The Gospel From Genesis to Revelation #1: What is the Gospel?

This is a diagram that I’ve made in order to give a simple understanding of the framework of Scripture. This post is a broad-stroke article of what I plan to cover in detailed multiple-blog-posts at a later time–– though the Scriptures under the pillars will not be referenced much in this post, they will be discussed in detail in the posts that follow. Don’t be deterred by the length of this, but do feel the freedom to read at will over a period of time if necessary.

(For a brief summary of what is described within this post scroll down to the conclusion of five short paragraphs.)

What is the Biblical Gospel?

It is critical to understand what is meant in our Bible by the word Gospel. Clearly, it is what John the Baptist, Jesus, and Paul preached, and it embodies the very substance of the faith we as Christians profess. But… what is it? Gospel is a greek word that means “good news.” Therefore, whenever the word Gospel is heard, it should immediately register the phrase good news in one’s mind. Thus, when approaching the question of “What is the Biblical Gospel?” we are actually approaching the question of “What is the good news in the Bible?”. With the diagram linked above I hope to articulate a simple version of what this good news actually is through the “five pillars of theology” the Bible emphasizes. I hope to show the gospel which the apostles held firmly to and which we must also preach in order to disciple people in the true apostolic gospel.

Note: From here on we will often interchange gospel with good news in order to produce the simple understanding we are trying to achieve.

Approaching the Good News

First it is necessary to state a few points regarding the nature of the Bible. We must perceive the Bible to be God’s story. It has a beginning, a body, and an end. It has characters, a plot, a climax, and a conclusion. It is always so odd to me to find believers that approach the Bible in an entirely different manner than they do any other story. When we pick up a book, we begin reading and develop a simple understanding of the details which lead to our conclusion of what happens. We do not doubt whether the author existed, nor do we ever separate the book into an old account and new account tricking ourselves into believing that what the author meant in the first part of the book, he doesn’t mean anymore. Yet, consistently this is the case with the Bible. We divide it into old and new testaments creating division between the two as if they don’t relate. Many even believe the Old Testament is no longer relevant. This is detrimental to the story! What is promised in the beginning must be fulfilled in the end or God lied. This is the simple truth we must face and it honestly is a simple truth if we take a deep breath, exhale, and let it be as such.

So, stressing this point is not redundant for me, and I pray it isn’t for you either. Genesis to Revelation is a progressional revelation of God’s story. What He says in the beginning, He does not later contradict, nor change. This is GOD we’re talking about! Rather, He confidently states the same truths over and over, confirming the things He has previously said and slowly revealing more of the story until the final climax––when man is redeemed to live with God on the earth again forever. I beg you friends to read the Bible in this format rather than as a large conglomeration of spiritual sayings that ambiguously apply to you at various points in your life. The story has a context – we must find it, accept it, find ourselves in it, and thank God that He is the same yesterday, today and forever. We can trust His story from beginning to end to do what He said it would do from the beginning.

The Good News is Creational

The good news in our Bible is Creational because the God in our Bible literally created the heavens and the earth in Genesis 1. He also created man and then breathed His own breath into his nostrils. This is the first major point we must emphasize in understanding the foundation of the good news in the Bible. Its importance cannot be overemphasized. Because God created everything in existence, He exercises sovereign authority over this existence to do as He wishes. In turn, this absolute control over creation proves Him to be the sole and only Creator.

His proof of this creational identity is represented in events in Scripture such as the global flood, the divine acts of the Exodus, and many others including the future events that unfold at His second coming. In these events we see God exercising sovereign control over the heavens, the earth, and humanity. We also witness His perfect plan and will being played out and achieved within the field of sinful men (mind blown). These things inevitably prove Him to be the one and only Creator.

The sum-total of reality as we know it was created by God and is therefore the place in which God interacts with His creation. The flood account is a primary example of this when God causes the earth to break open and causes the heavens to release rain, resulting in the cataclysmic event we recognize as the global flood. God caused this event, and I emphasize caused. In this account we behold the sovereignty of God over the heavens, the earth, and the life of man. Although we might find it hard to accept, the Bible is firm that there is no other place happening out there somewhere, and this planet we live on is the only place God has chosen to interact with His creation.

Because the totality of what God creates in Scripture is physical in nature, we must understand that there is only one dimension propagated in the Bible. In other words, there is not a separate spiritual dimension. There are indeed angels, demons, and heavens, but because these things exist as invisible to the human eye does not make them another dimension, or “realm.” To think this way, which is typical of modern thinking, lends itself to a worldview that is not formed by the bible. We do not ever have a place in Scripture that says God is in a different realm. Rather, we have a creation account that puts everything in one existence and that existence has differing characteristics. It might be an odd idea to consider that even God dwells within His creation, yet this is exactly what the bible says.

Psalm 11:4 The LORD is in His holy temple; the LORD’S throne is in heaven.”

Now immediately, what we normally picture with a passage like this is a golden cloud fantasy land that we perceive to be another realm. Yet, we want to challenge this perspective with the Bible. The word heaven in the bible simply means expanseIt is actually never used in Scripture to mean anything other than expanse. Expanse is most commonly used to define the space between the earth and where God is seated, even though Gos is always HImself said to be sitting within this same expanse. We do well to pay attention to this. God is not living outside of what He has created – He is actually within His creation in an active and personal way. If you could walk through the air, you could literally walk from where you are now directly to the throne of God. The heavens in the Bible are always continuous – meaning, from the space just above the earth that is no longer dirt, to the outer space area where God is (the heights of the heavens Job 22:12) there is traversable space––it is possible to go there. Hence we see Jesus rise into the air in Acts 1 and continue upwards until He actually reached His Father’s throne. He did not simply disappear into another reality. We also see Elijah get taken up in a fiery chariot, and he also must have gone up until he arrived at God’s temple. If the horses and chariot that picked up Elijah weren’t real, then what was the point of him getting into such a contraption? Now this brings us to our next point – the physical nature of heavenly things.

Isaiah 6 is one of the best passages to help us. As in the verse above, we see in this chapter God sitting in a temple on top of a throne, wearing a robe. These are three clear physical components. Isaiah could have seen a spirit-like figure hovering amidst the clouds enshrouded in wispiness. But, this is not what Isaiah sees. Moreover, the angel goes to the altar before the throne and picks up pair of tongs and then takes a coal from the fire… again here we find descriptions we are all very familiar with––we relate to them well. The angel’s hand does not pass through the tongs, and the fire was not a sub-reality of a different existence. He goes to a real altar in the physical temple before the tangible throne of God who is wearing a robe made of material and takes a coal from a burning fire with a pair of tongs made from something that can be dipped into a fire, probably bronze or something similar. The point is this: God is living within and surrounded by physical reality. It is not disembodied, it is not the normal propagated idea of “spiritual” and it is not another realm. It is currently invisible to the human eye simply because this is how God created it.

So, God’s creation is physical and the heavens are tangible and physical. Heaven as normally perceived is not another realm but a physical place where God’s temple and throne are, and you could in theory travel there by moving through the space we call the sky. The knowledge of God dwelling within His creation instead of outside of it or in another realm should produce in us a great joy that He is closer than we might have perceived. To borrow my good friend’s analogy: If I’m a father and I live in a different house than my kids’, it’d be entirely different to if I were to live in the same house with them. Their perception of me as their father can only be warped with the former condition.

All of this is really good news!

The Good News is Covenantal

After God created the heavens, the earth, and man, He planted a garden in the east of Eden and gave man a command of obedience. Man listened to satan and disobeyed this command being expelled from the garden and subjected to the discipline God chose: Man would now be sinful, he would no longer be immortal, and the effects of this disobedience would be reminded to him in the curse which was placed upon him and the earth. Yet in the wake of such tragedy, hope was given––this disciplinary time would come to an end! As God established a covenant with the earth, God established a covenant with man in Genesis 3:15: There would come forth a Seed that would crush the head of the serpent thus removing the effects of sin from the earth and man. This future deliverance from the divine discipline became the very GOSPEL (good news) which man put hope in from then onward. The covenant in Gen. 3:15 points to the final eschatological (end-time) deliverance when God accomplishes the fullness of His original plan, ending this age of wickedness ruled by satan and beginning the age of righteousness ruled by Him, when man and God are finally reconciled and able to live together on the earth again as it was in the garden – the restoration of all things (Acts 3:21). As we are coming to find, gospel is usually what God does and says, as opposed to the infamy of what man does and says. This ironic interplay truly shows God’s humility time and time again. Man brings forth bad news, God encourages him with good news! This is our Gospel!

The good news in our Bible is Covenantal because of the nature of Who God is as Creator. God has created existence as we know it within a covenantal framework to testify to the surety of everything God said after He created. To say it simply, what God says cannot be broken––it stands firm untouched and as plain as the day He first said it. We could see this covenantal dynamic as a magnificent limitation that God has placed upon Himself in order that humans may have something to hope in knowing it cannot change. It is an incredible thing that God has divinely entrapped Himself with His covenantal words keeping His word to His own hurt (Ps. 15).

We see this in the heavenly dignitaries. In the sun, moon, and stars we behold a sign––a testimony that God’s covenants hold firm and are trustworthy. Why? Because from the day He told them to do what they are doing right now––they have not stopped! Creation and covenant are inherently tied together in this grand scheme of good news serving as a living, shining witness to humans living within God’s created reality. Thus, in Genesis 15, when God calls Abraham out of the nations in order to consecrate to Himself a people for His own possession (Deut. 7:6), He makes a covenant that stands as firm as the sunrise we beheld this very morning.

With Abraham, the covenantal dynamic takes on a personalized dimension as God is bringing the promise of Genesis 3:15 to fruition. His covenant with Abraham is for a land and a people. He makes good on this covenant by delivering Abraham’s descendants from Egyptian captivity and furthering the covenant with them at Mt. Sinai with the giving of a law and a temple. God delivers the people into the land He promised to Abraham and then establishes His covenant with David, promising him a throne of government. In these three covenants we behold the simple promise of the Kingdom. A kingdom as we would define it today simply consists of a piece of land with people in it operating under a law with a ruler (King) reigning on a throne over them. For many generations all kingdoms contained a temple where the God of that culture was worshipped. This is the Kingdom God promised in Scripture and the Kingdom we await Him to establish on the earth at His second coming. We will deal exclusively with this in detail in a latter post as well, but here it suffices to say that the Bible never presents an immaterial kingdom, that is spiritual in nature. The Kingdom is as described above continually in the Bible: A land with a law and a people, a temple with a King seated in it reigning over the land and the people.

We do good to pay attention to the details of the people God chose. Relaying back to our first principle of good news, Creational––Israel is the only other thing in Scripture that God directly gives a creational title to. He created Israel, and He did so on purpose. The Kingdom just mentioned was promised to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob––the first Jews. It was confirmed by Moses who was a descendant of Jacob, who was Israel. David himself was of this Jewish lineage, and the promised One to reign upon David’s throne forever was to be David’s direct descendant, making Him inevitably Jewish. We boldly affirm that this is what God has chosen to bring about the redemption of man and it is really good news. Many compromise this point today although it sits as a crucial pillar in the biblical gospel. As a fellow Gentile I warn us––let us not be arrogant against the olive tree (cf. Rom 11), but fear God and humble ourselves before His ordained plan of redemption!

