove them from this place which now was a place that did not feel like home for the knowledge of the glory was replaced by the knowledge of good and evil.

The good news is that there is a verse after Romans 3:23. It reads, “… and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus (vs. 24).”

That is awesome. Why do some preachers not mention this verse but only the “all have sinned” part in the previous one? Anyway, so does this mean that we are brought back (redeemed) to the garden?

Even better. On the night before Jesus’ death, He prays to the Father and says, “And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began (John 17:5).” He definitely deserved that. He had just lived a perfect life and was about to make the greatest sacrifice of His own life. But look at what He says later in that same prayer to God; this time He is praying for all of His followers.

My prayer is not for them alone (the original disciples). I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.  I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one—  (vs. 20-22)

Did I read that right? The same glory that Jesus enjoyed with the Father in the self-existing Trinity He has given to us? So He didn’t pray that we would receive the glory that Adam enjoyed after time began in the garden, but the glory that existed before the world!

Paul also mentions this in the opening of the Ephesian letter.

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.  For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love  he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will… (Eph. 1:3-5)

So this tells me that being in Christ was actually plan A (before creation) rather than a last resort after all of the mess of the fall of man. I don’t fully understand this, but our purpose was to be united with Christ and not just live naked in a garden. When you received Jesus, you got Plan A, not the consolation prize.

Now Christ is in me and I have an even more awesome relationship than Adam did. Rather than walking with God in the cool of the day, God is living in me and I am seated in heavenly places with Him.

Through Christ, hope is restored and victory realized. Paradise is re-established in our hearts and we are crowned once again. Through Christ, we are back in the glory. He is… the mystery that has been kept hidden for ages and generations, but is now disclosed to the Lord’s people. To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory (Col. 1:26-27).

Even before man sinned, God had in mind to place us into Christ who IS this glory. This is the eternal covenant that we have been brought into. We have been situated in the timeless wonder, through the Lamb who was slain before the foundation of the world. Welcome home.

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Nothing But the Love of a Father

“Nothing But the Blood of Jesus” is a song that probably every believer loves and can relate to. But sometimes the work of Jesus on the cross is viewed as something that paid off an angry God so that we wouldn’t be destroyed. What I have been trying to convey is that the motive of the Father in sending the Son was love, not anger management.

This is obvious in the most well-known gospel verse: “For God SO LOVED the world, that He sent His only Son…” But we have a parallel universe thing going on in our message where it is as though “For God so wanted to fry the world, but then the Son intervened on behalf of man.”

Jesus came to show us what the Father is like and bring us to Him, not save us from Him. Sure we were saved from wrath, but the wrath was directed at sin. Sin, not God, was destroying us. The cross saves and changes us, not God.

Jesus brought to Earth a new name for God that was foreign to the Jews of His day. They knew Him as Creator and even as One who delivered their people from their enemies in past times, but Jesus brings us a new name: Father.

I have been studying the Old Testament recently and a few Old Testament scriptures where God is referred to as Father. One of them is found in the book of Isaiah, chapter 64. The people of God had been failed to keep their end of the law covenant and, as a result, were taken captive by the Babylonians. Listen to the desperate cry of God’s people:

You meet him who rejoices in doing righteousness,
Who remembers You in Your ways.
Behold, You were angry, for we sinned,
We continued in them a long time;
And shall we be saved?
For all of us have become like one who is unclean,
And all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment;
And all of us wither like a leaf,
And our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.
There is no one who calls on Your name,
Who arouses himself to take hold of You;
For You have hidden Your face from us
And have delivered us into the power of our iniquities.

But now, O Lord, You are our Father,
We are the clay, and You our potter;
And all of us are the work of Your hand.
Do not be angry beyond measure, O Lord,
Nor remember iniquity forever;
Behold, look now, all of us are Your people.

They had failed to keep their part of the covenant. Sin had messed them up pretty badly. They realized their righteousness was worthless in light of the constant failure to obey the commandments. Their only hope was not in the law but in mercy. The demands of the law were unfulfilled.

Here is my rendition of this passage:

God, who are we kidding? None of us are these polished good ol’ boys that we Israelites are supposed to be.. Nobody really keeps you’re law or seeks after you like our forefathers promised they would. Our righteousness is crap compared to Yours. God, we have no leg to stand on! We do not even have knees to kneel on as our prayer lives are even filled with our own egos. We haven’t kept your covenant Yahweh! Our only hope is that because you are our true father, you would be kind and have mercy on us. You made us! Only You can fix us! We long for you to not remember our past and turn us into the people You made us to be!