The Good News is Cruciform

The chosen Jewish descendant of David that would reign upon a throne in Jerusalem forever as promised in 2 Sam. 7 was born from the flesh of Jewish parents, yet from the Seed of the Holy Spirit. He grew up a Jewish man, a descendant of David and of the lineage of Abraham, fulfilling the very covenantal words of God. His life was lived within the covenantal context that His Father had set up right there in the midst of the land, people, law, and temple that had been promised. He was the One promised to fulfill the only promise left remaining––The King who was to reign on David’s throne––yet, oddly He did not take that throne in His first coming. He instead lived as a prophet to bear witness against the people that they had been unfaithful to the covenant His Father had made and that the curses prophesied as a result of covenantal unfaithfulness were still upon them (Deut. 28; Lev. 26).  The good news of the Kingdom that He preached was clearly an event in the future when He would come a second time, not as baby in a manger or as a rejected teacher and prophet, but as the Son of Man spoken of in Daniel 7 to finally set up the true Kingdom on earth He had always desired. His preaching neither inaugurated or began this kingdom during the first coming, but rather, it related only to man in that it created a window of repentance and mercy in which we currently live before He establishes this kingdom at His second coming at which point the time of mercy and repentance will end. This is commonly called The Day of the Lord in Scripture – the time when the Lord finally calls all men to give account of their lives lived on the earth. It is the great apocalyptic hope prophesied in Genesis 3:15 fulfilled! However, Jesus first had a baptism to undergo in order to become the atonement for the righteous God to be able to forgive sinful man and allow them into His kingdom.

It was then that we saw the all powerful Creator God do the most antithetical thing according to His grand previous revealed identity––He laid down His life and died upon the Cross. The promised Deliverer of Genesis 3:15 that would crush the head of the serpent hanging dead on the Cross could be the pinnacle mark of the biblical good news (indeed the arguable elusive center of theology) and in fact the only thing that truly makes the Bible’s good news entirely different than any other religion’s. His body hung there as the substitution for those who had sinned from Adam until the present, bearing their deserved punishment of death in Himself, so that their transgression might be forgiven in the spilling of His own blood. His resurrection testified that He was indeed the acceptable sacrifice to accomplish such a task! First and foremost this atonemental sacrifice, confirmed by the resurrection, was a confirmation of the covenant established with Abraham’s lineage, the Jews, the covenant people, as Peter says in Acts 3,

“It is you who are sons of the prophets and of the covenant which God made with your fathers, saying to Abraham, ‘And in your seed all the families of the earth will be blessed.’ For you first, God raised up His servant and sent Him to bless you by turning every one of you from your wicked ways.”

Paul later confirms this principle of Israel’s ethnic priority regarding the promises concerning the good news in Romans 1:16, …“the gospel…is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.”  

The families of the earth, the Greeks, the gentiles begin receiving their blessing in the Jewish Messiah in Acts 10 with the household of Cornelius––the first gentile converts to the distinctly jewish faith according to the Scriptures. The Holy Spirit comes upon them as a testimony that indeed God was now extending the blessing promised to Israel to Gentiles also – which was the inheritance of eternal life i.e. entrance into the Kingdom. This cross-centered theology must be seen in its context relating to the other two pillars we have established––The Cross happens because God is the Creator of the Heavens, the earth, and man. Man sinned and was banished from the garden and God promised to restore him and the earth through the Seed that would come through Eve. God did this by means of His covenants made with Abraham, Isaac, Jacob (Israel), Moses and David, and the Messiah came in this lineage passed down for millennia and died on the Cross to be the vindicated Savior of Jews and Gentiles––a true one new man reality.

Yet in all of this, we should not (and cannot biblically) have the idea that these promises were fulfilled in Jesus during His life on earth in the first coming! His death on the Cross is the means by which men will enter the kingdom that is coming. Paul confirms that this is how the apostles thought about Christ’s death, saying, “…I say that Christ has become a servant to the circumcision on behalf of the truth of God to confirm the promises given to the Fathers, and for the Gentiles to glorify God for His mercy,” (Rom. 15:8). Paul’s hope of the promises given to the Fathers remains here a future event––Christ has confirmed that they are valid, and exist in their covenantal stature pure and impossible to obstruct. Jesus’ life on the earth therefore served the covenants previously made to Israel – He did not replace or realize them within Himself. His life and death served as the final solution which is yet entirely future.

Also here we must acknowledge what Paul says Gentiles should do: glorify God for His mercy. Here is a blanket gentile calling as represented in Scripture, for it is true as Paul says in Eph. 2:

Therefore remember that formerly you, the Gentiles in the flesh, who are called “Uncircumcision” by the so-called “Circumcision,” which is performed in the flesh by human hands— remember that you were at that time separate from Christ, excluded from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. Eph. 2:11-13

I love this passage because Paul tells gentiles straightforwardly and undeniably what we were and why we should actually be glorifying God for His mercy! Our history is filled with pagan rituals that hated the God of Israel and persecuted His chosen people, and yet because of God’s mercy we have been brought near by the blood of Christ. It is best to emphasize this point in a simple sentence: Gentiles are not the focal point of Scripture – the Jews are, while we gentiles exist in the footnotes and praise God for this merciful inclusion through His blessed Son Christ Jesus! Now, although we are not the point, God has given us a grand calling of provoking His people to jealousy (Rom. 11) which we will discuss at a latter time.

Practically, the good news in our Bible is also cruciform because it was necessary “for the Messiah to suffer before entering into His glory,” (Lk. 24:26). In the same way, those who have been “called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps,” (1 Pt. 2:21) embrace the suffering of this age as necessary for proving our faith. Therefore, the nature of our lives as Christians is to embody this same principle of suffering before glory as we “always carry about in our bodies the dying of the Lord Jesus,” (2 Cor. 4:10). The forsaking of our lives and laying down of our own reputation and fleshly boasting, truly becoming the last and least of all, should be the apostolic model we follow based on 1 Corinthians 4 among many other passages. This is embodied in the apostles’ declaration in Acts 14, “Through many tribulations we must enter the Kingdom of God.” It was very clear in their minds that suffering as Jesus did for the sake of the Gospel was necessary to enter the coming kingdom of God.

“He also presented Himself alive after His sufferings, by many convincing proofs, appearing to them over a period of forty days and speaking to them of the things concerning the Kingdom of God,” (Acts 1:3). After Jesus’ resurrection He had a 40 day intensive seminar with His disciples teaching them about the Kingdom of God. Their question to Him after this was, “Lord, is it at this time that You are going to restore the Kingdom to Israel?” This is not the wrong question as many say! This question is based distinctly upon the promises (covenants) made to the Fathers and what Jesus had taught them. Now that He was resurrected, their hope was that it was time for the promise of the Kingdom found in the Abrahamic, Mosaic, and David covenants to be fulfilled. Jesus’ declaration to them is not that they are wrong, or that they have asked the wrong question, but that, “It is not for you to know the times or epochs which the Father has fixed by His own authority, but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you; and you shall be my witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest parts of the earth.”

In these passages Jesus affirms our previous established “pillars.” In effect, He says, “God is the sovereign creator who has a fixed time for the restoration of the Kingdom spoken of in the covenants. The Holy Spirit will come upon you and you will make firm what I have taught you over the last forty days. Disciple people in this!” If the disciples had asked the wrong question, surely Jesus would have corrected them, but that’s not what we see. Rather, we see the apostles being endued with the Holy Spirit and their teaching that follows being in perfect accord with what Jesus taught them. It is here that we must make a simple point. If the kingdom had been changed in any sort of way from what the expectation of the kingdom was previously, it would be vibrantly clear in the apostles’ teaching in the book of Acts- meaning, if the Kingdom had become a spiritually inaugurated kingdomthe apostles would have made sure that everyone understood this MASSIVE change! However, in the book of Acts we do not see any mention of such things. Rather, what we continually see is the affirmation that nothing had changed concerning the promises, rather, they had only been further confirmed. In Peter’s second sermon we see this future hope emphasized with vibrant clarity:

“But the things which God announced beforehand by the mouth of all the prophets, that His Christ would suffer, He has thus fulfilled. Therefore repent and return, so that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord; and that He may send Jesus, the Christ appointed for you, whom heaven must receive until the period of restoration of all things about which God spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets from ancient time.”

Thus, Christ suffered, and this is the part God had fulfilled. The hope of the promises being fulfilled remained the future event when He sends Jesus Christ the appointed and the time of the restoration of all things begins. The death, resurrection and ascension of the Messiah into heaven were the events unforeseen regarding the establishment of the Kingdom. These events, however, confirmed the previous promises and now the expectation of the fulfillment of the covenants––the land, people, law, and temple, which the Messiah reigned over on the throne of David in Jerusalem, the Kingdom––was still understood in its proper context of truly being an apocalyptic event. Never is there any sort of reimagined kingdom, or reimagined Israel – only confirmation of what had been previously spoken by God. This is a superb reality to instill our faith in! God did not change anything in His story mid-way! If He did, His word was simply not true and He would be found a liar. Rather, everything God had spoken previously came to pass just as He said it would. He operates humbly underneath this covenantal confinement of His power. This is all incredibly good news!

The Good News is Charismatic

The good news in our bible is charismatic because the Holy Spirit has been endowed by the God of Israel into the bodies of humans who believe His good news and repent of their sins in order to receive His forgiveness and inherit eternal life. Therefore, “Peter said to them, “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit,” (Eph. 1:13-14) which summarizes the function of Holy Spirit inside a person. “In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation– having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God’s own possession, to the praise of His glory.” The Holy Spirit enters the man who believes the Gospel and repents of his sins, serving as a seal upon the man and given to him as a pledge according to his faith in the gospel that he will inherit and enter the kingdom that has been promised in Israel’s covenants. The Holy Spirit testifies within the person that this man has become God’s own possession and will actually inherit eternal life.

The Holy Spirit also serves a person in conviction of sin, righteousness, and judgment (John 16:8) as Jesus said. The man is convicted of sin because this is what prohibits him from entering eternal life and is the very reason the Messiah was crucified. The Holy Spirit convicts of righteousness, because this sin must be repented of, and the man must take on the righteousness of Christ rather than his own so that no man may boast. The man is convicted of judgment, because there is a fixed day when “we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds done in the body, according to what He has done, whether good or bad.”

Jesus also says that the Helper will “teach us all things, and bring to remembrance all that Jesus said,” (c.f. Jn. 14:26). He says this in lieu of His repeated saying, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments,” (Jn. 14:15). Thus, “walk by the Spirit and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh,” (Gal. 5:16) which are the evident deeds of any sort of self seeking and anything that does not serve your neighbor. Hence, Jesus’ teaching in the Sermon on the Mount is a good template of what we should be reminded of continually by the Holy Spirit.

Here is where the now is vitally important in Scripture because how we live according to the Spirit now determines whether or not we enter into the coming kingdom. The Sermon on the Mount exists as the instructions of Jesus for believers in Him who are seeking to become His disciples, striving to enter through the narrow gate and take up their cross and follow Him to their own deaths. This sermon is what those filled with the Spirit fulfill as their act of faith in His Cross and this future kingdom. If we do not do what is there in those three chapters, we simply do not have true faith in what is to come. James clearly tells us that faith without works is dead, meaning, faith without action is not faith that takes a man into eternal life. Do not misunderstand me here. I AM NOT SAYING WE INHERIT SALVATION THROUGH OUR OWN WORKS. I am saying that the works we do in the body prove the truth and substance of our faith in the Cross and the righteousness of Christ Jesus. The Sermon on the Mount is clear on this point. For example, a good tree doesn’t produce bad fruit, the way is narrow and the gate is small that leads to life, and “he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter.” Jesus immediately follows these stories with “everyone who hears these words of mine and acts on them…” will be like the wise man with a house on the rock, meaning, his inheritance is secure and the man will enter the kingdom. The warning in Matthew 7 of doing things but not actually doing the will of the Father is one of the sternest most terrifying warnings in all of Scripture. It tells us a man can cast out demons, perform miracles, and call Jesus Lord and still not enter the kingdom of God. In Jesus’ analogies and parables we see His ingenious ability to say the same thing a hundred times and not be repetitive––one man inherits the kingdom, the man who not only hears the words, but takes action and does them, proving his faith in the words to be true.

If the current inheritance of the Holy Spirit within us is defined by Paul as a seal, pledge, downpayment (deposit), and first-fruits, what are these qualifying words in relation to? The point in a downpayment is that it is unto something else. It is the same with a pledge and seal. Very clearly, it is not the fullness but merely a portion. In Scripture, God defines the first-fruits in an offering as a tenth of the whole. If I make a downpayment on a house, I have given a portion of the sum owed to the owner. I might live in the house at that point and receive the benefits of the home, but the fullness of the home is not mine in ownership until I pay the final dollar owed. It is the same with a pledge. A pledge is given unto something to be received at a later time. Likewise, Scripture presents that the Holy Spirit is within men now as God’s downpayment and pledge, teaching us to look towards the Day of the Lord when we receive the fullness of the Holy Spirit as promised by the prophets.

It is critical that we as believers in Jesus understand that the Holy Spirit has a very clear purpose as represented in the covenants with Israel. If we do not understand what the Old Testament says about the Holy Spirit, we cannot understand why He is inside of us. The Holy Spirit was promised to Israel, and He does not come without context!

It is here that we must briefly talk about the New Covenant, as it is inherently related to the promised Spirit. This might be different to what you’ve previously believed, but we always turn to the Bible to challenge what we believe:

31“Behold, days are coming,” declares the LORD, “when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah, 32not like the covenant which I made with their fathers in the day I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, although I was a husband to them,” declares the LORD. 33“But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days,” declares the LORD, “I will put My law within them and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. 34“They will not teach again, each man his neighbor and each man his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for they will all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them,” declares the LORD, “for I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more,” (Jer. 31:31-34).

And,

18“When they come there, they will remove all its detestable things and all its abominations from it. 19“And I will give them one heart, and put a new spirit within them. And I will take the heart of stone out of their flesh and give them a heart of flesh, 20that they may walk in My statutes and keep My ordinances and do them. Then they will be My people, and I shall be their God,” (Ez. 11:18-20). 

In these two passages, among many others, God sets before us a clear future expectation relating to a New Covenant He makes with the house of Israel. This New Covenant is synonymous with God putting His Spirit into them. We also read that this enables them to walk in God’s statutes and ordinances, meaning that they are enabled to fulfill God’s law perfectly.

This is an incredible promise! Jesus indeed presented the New Covenant of His blood, by which those who believe in Him are a part of. However, yet again we have the principle of the covenant Jesus made in His blood being an event fulfilled in the future, since what is mentioned above has not yet happened in full. Thus, the promise of God is that He will make a New Covenant with Israel, a covenant which will inevitably be unable for them to break, due to the enabling of the Holy Spirit inside of them to keep His law. Beloved, this is the covenantal promise of the entrance into the kingdom on the day of the resurrection from the dead when we are made “like Him,” meaning, like Him in His sinless obedience to the Father.

Just to be clear about the New Covenant, Hebrews chapters 8-10 makes clear that the New Covenant has been inaugurated by the blood of Jesus. Also, specifically Romans 2:15 clearly tells us that when gentiles do instinctively the things of the law in shows that the work of the law has been written on their hearts. These few passages express that through the New Covenant inaugurated by Jesus blood the measure of the Holy Spirit currently inside of us gives us the conviction of sin, righteousness, and judgment Jesus promises in John 16. In this we rejoice! However, because of many Old Testament passages we understand that the complete enablement of sinless nature, when the law is written on our hearts by the Spirit in the resurrection happens when the New Covenant is established with reconciled Israel after Jesus second coming. It is important to understand and distinguish the parallels and differences between the two. In doing so we are able to see the greater hope of deliverance in the future and that the full establishment of the New Covenant is what we are waiting and hoping for in the future!

What a firm hope and what truly good news this is.

The Good News is Apocalyptic

The Gospel is apocalyptic because in its simplest form there is foretold in Scripture a certain end to this current age. This end is the driving force of the events in the Bible from the fall of Adam to Jesus’ descent from the sky. Even from Genesis 3:15, as we’ve seen, there is a general thrust towards this final hope being accomplished when the head of the serpent is crushed, and the earth and man are delivered form the effects of sin and the curse. It stands so vibrantly clear even from Genesis 3 that the orientation of the Bible is focused on this final event. This final event is the very subject of apocalypticism. Do not be put off by the term apocalyptic – it is truly a helpful term when approaching the subject. We don’t have to overcomplicate the simplicity of this so let us be extremely pragmatic here. When we say the good news is apocalyptic, we simply mean that the entirety of the Christian hope is set in the events of the future (soon to take place) that bring about the final deliverance which God has promised. It means that this current age in which we live is broken, sinful, wicked, and dark because man sinned but that there is a future day when God will end this age and transition us into the age of perfection, sinlessness, righteousness, and light-filled glory. It is the culmination and bringing to fruition of everything God has said. It is the fulfillment of the promises to Israel and their extension to the Gentiles. It is indeed everything we have described within this article finally coming to pass.

Again, we must not overcomplicate the issues at the end of the story. The storyline is simple and God is not doing anything new as many try to frame it today. In the midst of the chaos of many different ministries trumpeting the “new thing” God is doing, we can rest assured that God is always doing this same Gospel––which is exactly what He’s always done! God is going to continue doing this gospel, which is what He said He would do and this is the very substance of apocalypticism: God fulfilling what He previously said. So, let us briefly overview the chief dynamics that make our Gospel apocalyptic.

Since we have covered four pillars now, we should naturally understand that within the apocalyptic end we should see the point of each of the previous four pillars come to summation in the grand climax of our good news being achieved. It could almost suffice to say that everything we’ve summed up thus far in this article is simply played out in the apocalyptic dynamic, and just leave it there. However, let us evaluate the details of this finality in order to see the end results. In doing this we can finally see why the pillars we’ve highlighted actually function as the catalysts to bring about God’s redemptive plan for man and the earth.

First off, it is important to understand that the bible presents a very clear dichotomy between this age in which we live, and the next age when this one ends. In essence, the age to comeand the events that lead to this grand transition are what we are studying in apocalypticism. So, just mark this in our minds as a finality: Apocalypticism is not a scary word that we cannot understand. It simply means the final events that transition this age into the next age. I am saying that many of the promises in Scripture actually find their fulfillment after Jesus returns, rather than before as is very often presented. Let’s look at the Scriptures to see if this is true.

Firstly, the Creational existence that we know, which God created good has been subjected to futility and is currently groaning for its own deliverance,

“…For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God…” (Rom. 8:20-21). 

When man was cursed after breaking God’s command in Eden, the earth received the repercussions of his actions–it was cursed with thorns and was no longer able to yield fruit (possibly in size and quantity) as it did before. We must learn from this passage that the earth was very different before Adam sinned. It is such a graphic description of Paul to say that creation is under the bondage of decay. But, isn’t that what we hear all the time? The earth is in trouble! Whether it’s the ozone, polar caps, population density, food, drought––the earth is decaying! We are running out of oil, we are running out of water, and popular belief is that within 100 years this earth could be decimated unless man finds a miraculous solution to the problems. So even scientists have an apocalyptic expectation albeit very liberal and godless. According to their ‘faith’, man will solve the problems of the earth. In our creational pillar, the apocalyptic expectation for the earth is a total deliverance from decay into a perpetual regeneration that continues for ages to come. This is orchestrated by Jesus sitting on the throne in Jerusalem. It is delivered from this curse by the one who subjected it to futility: The Sovereign Creator God. Logically, since God is the one who subjected it to decay, man can do nothing to stop this and only God the Father, and Jesus as the Messiah, in tandem with the Holy Spirit can bring this grand transition to the earth to stop the decay and begin the regeneration of creation.

As we’ve discussed, man was also subjected to this godly discipline and thus,

“We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved,” (Rom. 8:22-24). 

and,

“…we groan, longing to be clothed instead with our heavenly dwelling, because when we are clothed, we will not be found naked. For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed instead with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. Now the one who has fashioned us for this very purpose is God, who has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come,” (2 Cor. 5:2-5).

This glorious redemption of the earth and man is seen as one grand event in the future and the Holy Spirit has been given to us as a guarantee that this redemption will take place! Let’s move on to the Covenantal pillar and its purpose in the apocalyptic end.

God promised Abraham a land and a lineage that would be a blessing to all the nations of the earth, and he, as well as the others mentioned in Hebrews 11,

“…were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth. People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them,” (v. 13-16).

Abraham and the other people of faith believing in God’s promise to Abraham died having not received the promise. And here is such a glorious truth for us all to adhere to–– that when we die, we die living by faith that God will in fact fulfill this promise to Abraham! This is the qualification of becoming a part of the great cloud of witnesses: looking towards the future. The people of faith and hope have set these in God achieving the final end of His promises. In effect, apocalypticism is faith that God will act upon His promises to Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, and David and fulfill them in totality according to the words He spoke. As we saw previously, Jesus plainly tells us in Acts 1 that the Father has fixed a day for the promises to be fulfilled. Faith in God and His divine day to do what He said is the very substance of true apostolic faith and hope.

The good news of this land and lineage promised to Abraham that was to be a blessing to all the nations of the earth was further developed at Mt. Sinai with the giving of the law when God spoke to Abraham’s lineage. His choice of this lineage was then reconfirmed to David in 2 Samuel 7 when the promised deliverer spoken of in Genesis 3:15 would reign over the land and lineage promised to Abraham and govern them upon a throne of righteousness in Jerusalem. God promised that this would happen directly through David’s lineage, who was Abraham’s great (many times over) nephew. This promise found its divine agent in Christ Jesus (Yeshua the Messiah) who is the Son of God, truly God Himself in the flesh, who was crucified, dead, buried, and resurrected from the dead as a confirmation of the promises we are discussing. This is where things can get off-track for some people (by off-track I mean: reimagined, replaced, and changed at Christ’s first coming). We must maintain a covenantal hope that keeps the promise of the lineage itself (Israel) having apocalyptic destiny––not having everything fulfilled in Christ at His first coming (We will appropriately deal with Galatians 3 at a later time, but to put it simply, Galatians 3 is not about an erasing of Israel’s ethnic calling). The covenants to Abraham, Moses and David have not yet been fulfilled, and were not fulfilled when Jesus died on the Cross––and Jesus doesn’t feel degraded when we say this! He has established it this way!