Yes, they had failed the faithful covenant keeping God. Their only hope was in the unconditional love of Father God. This is the Father that sent His only Son while we were yet sinners.This love made a way for us to become new creatures whose sins are indeed remembered no more (2 Cor. 5:17, Heb. 8:12).

When Jesus tells us about this God called ‘Father’, it is in the midst of the Sermon on the Mount. Now I don’t know what you have been taught about that sermon or think about it, but it does not look like a message on the mercy and love of the Father at first. It more so looks like Jesus is reading from the Amplified Torah (if there was such an edition).

But there is a reason why He was doing this (telling them they were in danger of hell for being angry with someone and to chop off body parts to avoid sin). The spiritual elite of the day, the Pharisees, had diluted and perverted the Law. Rather than fulfilling its purpose, which is to silence every mouth before God (Rom. 3:20), the Law was not working for them. They had skewed it to where it was inflating their spiritual pride rather than showing them their need for a Savior. Being leaders, this was negatively affecting the people as well. So Jesus makes a shocking statement in the beginning of the scary part of the Sermon on the Mount.

For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven (Matt. 5:20).

This would be like if I came to your church and told everyone that unless they are more righteous than Billy Graham, they won’t even make Heaven. Jesus then goes on to say things like,

“…anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell (vs.22).”

and

“If your right eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell (vs.29).”

If they still thought they had a chance of keeping the law, He ramps it up even more.

“Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

Really? Not only was the law a lot tougher to keep than I thought, but now you’re telling me I need to be as perfect as God? But then, in chapter 6, Jesus gives us that beloved message on not worrying about our lives because our Father will take care of us.

Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life (Matt 6:25-27)? 

…So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them (vs 31-32).

This is a passage that appears frequently in daily devotionals of sort. Everyone struggles with worry and these verses are nice comforting words of Jesus. But do you now see the context in which He spoke these words? He had just made it obvious that they had no chance of fulfilling the laws demands and now He is telling them not to worry? See, they needed a higher form of righteousness than the Pharisees and teachers of the law.

This is the righteousness that comes as a gift. This is the gift of the Son Himself who would become our righteousness.

But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well (vs 33). 

But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, beingwitnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe (Rom. 3:21-22).

It was the mercy of the Father that we desperate souls needed, just like the Israelites back in Isaiah. Jesus characterizes this love and care with how God relates to birds and lilies. He says not to worry because these do not sow or reap. But wasn’t the law covenant all about sowing and reaping, tit for tat? Blessed if you do, cursed if you do not. Jesus introduced the Father who cares for us and loves us irrespective of what we have or have not done. This is huge! The Pharisee had missed it not because he was bad, but because he thought he was good! He thought he had dotted all the I’s and crossed all T’s of the law. Jesus was trying to tell the people to trust in the Father, rather than their law-keeping.

Just as the children of Israel asked for rules so they could be blessed, rather than trusting the promises made to Abraham, the Pharisees were not seeing the Father’s hidden promise of a Savior that the law ultimately pointed to (see Gal. 3:26). They were blinded by their own light. So Jesus steps in as the Light of the world and reveals a pure unconditional love. This love is what we all yearn for as we realize the futility of self-reliance. This love is not an intangible force, but Someone you can call Dad. Let us trust in nothing but the love of our Father who sent His Son to bring us back home.

In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins… So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him (1 John 4:10,16).

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The Two Accusers

Then I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, “Now salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of His Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren, who accused them before our God day and night, has been cast down. 11 And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death (Rev. 12:10-11).

When we speak of overcoming the accuser, who is satan, are we referring to God finding us innocent in a court case with the enemy? This cannot be what it means, for we are justified not by our works or our righteousness but because of the grace of Jesus Christ. When the Bible says we are “justified” by faith in Him, it means we are found not guilty.

So why then would we need to overcome the accuser? We are even assured of the fact that, If God is for us, who is against us? Who will bring a charge against God’s elect? God is the one who justifies; who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us (Rom. 8:31, 33-34).

We do not need to overcome the accuser in order to be declared not guilty by God and obtain His favor, but for the sake of our our own minds. The accuser can have crippling affects on the believer, if he or she believes his lies. This can hold us back as we shrink away out of a sense of unworthiness.