Now, we will tie together the covenantal and the cruciform pillar so that we can understand Jesus, His short life on earth, and His own apocalyptic expectation. Hebrews tells us expressly the meaning of Jesus’ first coming and the expectation of the second:

“…but now once at the consummation of the ages He has been manifested to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself. And inasmuch as it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment, so Christ also, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time for salvation without reference to sin, to those who eagerly await Him,” (Hebrews 9:26-28).

Also,

“but He, having offered one sacrifice for sins for all time, SAT DOWN AT THE RIGHT HAND OF GOD, waiting from that time onward UNTIL HIS ENEMIES BE MADE A FOOTSTOOL FOR HIS FEET,” (Hebrews 10:28).

So, Jesus was manifested (born in the flesh) to put away sins by the sacrifice of Himself, and He is currently seated at the right hand of the Father awaiting the time when His enemies are put under His feet. Jesus confirms His own expectation of the end in Matthew 25,

“But when the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on His glorious throne. “All the nations will be gathered before Him; and He will separate them from one another, as the shepherd separates the sheep from the goats; and He will put the sheep on His right, and the goats on the left. “Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world,” (v. 31-34).

We are using a few examples here just to make a simple point. Jesus’ first coming was atonemental in purpose, meaning He lived to die as a sacrifice to make reconciliation between God and Israel by His blood (we will discuss His prophetic calling in relation to Israel, which is of equal importance, at a later time). He became the atoning sacrifice that covered sins, expressly, Israel’s sins––extended to gentiles.

“For you (Israel) first, God raised up His servant and sent Him to bless you by turning every one of you from your wicked ways,” (Acts 3:26). 

As Peter is preaching directly to the Men of Israel as stated in the beginning of his sermon in vs. 12, we see that the apostles viewed Jesus’ life, death and resurrection as being related to Israel first. Peter’s sermon in Acts 2 is so profound I highly recommend you study it!

Since Jesus rose from the dead, we read that He is now awaiting the time that His enemies are made His footstool. 1 Corinthians 15 in plain language tells us that this takes place after His second coming and after the resurrection of the saints,

“For since by a man came death, by a man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, after that those who are Christ’s at His coming, then comes the end, when He hands over the kingdom to the God and Father, when He has abolished all rule and all authority and power. For He must reign until He has put all His enemies under His feet, (v. 21-25). 

So, even our Lord Jesus is not content with the way things are on the earth now! Have you ever considered that Jesus, our resurrected King of glory, is waiting for a day in the future? The day when He is finally hallowed among the nations of the earth, seated on the throne in Jerusalem, while His and His Father’s enemies are being made their footstool! All this while surrounded by resurrected Jews and Gentiles––one new man. The point is this- Jesus is also longing for the next age. Just to highlight this issue with more emotion let us look to one other passage of Jesus’ words:

“I have come to cast fire upon the earth; and how I wish it were already kindled! But I have a baptism to undergo, and how distressed I am until it is accomplished! Do you suppose that I came to grant peace on earth? I tell you, no, but rather division,” (Lk. 12:49-51). 

Although we cannot in detail define this fire He will bring on the earth here, in its context it is a very negative thing, and it is very future, speaking of millennia after His crucifixion. Aside from the common misconception that Jesus is referring to the giving of the Holy Spirit here, we do well to just pay simple attention to the very negative context of His speech. Jesus here is wishing that it were time to kindle the fire of judgment that He brings upon the earth at His second coming.

So, we can now ascertain just how future-oriented the apostles and Jesus Himself were, and hopefully this gives us the freedom to clear away many of the clouds of confusion surrounding various interpretations of the reality we live in. We are simply living in this broken age, hoping for this future event!

Within this glorious plan there remains the context of how Jesus will achieve this final end: enter the people Israel. We as gentiles must fasten all of our hope to the redemption of Israel because without them, no one inherits the resurrection. Let us start with a verse everyone is familiar with in Romans 9 and work out what it means for our good news. 

“I am telling the truth in Christ, I am not lying, my conscience testifies with me in the Holy Spirit, that I have great sorrow and unceasing grief in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed,separated from Christ for the sake of my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh, who are Israelites, to whom belongs the adoption as sons, and the glory and the covenants and the giving of the Law and the temple service and the promises, whose are the fathers, and from whom is the Christ according to the flesh, who is over all, God blessed forever. Amen,” (Rom. 9:1-5). 

Here Paul emphatically declares that six things belong to Israel: adoption, glory, covenants, law, temple service, and promises. He then emphasizes that the Messiah has come from them, making it the final point of his statement. Now, in Romans 8 Paul has already told us that the adoption is simply the resurrection from the dead (as defined in 1 Corinthians 15 also). But what about the remainder of these things?

Often, these things are perceived to be mere past things Israel had and did, but why would Paul make a point about what Israel did in the past, in the same sentence with the future resurrection? No, we should assume that Paul is consistent in his line of thought here and that he is thinking about the promises spoken of by God that remain yet unfulfilled. This is Paul’s grief: God has promised them so much, and they are currently blinded to their own Messiah crucified as the means by which they obtain these promises! He even goes as far to sum up his entire calling and soon to be martyrdom with an incredible statement in the last chapter of Acts:

“I am wearing this chain for the sake of the hope of Israel,” (28:20).

Why does this matter for us? Simply, Israel’s hope has become the gentiles’ hope through our inclusion to the promises God made to Abraham, Moses and David. The Christian hope is not to die and go away to heaven in a disembodied state! Paul’s grief is twofold. Without Israel being saved, no person can be saved. If Israel does not inherit these things, neither do gentiles, as Paul states to us in Romans 2:9-10, “There will be tribulation and distress for every soul of man who does evil, of the Jew first and also of the Greek, but glory and honor and peace to everyone who does good, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. In the chapter before he prefaced this by saying that, “I am not ashamed of the gospel (good news), for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.”

Here is the reason we are defining the good news in such depth within this post and the very reason we must understand it. The good news of our Bible is for the Jew first. Meaning, they have priority to all of the promises of God because they are the chosen people. Therefore, God has ordained them to be the conduit by which He accomplishes ALL, and I emphasize ALL, of His purposes through. It is Jesus the Messiah, and it is the people of Israel. It is Jesus the Jewish man at the right hand of the Father, governing the Jewish remnant in righteousness on the earth, enabling them to walk in their irrevocable calling of the temple service, law, and glory. It is both Jesus and Jews together! The merciful part is that gentiles get to reap the glorious benefits of their relationship through the blood Jesus shed on the Cross (Eph. 2:13), so “the Gentiles (should) glorify God for His mercy!” (cf. Rom. 15:9, emphasis always mine).

Now, as we turn to look at the passages in the prophets that explain in detail what we are talking about, we will start with Peter’s exhortation:

“This is now, beloved, the second letter I am writing to you in which I am stirring up your sincere mind by way of reminder, that you should remember the words spoken beforehand by the holy prophets and the commandment of the Lord and Savior spoken by your apostles. Know this first of all, that in the last days mockers will come with their mocking, following after their own lusts, and saying, “Where is the promise of His coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all continues just as it was from the beginning of creation.” (2 Pt. 3:1-5). 

We are exhorted by the beloved apostle Peter to pay attention to the words spoken beforehand by the holy prophets, and this is in the context of Jesus’ return to the earth and the mockery it will receive in the last days. We go to the prophets because we are exhorted to, and we are exhorted to because within them lies an incredible amount of information regarding Israel’s hope––which has become gentile hope. Our brother Paul also commands us in this principle in Romans 15:4, “For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, so that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.” So, Peter and Paul both confirm the hope that they are holding to was defined early in the Bible. This is helpful to us as students of the Bible.

Thus, we begin this concluding part by highlighting Isaiah 40-66 because the hope they are referring to is so vividly articulated here. I frequently tell people to fall in fatal love with these chapters, reading them through and through, again and again. You want to know them, study them, understand them, and get lost in making them your hope. Within them is the right context for understanding what was in the apostles’ minds regarding the hope of Israel and why Paul was willing to wear a chain and have his head chopped off for it. The very defining substance of apocalypticism is revealed in depth in Isaiah 40-66. You could also say that to obtain good end-time theology it cannot be done apart from this huge portion of Scripture. If you ignore this section, your eschatology is certainly flawed.

The reason that almost all of the apostles were tragically yet gloriously martyred was because something was very real to them. We should assume that it could only be an incredible hope that can drive a man to give his only life for. The men who walked and talked with Jesus had been taught something and they understood His life to have confirmed something. We find this something in Romans 15:

“For I say that Christ has become a servant to the circumcision on behalf of the truth of God to confirm the promises given to the fathers,” (v.8). 

This is an immaculate verse pointing to how the apostles interpreted Jesus’ life. As we’ve seen, they interpreted it as a sacrifice that made atonement for sins, and here we see that they also understood His life to serve as a confirmation of the words God had promised to the fathers (i.e. Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, David). Because of this confirmation within the life and death of Jesus, the apostles knew that Israel’s hope of this final salvation, deliverance and restoration was actually true––solid and anchored in the Man they had seen bleed and die on a Cross and then raise up into the sky. They had perfect assurance that the promises God made in the prophets would be fulfilled and that the resurrection of life would be given unto them in accord with those promises. This is truly an unshakable hope. In their minds, while being “stoned, sawn in two, tempted, and put to death with the sword,” (cf. Hb. 11:37) was this driving hope of the passages we now look to.

Isaiah 60:1-6 “”Arise, shine; for your light has come, And the glory of the LORD has risen 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 rising. Lift up your eyes round about and see; They all gather together, they come to you. Your sons will come from afar, And your daughters will be carried in the arms. Then you will see and be radiant, And your heart will thrill and rejoice; Because the abundance of the sea will be turned to you, The wealth of the nations will come to you. A multitude of camels will cover you, The young camels of Midian and Ephah; All those from Sheba will come; They will bring gold and frankincense, And will bear good news of the praises of the LORD.”

This is one of my favorite passages, and I wish I could post the whole chapter here. Instead I beg you to read it on your own. What is clear in this passage is that, the glory of the Lord has not yet risen upon Israel. We also behold in the second verse that preceding this will be a time of darkness covering the land and the people. This also is the yet future event known as Jacob’s Trouble that we will deal extensively with in several other posts in the future. It is in this one two-word event that the whole of eschatology is played out. It is critical to understand, and although it may seem complex, understanding the why of it can be fairly simple. It suffices to say that Revelation, Zechariah, Daniel, and Matthew 24-25, Mark 13, and Luke 21 are all describing this one event called Jacob’s Trouble found in Jeremiah 30:7 and that it is the 3 and a half years directly preceding Jesus’ return.

As we focus on the great apocalyptic hope, it can sometimes seem somewhat dark and disheartening because things like judgement, trouble, and distress are mentioned. But we do well to consider God’s merciful tarrying with men for about 6000 years. He has stayed His judgment, and kept it from breaking out against men, and this is the final time when He will finally restrain no longer. Consider, how much hard work is sown into the garden before it bears fruit? Does the seed not die before it comes to life? Did not our own Lord Jesus have to suffer before entering into His glory (Lk. 24:26)? The crucifixion is always before the resurrection. This is our divine template for understanding the toil that produces everlasting fruit and the suffering that produces an eternal weight of glory. Though hard to stare at and accept at times, we “prepare our minds for action, keeping sober in spirit, and fixing our hope completely on the grace to be brought to us at the revelation of Jesus Christ,” (cf. 1 Pt. 1:13).

For now we are focusing on the what of apocalypticism, rather than the why. The what is this incredible hope that Jesus will return on the clouds of heaven and fulfill the promises to the Fathers by making Israel a blessing to all the nations of the earth. Let us look to the other passages.

Lev. 26:9-11 “‘I will look on you with favor and make you fruitful and increase your numbers, and I will keep my covenant with you. You will still be eating last year’s harvest when you will have to move it out to make room for the new. I will put my dwelling place among you, and I will not abhor you. I will walk among you and be your God, and you will be my people.”

Jer. 31:31-34 “Behold, days are coming,” declares the LORD, “when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah, not like the covenant which I made with their fathers in the day I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, although I was a husband to them,” declares the LORD. “But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days,” declares the LORD, “I will put My law within them and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. “They will not teach again, each man his neighbor and each man his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for they will all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them,” declares the LORD, “for I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.”

“In that day the Branch of the LORD will be beautiful and glorious, and the fruit of the earth will be the pride and the adornment of the survivors of Israel. 3It will come about that he who is left in Zion and remains in Jerusalem will be called holy—everyone who is recorded for life in Jerusalem. 4When the Lord has washed away the filth of the daughters of Zion and purged the bloodshed of Jerusalem from her midst, by the spirit of judgment and the spirit of burning, 5then the LORD will create over the whole area of Mount Zion and over her assemblies a cloud by day, even smoke, and the brightness of a flaming fire by night; for over all the glory will be a canopy. 6There will be a shelter to give shade from the heat by day, and refuge and protection from the storm and the rain,” (Is. 4:2-6).

“And many peoples will come and say, “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, To the house of the God of Jacob; That He may teach us concerning His ways And that we may walk in His paths.” For the law will go forth from Zion and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem,” (Is. 2:3).

We should take heed that gentiles are the side note in these passages and that these promises were made directly to Israel. This is not favoritism by God, this is just Him being faithful to what He originally said. As Gentiles, we humbly accept that we are the nations in the above passage (Is. 60:2; 2:3) that are coming to see the Lord make Israel the light He has promised her to be, and to learn the law in Zion. Fellow gentiles––we hope in this great restoration of Israel! We join ourselves to her and God’s plan for her!

It is proper to highlight that this final achievement by God is actually accomplished through the fullness of His Spirit being put inside of Israel. As we have discussed, currently, it is biblically logical to presume that we have a tithe of firstfruits, or 1/10, of the Holy Spirit given to us as the guarantee, and pledge of what is to come. However, in the day of restoration God puts His Spirit into Israel (and this is extended to gentiles) in FULLNESS.

Ez. 36:27 “I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances. 

Ez. 11:19-20 “And I will give them one heart, and put a new spirit within them. And I will take the heart of stone out of their flesh and give them a heart of flesh, that they may walk in My statutes and keep My ordinances and do them. Then they will be My people, and I shall be their God.”

Ez. 37:14 “I will put My Spirit within you and you will come to life, and I will place you on your own land. Then you will know that I, the LORD, have spoken and done it,” declares the LORD.’”

Jer. 31:31-34  31“Behold, days are coming,” declares the LORD, “when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah, 32not like the covenant which I made with their fathers in the day I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, although I was a husband to them,” declares the LORD. 33“But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days,” declares the LORD, “I will put My law within them and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. 34“They will not teach again, each man his neighbor and each man his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for they will all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them,” declares the LORD, “for I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.”

Here we see that the future hope of the Spirit being put within Israel in fullness is the final deliverance from sin and the entrance into the New Covenant. It is by enactment of this new covenant that God’s Spirit is put within them in full, and they are enabled to never again transgress His law. This applies to gentiles also who have attached themselves to this hope for Israel. We await that complete filling of the Spirit, when our hearts become tender and we are able to obey God flawlessly! Truly, we find the entire purpose of the resurrection here in Israel’s final apocalyptic deliverance and as gentiles we can become like Paul and be willing to wear a chain until He brings this to pass!

“You who remind the Lord, take no rest for yourselves; and give Him no rest until He establishes and makes Jerusalem a praise in the earth,” (Is. 62:7).

Conclusion

Although we honed in on many specific parts of the Gospel in our Bible let us now provide a brief summation of these five points. The hope is that the reader would now have a much firmer grasp in reading this summation than previously.

The good news in our Bible is creational because the God of our Bible created the heavens and the earth and therefore exercises sovereignty over them to do as He wills. In the beginning, it was clear that He willed man to live in relationship with Him in a garden but man disobeyed God’s command and was expelled from the garden. At that time the effects of sin and death came upon man and the earth in the form of a curse––a disciplinary measure God took to produce hope in the promise. In the midst of the tragedy, God made the promise of hope in Genesis 3:15 that He would bring about a person through the Seed of man which would end the curse and bring man back into relationship with God in the garden. This began the covenantal promise towards restoration which is the whole subject of everything thereafter in Scripture. Next, God confirmed this covenant with Abraham by bringing the promised Seed through his lineage and that this lineage would be a blessing to all the nations of the earth. The covenant with this lineage was reconfirmed in the miraculous deliverance from Egypt, at Mt. Sinai, and then again with David in promising the One who would rule on the throne of David in Jerusalem forever.

Before that ruler came, we behold in Scripture the same pattern of covenantal discipline within the microcosm of the people Israel. God gives them the covenantal terms of His dwelling among them, and they are unfaithful to that covenant, resulting in a discipline aligned with the Edenic expulsion. The Messiah is then born as the ultimate reconfirmation that God has in fact deliberately established this Jewish lineage to be what He promised Abraham. However, we behold the nature of our Gospel being cruciform in that the Messiah suffered in His first coming to take away sin, but will appear a second time for salvation (Hb. 9:28). After His crucifixion we understand from Paul that the discipline spoken of in Deuteronomy 28-32 upon this people has resulted in their eyes becoming blinded and their hearts hardened so that gentiles can also inherit salvation at His second coming.

Jesus was confirmed to be the agent promised in Genesis 3:15 and to David in 2 Sam. 7 through His resurrection from the dead. In this resurrection, He gave His Spirit to the Jews first and then to the gentiles as a guarantee of this promised inheritance spoken of in the covenants made with Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses and David. This firstfruits (Rom 8:23) helps us groan for that great and final deliverance from this age of sin and unrighteousness and put to death the works of the flesh (Gal. 5) in order to walk in a manner worthy of His Gospel (Phil. 1:27) in order that we might inherit eternal life. This salvation, redemption, blessing, and life eternal is promised as the enactment of the new covenant to Israel in the second coming of the Messiah when God finally puts the fullness of His Holy Spirit in their hearts and gentiles’ hearts realizing the one new man reality (Jer. 31:31).

Before this happens there is a certain time of trouble prophesied in the Scriptures which is the ultimate climax of the covenantal discipline mentioned in Scripture upon the house of Israel (Jer. 30:7). However, she will be delivered out of it by the return of Jesus to the earth and will live in peace once again shining as a light to all the nations of the earth (Is. 60). In Jesus fulfilling this promise He is most glorified, and the earth will sing of His glory in fulfilling what He previously foretold. The day of His return is what transitions this age of wickedness into the age of righteousness which is prophesied to last for 1000 years, for Christ will reign from Jerusalem until all of His enemies are made His footstool(1 Cor. 15) and Satan will be bound in prison while Christ reestablishes His own rule on earth. During this time the nations will come to Zion to learn righteousness from Him and the law will go forth from Zion returning the earth back to the righteousness of God as formerly revealed. At the end of this millennial reign, Satan will be thrown into the Lake of Fire and each man will give account at the final judgment before the throne of the Father. Then comes the end when He delivers the kingdom to the Father that God may be all in all!

As for now, as Christians we are seeking to live in relation to these glorious promises in the very near future. Since God is relating to man in mercy during this age, allowing time to repent before this age ends and judgement against sin is performed, we also live as a witness to these 5 pillars of the Gospel, so that men can repent and turn from their sin to inherit the promises God has made because God has appointed for men to live once and then comes the judgment (Hebrews 9:27). How we live now in regards to obedience to Jesus, which is more appropriately defined by Jesus as laying down our lives and Paul calls being baptized into His death (Rom. 6:3), affects the outcome of that day since salvation should not ever be assumed when we are “working out our salvation with fear and trembling, (Phil. 2:12). In the fear of the Lord we understand His mercy and justice and that both attributes will be revealed clearly on the Day of Christ Jesus. We long for this glorious appearing and rejoice with joy inexpressible until He comes and establishes His kingdom on this earth.

Even so, Maranatha! Come Lord Jesus and make Jerusalem a praise in the earth so that we might partake in this eternal plan of salvation You have so brilliantly orchestrated! Amen!

Audio

How Deep The Fathers Love (Hessed): Why the Gospel is “First to the Jew” and How Gentiles Should Respond

Session 1

Session 2

Session 3

Session 4

Tears Like Glory

old-man-wept

(What provoked this blog from within the depths of me, came during a morning of prayer and meditation while listening to the instrumental song above on repeat. It is a close friend of mine’s music and carries the emotional weight of the words in this post within the borders of its musical arrangement. I would love for you to listen to it while you read this post for a more dramatic experience.)

Weeping is not something that can be conjured up. It strikes a person as a bolt of lightning, unpredictable, from a course not of ourselves. Bound up in the endless depths of the human heart is restricted emotion from years of wounding, hurts, pains, and wrongs… and when the dam holding back those floodwaters bursts its torrent is an uncontrollable flood… a deluge of something divine. Tears trace paths down our cheeks like streams through a parched desert devoid of rain for seasons past. Truly, who can explain what it is that makes one cry? Who can declare from where it is conceived? Born in that stored-away place that is rarely seen by many, the fetus of emotion grows and grows until the event that causes its birth. With heaving and groaning the baby is born and the tears on one’s face are like the wet newborn baby that has just entered the world. Is it overly allegorical to observe why we have at times returned to that fetal position in times of weeping?

There is no time or pattern to the rhythm of weeping, and it knows no metronome. It follows no clap, or tapping foot, and albeit random, its heaves produce a song of its own. The wise listen and add to their learning, the discerning get guidance.

The eyes of those who empathize become moist as well, because the chord struck deep within the person upon whom the dam has just broken can oddly cause other dams to break. By relation of experience, and of proximity to the dam, others are suddenly swept away in its forceful waters. As though the one drowning in the beauty of release should not be left alone, another swims down to join them in a sea of their own tears. Behold the power of weeping and the strength of such weakness! Behold the beauty of the broken.