I myself was in a pretty long struggle with accusations. When I first began walking with the Lord, I was very excited about doing His will and aware that it would only be through His grace. I had all of these grand prophetic words spoken over me about the great things God wanted to do through me. Over time, these things did not unfold in the way that I thought they should and somehow, the accuser got in there. “I must have done something wrong or have something wrong with me,” was a nagging thought I wrestled with. I thought I had somehow disqualified myself from the fullness of God’s plan for my life. Maybe I was on the “B Team” now, if that. It was only the revelation of grace and what Jesus has already done for me that brought me through this time.

Although satan is in the business of accusations, did you know that he is not the only accuser of mankind? He works in conjunction with our fallen consciouses. He needs a landing place. The old saying “let your conscience be your guide” sure sounds nice, but we need to realize that the fall of man affected every level of our beings. Our consciences became self-aware, rather than aware of God’s presence and heart towards us.

After Adam sinned, who told him he was naked (see Genesis 3)? The Bible does not say it was God or even the serpent. His conscience, which used to be mainly aware of God, was now introverted and aware of sin and the need for justice.

So part of Jesus’ finished work was to save our consciences from a sense of guilt since He stepped in and took the responsibility and consequences for man’s sin.

Hebrews sheds light on how the blood of Jesus cleanses our consciences from the guilt-ridden state they fell into. …how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God (Heb. 9:14)?

What is this evil conscience all about? It is the conscience we inherited through Adam. It says, “You did wrong, so you must pay.” It causes us to want to rely on dead works (religion) to make ourselves right with God rather than trusting Him to make things right. The good news is, He who did no wrong is the One that paid. That is grace. This is what will cleanse that conscience and cause it to be aware of God again.

Many times, you will hear Christians say that after they mess up, they feel “the conviction of the Holy Spirit.” What they are feeling is most likely their own conscience that feels the need to pay. The Holy Spirit, however, has been sent to testify of Christ and remind us of our righteousness in Him (see John 16: 6-10). I’m not saying that we should not feel remorse if we do something we should not, but remorse is different than guilt. Remorse simply says, “I should not have done that” whereas guilt says, “I did wrong. I must pay.” We cannot think we need to pay and trust in the already finished work of Christ at the same time.

How to Live Free From the Accusers

So we are told that there are three ingredients to overcoming the accuser and his accusations. This is also how, in effect, to live free from the evil conscience.

1) The blood of the Lamb

For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross. Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation— (Col. 1:19-22 NIV)

Did you know that the blood of Jesus makes you “free from accusation”? While the enemy might hurl accusation, we stand in the freedom in which God HAS set us free. This freedom goes beyond our experience of feeling free into the heart of God and His everlasting covenant by which we HAVE peace with Him and our sins are remembered no more. I would add that even though it reaches beyond our shaky feelings, it sure has a way of making us feel good as we are trained by it.

2) The word of our testimony

I believe this simply refers to what God has done (either in our lives or the Scriptures). The accuser would want us to forget the things God has already done to lessen our expectation of God’s goodness. But what God has done speaks louder than the voice of unbelief and intimidation. This word of our testimony is a great follow-up weapon to the blood of the Lamb. Jesus saves us by His blood that was shed, but then gives us a testimony of how awesome the power of His salvation is in completely flooding our daily lives.

3) Not loving our lives unto death

This does not refer to self-generated zeal and sacrifice, but a laying down of ones life out of love. The way of the fallen age is self-satisfaction and preservation. The true nature of the believer is selfless love. The faith of the believer says we have nothing to fear from death or of life. The enemy is scared of this self-abandonment.

Moreover, accusations make us introverted and self-aware. Letting our love shine out to others is a great way to get our minds off of ourselves and our issues. We are told that this love also silences the condemning conscience.

Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth. This is how we know that we belong to the truth and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence: If our hearts condemn us, we know that God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything. Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God and receive from him anything we ask, because we keep his commands and do what pleases him (1 John 3:19-22).

Love. Pure unselfish love will silence both the enemy and our self-condemning consciences. Notice that it is not God condemning us here. He knows better than our own conscience and, definitely, the enemy of our souls. He will instead seek to bring us back to a revelation of our identity in Him, which is the main issue at hand. All accusation can really do is try to convince us that we are not who we really are; God’s beloved children in whom He is well pleased.

God’s will is that we live free from accusation. When we do, the “salvation, strength, kingdom, and power” of God will come, i.e. manifest in the Earth, according to the opening scripture.

A wise man uses His enemy. Just as the children of Israel put their eyes on the other side of the Red Sea when Pharaoh’s army was nipping at their behind, so we can view accusation as simply an opportunity to fix our eyes on Jesus and His gospel of grace.

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