No one knows the bounds or depths of sobbing uncontrollably… the untethered chorus of a crowd in mourning is staggering to behold.

Some cheeks are more desperate to savor those moments than others and like droplets of rain dripping from the leaves of forests in a downpour their tears fall to the ground where the earth desperately drinks them up. Or, they fall into the very hands of God, where they are stored until the day He wipes every single one of them away and replaces them with the oil of joy.

Lest we become overly sentimental towards the idea of simple sentiment, let us progress to the biblical thrust of weeping and the object of our attention––weeping with God. The valuable lesson we learn from the Scriptures regarding the God of Israel is that He is the divine Creator who possesses weeping as an attribute. We should think that when the Alpha and Omega weeps it is due to the most profound of circumstances. His divine heart of unchanging love and sacred refuge bursts and the longsuffering tears of deep emotional pain regarding His creation are expended, an uncontrollable geyser that sinks the arrogance of man into the deep ocean of His humility. Indeed, in Noah’s flood the wicked could have been drowning in the very tears the Godhead was shedding from their heavenly temple. As the warm droplets touched the faces of those under His judgment as they peered wide-eyed towards the heavens, they would’ve recognized His everlasting mercy before they sank down immersed in the waters of His unwavering justice.

When I was small my father would leave the room as soon as he spanked me. I never understood why until I got older and mentioned it once to him. He explained that the pain he had to inflict upon my brother and I was too much for him to bear and he would leave the room only to immediately burst into tears of his own. It was never long before he would enter the room again with wet cheeks and cradle us in his arms, sorry that his love had to manifest as judgment. I distinctly remember my young boy cheeks rubbing against his and pondering their wetness as I sat loved in his lap. In that experience I have beheld one of the most accurate pictures of our heavenly Father and I still marvel today at the revelation it holds. (My prayer for you dad is that as you read this you would be able to finally let your own dam burst and be drowned there in the waters of your heavenly Father’s love.)

To take the liberty of this example and look upon the Scriptures we look in Revelation chapter 15. You don’t have to agree with my theological perspective on this chapter to glean from what I am about to present. The example is simple. In Revelation 15:1;7-8 judgment is taking place and something called the bowls of wrath are about to be poured out. The text reads:

“Then I saw another sign in heaven, great and marvelous, seven angels who had seven plagues, which are the last, because in them the wrath of God is finished… Then one of the four living creatures gave to the seven angels seven golden bowls full of the wrath of God, who lives forever and ever. And the temple was filled with smoke from the glory of God and from His power; and no one was able to enter the temple until the seven plagues of the seven angels were finished.”

At the pinnacle of wrath and the precipice of His judgment being unleashed full-force we see God desiring to be alone. I wonder if this is similar to my earthly father’s discipline, in that, He is “leaving the room” to weep His own tears that His great love must now be manifested in judgment. Thus, He makes everyone leave His room as He deeply grieves and travails over the fierceness of His wrath being manifested towards those who hate Him. But, those who love Him will very shortly thereafter be taken into His arms and received forever!

Uniquely, we find in the God-breathed Scriptures a blessing for those who mourn in this life bound to the promise that they will be comforted. We find Paul excavating the principle of mourning, enjoining us to fellowship with those who are currently engulfed in their own tears (Rom. 12:15). Do we find there true relationship? And what if mourning with those who mourn has implicit suggestion concerning those with understanding who will mourn with God––since He is in fact the one weeping!?

The mysterious abyss from which tears arise has hardly been considered in relation to God in the flesh. That is to say, Jesus wept, but because of our own lack of weeping our interpretation of what is happening within Him is most likely misunderstood. I doubt that any one of us has ever sobbed until sweat like great drops of blood pushed from underneath our skin and fell from the pores of our epidermis. Again, our lack of weeping might normally write this off as an odd event––just as something that possesses its own mystique, unable to be described by the faculties of men. But, is that true? Or have we just not wept enough?

Is it possible that Jesus, as the second person of the Godhead had waited since the beginning of time to release those tears from distinct human eyes on the night before His crucifixion? And there, as He heaves and wipes the tears from his face they mix with the atoning blood that is seeping from his skin. His mourning over the sin that has brought about His fateful crucifixion merges with the deep pain of bearing the sin of the world. How often have we seen tears and blood mix? His bound-up effort of longsuffering with humans and His pent-up rage against the sin and wickedness of His creation inverts and is there becoming the cup of wrath and long-suffering which the Father is dumping out upon His Son as Calvary is only a sunrise away.

How is it that the God of Israel has chosen such vulnerability to be one of the most personal manifestations of His nature? We deduce this through simplicity in the equation: When one weeps they are vulnerable, they are weak, they are exposed. No one has ever looked at a person weeping and said “What great strength!” Yet, we have the God of the Bible continually make this odd disposition true in verses like,

“…we preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block and to Gentiles foolishness, 24but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. For consider your calling, brethren, that there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble; 27but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, 28and the base things of the world and the despised God has chosen, the things that are not, so that He may nullify the things that are,29so that no man may boast before God (1 Cor. 1:23-29),

and also God’s response to Paul,

And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness,” (2 Cor. 12:9).

In these passages we find a direct definition from God concerning strength that is contingent upon manifest weakness. This is entirely opposed to the wisdom of the world! In fact, it is so entirely different than the way the world sees things it is actually confounding their wisdom to behold the beautiful weakness of Christ crucified

For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written, “I WILL DESTROY THE WISDOM OF THE WISE, AND THE CLEVERNESS OF THE CLEVER I WILL SET ASIDE.” Where is the wise man? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not come to know God, God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe,” (1 Cor. 1:20-21).

There on the Cross, the story of great weakness prevails triumphantly over the strength of man. Now, to us being saved we behold the power of God! But to those who are perishing––weakness. But, it is not as though one party sees something different than the other, rather it is how the party interprets what they are seeing. For the Christian, he looks upon the weakness of God being flogged, pressed with a crown of thorns, nails thrust through His flesh, and hanging in the air seemingly helpless and he says, “What great strength!” The others behold the same elements and wag their heads saying, “Physician, heal yourself!”  To one it is wisdom, and to the other foolishness. And in this great mystery the Messiah of humankind is being perfected through the weakness and vulnerability of suffering,

“Although He was a Son, He learned obedience from the things which He suffered,” (Heb. 5:8).

I wish to join in on the grief our Lord shared with the Father that night in the garden of Gethsemane. I want to touch that emotion and have it be real. I want to feel what God feels at this hour of history and let it manifest in warm streams on my face, where the spring’s head is centered in the overflow of God’s heart connecting to my heart, and I want it to run its torrential course out through the tear ducts of my eyes and fall to the earth or into the very Hands of God Himself.

I want that weakness… that vulnerability. I want to weep. I want to cry. May we be led by the Spirit into those uncontrollable times and cultivate a heart that is open to the infinite bounds of weeping with God. It’s ok to cry! Feel the freedom of weeping! Let it all out and see the fruit it might bear in your life with God.

Travail in Beit-El: A Short Story

The air was crisp and the sun was just rising as a golden eye taking a peek at the residents of the hill country of Bethlehem. From my bed, tucked in the window ledge of the small arabic home, I peered out over the rolling micro-mounts of Palestine. I only had a sheet to cover me during those last six hours and I had been a little cold albeit the middle of June. I rubbed my eyes and recounted the dream which I had awoke from, dropped my feet onto the cold marble floor before making my way to the bathroom. Careful not to use the wrong water, I began the monotonous practice of teeth brushing as my eyes stared into through the wall, past the neighboring houses and back into the dream. God was speaking to me and I was all ears.

I was in Bethel, or Beit-El in Hebrew, meaning House of God (It has kept its distinct name since Jacob laid his head on that ancient rock pillow and stared into the very throne room of God atop the heavenly stair). I had slept that night on a true pillow, and I had most definitely not seen into heaven, but I had seen something that awoke my senses. I had seen a person.

I had come to consciousness in the dream overlooking a wall unmistakably aware that I was in Beit-El. I knew that I had been led to the very place where I now stood with a wall in front of me, and I knew that I was to look over the wall. Peering over I saw a host of pedestrians crowding a street. Amidst the hustle and bustle of people-traffic there was a particular individual shining in gold. Not golden clothing, or weirdly sparkling either, he just appeared to be gold. He stuck out like a mole in a freshly mowed lawn and I knew I had to talk to this man. And that’s when I woke up.

Finishing my teeth and looking into the mirror the dream seemed so vivid and real. I was ecstatic to share with the team and soon the other guys began to stir from their own dreams and with excitement my extroverted personality took over. Before long the house was abuzz with fresh anticipation for the day. There was a divine expectation taking form and hope was glistening upon the cerebral heart of the team.

The night before we had had a meeting and picked our partners and discussed where we felt led to go the next day. Months prior in a prayer meeting Bethel had been highlighted on the map to our team. My partner and I both  We were going to do what we call a Matthew 10. Very simply, in Matthew 10 Jesus sends His disciples out into towns and cities of Israel to preach the Gospel of the Kingdom.

“These twelve Jesus sent out after instructing them: “Do not go in the way of the Gentiles, and do not enter any city of the Samaritans; 6but rather go to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. 7“And as you go, preach, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ 8“Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons. Freely you received, freely give… 11“And whatever city or village you enter, inquire who is worthy in it, and stay at his house until you leave that city. 12“As you enter the house, give it your greeting. 13“If the house is worthy, give it your blessing of peace. But if it is not worthy, take back your blessing of peace. 14“Whoever does not receive you, nor heed your words, as you go out of that house or that city, shake the dust off your feet. 15“Truly I say to you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment than for that city.”

And that’s what we were doing… repeating His instructions in the very land He had roamed with His apostles some two-thousand years ago. This was my first time in Israel… this was my first time to speak to the people of the cevenant… this was the first time I was even attempting to do a Matthew 10. You might call me naiéve and you’d be right. Fortunate for my small thirty year old mind, Jesus has chosen the foolish things to shame the wise (1 Cor. 1:27).

My partner was a several month old friend who was as sharp as a bedouin’s sword, and as blunt as an irishman’s club. I was very glad that he was my partner. The day before he had asked a German man on the bus in Jerusalem, “What do you think it was that led your people to agree to the mass genocide of the Jews?” The German traveler, who had walked from Germany to Jerusalem to find out the answer to this very question, was stunned at the candor of my friend. Despite him basically stumbling off of the bus and running away, their conversation ended ok.

My partner was uniquely excited that I had the dream and soon we were all headed out the door to catch the 8:15 bus to Jerusalem. The bus seemed to be running late as usual, yet soon it crested the hill that comes from Bethlehem and was roaring towards us, its air-brakes hissing. As is the normal procedure we stood at the curb waiting for it to stop as it had done the days prior. But, as he neared it became obvious that he had no intention of normal procedure that day and without a second glance at the six americans standing non-inconspicuously at the only bus stop in sight, he zoomed past with us waving our arms wildly. What in the world?! Why didn’t he stop?  I wondered. My very next thought was I have to get to Bethel! This is ruining everything!

All of us surprised at what had just happened, our team leader made an unforgettable decision. “I’d like to talk to you guys about something anyway,” he said “Let’s all open our Bibles to Deuteronomy 30 while we are waiting.” As we waited, the conversation for the next 30 minutes revolved around the subject of the restoration of Israel and what it looks like when God Himself restores His chosen to their land. Needless to say, as we stood in the Palestinian streets just shy of where the Lord Himself was born, it was easily discernable that what we were seeing in Israel was not that. Before long the next bus came and without a single qualm his bus hissed to a stop to pick up the six americans standing non-inconspicuously at the only bus stop in sight.

The ride into Jerusalem usually takes about forty-five minutes to an hour even though though it is only five miles away. You have to first pass through a checkpoint going from Palestinian territory into Israeli, and then pass through a tunnel burrowed into the main mountain dividing Bethlehem and the city of the great King. I could never help thinking about that fact that Jesus would’ve skirted these hills himself on the back of a donkey––not once, but twice! First, in the womb of his mother, and secondly in the triumphal entry. We descended the final hill making the one hundred-eighty degree turn to join the main traffic heading that direction. And that’s when we saw the gridlocked traffic.

I moaned internally You’ve got to be kidding me! How in the world am I ever going to get to Bethel? The devil is trying to stop me! We soon learned that there was a wreck inside the tunnel leading to Jerusalem which had in turn shut the whole tunnel down until further notice. I was incredibly frustrated inside since this had been the second delay already in our journey towards Bethel. Yet, as the traffic started slowly creeping through the tunnel my partner began talking about the issue of death before resurrection. We opened our bibles in the conversation and began discussing Ezekiel thirty-seven’s valley of dry bones. The conversation was clear in that the the restoration of Israel talked about in thirty-six, was performed by the catalyst of the resurrection in thirty-seven. This all radically connected to our talk earlier that morning regardin Deuteronomy 30. In that conversation my spirits were again lifted and I heard the Holy Spirit clearly say, “I have orchestrated everything perfectly today. Be at rest.” From that moment on I had a different mentality about what was happening and a growing confidence that YHWH was on my side… nothing could make His plan fail, in fact, these two apparent mistakes had been ordained by His very own hand.

When we finally got into Jerusalem and took the overground train to the main bus station it was past eleven o’ clock. My partner and I had such an overwhelming peace from the Lord after I shared with him what the Holy Spirit had spoke that we decided to let the day just play our normally and allow God to lead us. We surrendered the day to God. At that moment we realized we were hungry, so we decided to take a break and casually eat some shwarma before heading towards Bethel. We even took our time, and I think I had a coke which I never do, before checking the bus times. Truly, we felt free in Christ Jesus and confidence in His ability to perform His will.

When we entered the bus station we couldn’t find the ticket counter and so we stopped a young Israeli man wearing army fatigues. He kindly pointed us towards the counter where we bought our tickets. As we went back to get in the correct bus line the same man we had spoken to was there waiting as well. His name was “Hi” which felt welcoming and a boldness rose up in my friend and I to speak to him about Jesus being the Messiah of Israel. We probably had close to a half hour exhilarating conversation with Hi before it was time for his bus to leave. We gave him all that we had leading from the passover to the crucifixion and he was as wide eyed as a wildebeast in a spotlight. My partner was so bold in regards to the crucifixion and talked about how he and his sin had crucified the Messiah of Israel. The conversation went so well that we actually thought we might ought to go somewhere and finish the gospel with him and he could potentially be baptized that very day. However, his bus was about to leave and I felt the Holy Spirit say “I will take it from here.” So, we gave Hi a Hebrew New Testament. His final words to us were, “I have so much time on the base to read, I will read every single word of this book.” He thanked us and got on his bus never to be seen by us again.

With the adrenaline of such success in the gospel, since this was an odd happening indeed within the boundaries of Israel, we got on our bus ready to preach the whole bus to repentance in Christ Jesus. We divided up with my partner taking the back and me sitting in the middle thinking the whole bus would be saved on this journey… (insert record scratching noise). The next ninety minutes danced between clear frustration and faces of just shut up already! as there was a total and complete rejection of the gospel by the people we spoke to. I went ahead and moved to a seat where my partner and I met back up. “How was it?” I asked him. “Horrible,” he said, “The guy just turned his head away from me in the middle of talking and closed his eyes.” My experience was similar and we kind of laughed it off. We were affected, but not deterred. Just then we entered through the checkpoint leading into Bethel. 

Suddenly we were overwhelmingly dumbstruck with reality–– We had never been here before! We had no idea where we were, or where to go in this city. The puzzled look on both of our faces was a very clear “Oh Crap!” moment. We went to the front of the bus to try and ask some questions to the driver.

Earlier that morning when I had shared the dream, our team leader who had been to Bethel before said that he remembered a tall prayer tower and that maybe we should try that location to see if it fit the description with the dream. That was all we had to go on! Now we were trying to explain in English to a Hebrew bus driver what we were looking for. As the bus swerved and jerked we were thrown around a little trying to stand in the front of the bus and communicate our point. The other passengers became curious as to what we were asking about but no one understood what we were saying. Tower is probably not a easily distinguishable word in english. The bus driver then shouted back to the other passengers something in Hebrew as he came to a stop. We were caught off guard when a woman just behind us suddenly began shouting at us in in thick Hebrew accented English, “Here! Here! Get off now! You need to get off right here!” as she frantically pointed outside. Before the bus driver closed the doors we just hopped out not even thinking.

As the bus disappeared in the distance we very quickly realized we were not in the right place. There was a tall building to the left and we thought that this lady must’ve mistakenly thought we were talking about it. Moreover, there was not a single soul anywhere to be seen. It was as if Bethel was a ghost town or we were in a weird sci-fi novel. There was literally not a single soul in sight. But, since the building to our right was tall we decided to just go towards it. We trotted down some stairs that led its direction and then I noticed something. In front of us was a wall. “Hey,” I said to my partner, “That looks like the wall in my dream.” He looked at me with sincere surprise and said, “Well, let’s look over it.” With eager expectation of what was just on the other side of the wall we walked down and peered over (insert second record scratch sound with strong echo reverb). Just over the wall was nothing but an empty alleyway and the only living thing there was a cat digging in a trash can. My heart sank.

I looked at my partner and both of us had no idea what to do next. We were standing at the end of a street lined with newly built jewish homes. There was not a living thing visible and part of me began to wonder if we should preach the gospel to that trash-digging cat! Feeling a little hopeless my friend suggested that we walk down the empty street. Oddly I felt that he was wrong and that we should go the other way, but I just went with it. The sun was beaming now and it must’ve been around one o’clock. Lord, you must have a plan I thought. Here we are, in the middle of a city we’ve never been to. You gave me a dream last night about being here, we found the wall, and the golden person that should have been there has turned into a black cat! Witchcraft is happening!!! 

Just then a car turned onto the street and came towards us. My heart lept! Since we were the only people on the street it seemed an odd game of chicken as we were walking right down the middle. I can imagine what the driver must’ve been thinking. Here are two, very obvious gentiles, lost and out of place, walking down the middle of their street. I’m sure our eyebrows raised and the corners of our lips went up as she came near, and then just as quickly dropped as the car passed us. However, she then turned around and pulled in front of the house directly opposite where we were standing. An orthodox jewish lady got out of the car, of which we knew we were not allowed to speak to, and went up the small stairway that led to their flat. Not a word or glance from her, I got that sinking feeling again.

Suddenly, the door smashed open and a tall dark haired ultra orthodox jew with glasses descended the stairs and opened the car trunk. We stood in awe… he appeared to me to be shining gold. You could tell he was half trying to not overtly figure us out, but was also very interested in what these two men were doing outside his house. After digging around in his trunk he finally looked at us with a certain concern. How conspicuous we must’ve seemed… but his look also contained intrigue. Two white americans standing on his doorstep! “Um… excuse me, do you speak english,” I asked him. “Yes. What are you doing here?” he responded in a distinct Hebrew accent. “Um… we are looking for a prayer tower…” I managed to utter, “we believe Hashem has sent us here” hoping to at least give a credible enough response to keep the conversation going. “Oh, you’re not even near there!!” he said. “It’s about a thirty minute walk that way,” and he pointed down the street the direction we had come. He then tried to explain to us how to walk there which ended in him just saying, “You know what? I’ll just take you. Let me just finish taking these groceries into the house.” (Insert blaring warning sound) “Carry the groceries for him!” the Holy Spirit was shouting inside of me. “Here, let us help you with that,” me and my partner almost said simultaneously. We then followed him up the ten stairs and were welcomed straight into his house.

Walking into his house was like reliving a dream. The first things that caught my attention in the humble jewish home was an entire wall lined with black books in a prestigious wood book shelf. I quickly understood they were all rabbinic writings on the Tanakh. We weren’t inside the home of just any man––this man was exceptionally well read and educated in Judaism. However, it was not intimidating in the slightest, it was exciting. I knew the Holy Spirit had ordained this setting perfectly and now we just needed to let him lead. “Do you want a glass of water?” he said, after telling us his name was Nathaniel. When he said that I knew that we were inside the home of a real person of peace, just like Jesus says in the Gospel of Luke. I don’t even remembering responding and I can’t imagine what I might have looked like to him. Here we were, two gentiles, inside the house of an orthodox jewish scholar in the city of Bethel. And while we were in his house, we were also in the House of God. How ironic.

Nathaniel showed us his bookshelf and commented a little on it. He also showed us the scraped off rectangle near the door and explained to us that every jewish person had this in their homes as a sign that the temple will be rebuilt. I was internally combusting with emotions I had never felt as conversed with him. Finally, he turned to us again and said, “So what exactly are you doing here?” I took advantage of his question and I told him the truth. “Nathaniel, we believe Hashem has sent us here today. We would like to talk with you about the Scriptures. Do you have time to speak with us?” “That’s funny,” he said. “Maybe Hashem has sent you here! I am the only person in all of this area that I know speaks english, and you just happened to come to my house!” With this word I was boiling on the inside with expectation, but what he said next stunned me. “Every morning I go into Jerusalem for work, but this morning I woke up and thought to myself ‘I’m going to take the day off today!’ So, I usually would not be here now, but today I can sit down and talk with you about the Scriptures.”

I think I was about to just burst into tears and didn’t know what to say at this point. He motioned for us to sit down at his table where we had sat the groceries. He said, “Do you have your bibles?” to which we heartily responded, “Yes, of course.” It was odd to me that he even knew we called it the bible, and yet this whole situation was so dumbfounding that I felt like a child playing hide and go seek with my father. He knew where everything was and I was just trying to find Him. The next thing that happened still sticks in my mind as the most amazing thing I have ever heard or witnessed.

Looking directly at us he said, “Would you mind opening your bible to Deuteronomy 30?” I melted in that chair right there. I was as a blob of putty in the hands of God, wanting to shout and scream out loud, “The God of Israel is alive and has ordained everything perfectly!” As I was marveling at the impossibility of him wanting to talk to us about the very passage we had read that morning as we waited for the bus we had missed, it became clear that Nathaniel thought Hashem had sent us to him that he might correct us regarding our beliefs, and possibly be evangelized to judaism.

We talked about this passage in detail and the rich conversation cannot be put into words here. Suffice to say that he did not feel that he had convinced us of Israel’s current restoration, and that he also seemed as if he wasn’t convinced himself as well. My partner in this stage was so precise with his words concerning the restoration of Israel. “Nathaniel,” he said, “Do you really believe that the whole nation has returned the Lord as the passage says here.” Nathiniel reeled from the simple assessment of things. “No,” he said, “Over half of our nation is now secular,” he told us truthfully. But flipping through the pages of his Tanakh he came to his next point.

“But even if the nation isn’t fully turning back to Him… Well, look at Ezekiel 36.” That’s when my jaw literally dropped off of my face… and I looked at my partner who kept asking him superb questions in a very non-threatening way, who mirrored my expression. This was his chapter preceding the resurrection of Israel described in Ezekiel 37 which we had again discussed in the bus while we were waiting for the wreck to be cleared. God had prepared us with perfect words and insight directly from His Scriptures that very morning through the very events which I had thought were hindering our journey.

Our conversation went on for about an hour with his children slowly trickling in from school one by one, all of them with the tassels under their shirts and the slim locks of curled hair framing their faces. This was a quintessential ultra orthodox jewish family–– and gentiles were sitting at their table discussing their Scriptures! The children, although puzzled at who we could be, were not shy and several times they were climbing on their father in frenzied play.

The feeling I was experiencing seemed to be a mixture of total euphoria meddled with a creeping sour stomach. The whole situation was remarkable. Nathaniel was such a likable guy. We were able to talk upfront and honestly to him… however, in the midst of such beautiful, exciting, and exhillirating things,

“the word of the LORD came to me, saying, 2“Son of man, speak to the sons of your people and say to them, ‘If I bring a sword upon a land, and the people of the land take one man from among them and make him their watchman, 3and he sees the sword coming upon the land and blows on the trumpet and warns the people, 4then he who hears the sound of the trumpet and does not take warning, and a sword comes and takes him away, his blood will be on his own head,” (Ez. 33:2-4).

I had a distinct sobriety that these feelings were good, and the Lord loved them, but this conversation was meant to go much deeper. The Holy Spirit said that we must Warn this man regarding the coming of Jacob’s Trouble. I was to to sound the alarm as the watchman does in Ezekiel 33. Just as I asked Nathaniel if he was familiar Jeremiah 30 and the topic of Jacob’s Trouble, his wife shouted something in Hebrew from the kitchen area. Suddenly it seemed things became chaotic in the house. The kids were frantic, and his wife was displeased. We realized that they were about to eat, and it is not kosher for them to eat with gentiles, so Nathaniel told us that we needed to go. No! We are losing our chance here… I thought …we can’t leave! But, there was nothing I could do. He stood up to grab his keys, keeping his promise to take us to the tower. I looked at the grocery bags sitting on the table next to me, slipped something under them unseen, and we walked out the door.

As we descended those ten steps the Holy Spirit spoke the clearest phrase to me, “You have four minutes, preach Christ Crucified unashamedly!” We got into his compact car with me riding in the front. The ride was an acute four minutes, and I went for the jugular. “Nathaniel, we are Christians and we believe that Yeshua is the true Messiah of Israel.” And the mention of Jesus’ name he cursed his name with the hebrew acronym of ‘let his name forever be accursed.'” I didn’t skip a beat but vulnerably shared my testimony with him, “I believe this because when I was twelve years ago Yeshua appeared to me and I saw Him hanging on the Cross, and I was also hanging on the cross with Him. He showed me who He is and I know that the Scriptures also confirm that He is the true Messiah of Israel.” At this Nathaniel stopped. “Only prophets have experiences like that,” he said. “Hashem only gives things like this to prophets.” I now wish I could’ve taken advantage of him saying that but in the moment I didn’t realize how significant what he was saying was. In effect, he confessed with his own mouth that Hashem had spoken to me a gentile.

I tried to get through to Christ Crucified and that the passover had prophesied of atonement and that people were saved through the sacrifice of a blameless lamb. In the four minutes I must’ve been talking as fast as a bullet train. He finally interrupted me as we pulled up to the prayer tower, “You said you would tell me of this Jacob’s Trouble.” A bomb went off inside of me in that very instant and I blurted out, “Nathaniel… Jacob’s Trouble isn’t a story or fairytale, it is near, it is on the horizon!”

When I said these words I erupted in uncontrollable weeping, half-screaming and groaning right there in the front seat of his car. It was something I have never experienced, and the only word I can use to describe it being travail, I was literally making noises as a woman in labor with my head in my lap. Internally the Lord was thundering a phrase over and over, “Jerusalem, Jerusalem… how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings…” As I drowned there in my own tears I could hear Nathaniel asking my friend, “What is happening? What is wrong with him?” My partner responded simply, “I think he’s crying. Maybe God is moving on him.”

What was happening to me was so intense that I wanted it to stop so that he wouldn’t feel so embarrassed. I now regret this and wish that I could’ve just stayed there with the Lord weeping and weeping for hours. Here it only lasted for a couple minutes before I looked up and directly into Nathaniel’s deer in the headlight eyes blurted out what was roaring in my mind. “Nathaniel, Hashem has longed to gather you as a hen gathers her chicks, but you are a stubborn and obstinate people!”

I had not intended to say this at all and it is the only time in my life that I can really say I think the Holy Spirit took control of my tongue in that moment.

Nathaniel looked at me in total disbelief. I had just quoted to him a line from Ezekiel 2:4 that I was not previously familiar with. “I am sending you to them who are stubborn and obstinate children, and you shall say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD.’ Isaiah also uses this same language once, saying, “For I know how stubborn and obstinate you are. Your necks are as unbending as iron. Your heads are as hard as bronze.” The look in Nathaniel’s eyes told me that he was familiar with the passages I was quoting, and he was keenly aware that they were not presenting his people in a positive light.

This is why the Holy Spirit is able to perform tasks far beyond our imagination. If I was jewish and a gentile was in the front seat of my car telling me that, I would’ve probably punched him! But something amazing happened in that moment… something that only God could’ve done. Nathaniel’s heart softened.

The only way that I can describe what happened next is that it was like a veil that covered Nathaniel’s eyes was drawn back. He was puzzled. There is a gentile in his car that has had experiences that only God gives to prophets. The gentile just erupted into an uncontrollable weeping and groaning. The gentile just quoted to him scripture from the prophets. The gentile is prophesying that judgment is coming to Israel.

It is my belief that Nathaniel knew he was witnessing the Ruach Ha Kodesh upon a gentile and he didn’t understand how this was possible.

For about five minutes God opened a window of mercy for me to go from the passover to the Cross, talking about how Hashem had hidden the crucifixion of the Messiah in His wisdom. I said things that could’ve never come from my own mind, and used analogies that I had never thought of, and it seemed to possibly be going into his heart. He just looked at me with mouth partly agape at this stage and let me talk through the whole thing. And then something happened that still brings me to tears. As the last act of a play closes, the curtain was slowly drawn back over his eyes. He looked at me and said, “I want you to get out of my car now… I have to leave.” We gave one last stab wanting to leave him with something tangible. We told him that he would see three things in the future. One, a man who was not the Messiah would bring peace in Jerusalem between arab and jew. Two, the third temple would be built in Jerusalem. Three, this false Messiah would stand up in the temple declaring himself to be YHWH. We told him that when he saw these things happening to flee from Israel. He looked at us with such great confidence and said, “I am a settler here. I will never leave.”

I stumbled out of his car feeling heavier than I ever had in my life. I felt like my blood was syrup and my bones iron. I wanted to collapse on the ground and just cry. His car pulled away from us and we just watched as he left. Suddenly, his car made a loop and came back our direction. “What in the world?!” I thought. He pulled up next us and I thought that this was it, he was going to give his life to Jesus. “When you leave…” he said, and proceeded to give us directions to how to take the bus. Without giving us a chance to respond he pulled away again.

My partner and I went up on that prayer tower and I fell to my knees. I did not know what had just happened and every ounce of energy was zapped from my entire being. I just closed my eyes. The prayers I prayed over those next few minutes were those of the desperate sort. We just sat there together wondering what to do, looking into the distance at Ramallah set upon the hill. I knew I had just experienced what God said to Isaiah,

“He said, “Go, and tell this people: ‘Keep on listening, but do not perceive; Keep on looking, but do not understand.’ Render the hearts of this people insensitive, Their ears dull, And their eyes dim, Otherwise they might see with their eyes, Hear with their ears, Understand with their hearts, And return and be healed.”

I knew that I had just witnessed the curses spoken of in Deuteronomy 28 and Leviticus 26. I knew that Nathaniel had been given over to this condition by God Himself, and that it was a judgment against His precious, unfaithful, firstborn people. I was overwhelmed with the grief Paul speaks of in Romans 9. At that very moment I also felt that I could’ve wished myself cut off from Christ for the sake of Nathaniel.

As my friend and I finally prepared to make the journey back to Jerusalem I told him something that he didn’t know. It was the only thing that kept a glimmer of hope in my mind and what still keeps a light at the end of the Nathaniel tunnel in my heart. “You know… when we were sitting in Nathaniel’s house?” I said. “Remember how the grocery bags were sitting on the table?…” he nodded. “…just before we left I slipped a Hebrew Gospel of John underneath them.”

That day ended the way it had began. With everything planned so precisely by the Lord–– from the missed bus, to the blocked tunnel, to meeting Hi in the bus line, to the woman screaming for us to get off the bus, to the particular moment we stood in front of Nathaniel’s house and he walked down the stairs, to the Holy Spirit coming upon me unaware––everything could not have been more perfectly ordained. As I told my friend about leaving the book on his table I heard the Holy Spirit say what He had said earlier with Hi. He said, “I will take it from here…”  and there was not a bone in my body that distrusted Him.

Ever since that day when I think about Nathaniel an indescribable peace washes over me. I remember the events of that day and I marvel. I literally came to tears at several points just recalling this story! I stand in awe that God used us that day to do something miraculous. I have a story that literally reads like the book of Acts and no one can take it away from me. I experienced the Bible, the covenant, and the Holy Spirit alive that day as I looked into the eyes of the Holy People and saw their blindness staring backI understood that if gentiles would understand their place in the story God is willing to go to great lengths to lead you to His people that you might give testimony of Christ and Him crucified. You may be despised in their eyes. They may curse the name of Jesus. But you my friend will be partaking in the storyline of the everlasting gospel, and you might just be provoking His people to jealousy. Let it be. Amen.

The End.

I wrote this so that you the reader would be encouraged that the story of the Bible is true. God is on the move and Jesus is truly coming soon. Have faith! Take heart! And as Daniel says, remember, the people that do know their God shall be strong, and do great exploits. Lets have faith for things like this and be available for the Holy Spirit to use us.

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The view of the settlements from the tower in Beit-El

The Idolatry of Sex and a Lifestyle of Praise

 

A form is there before you and you gaze upon it. Though your knees may not bow your heart does internally. You want it… and you want it to want you. Yet, it may not even be just that you want it, there is something deeper happening… something stronger than just a desire or want. You may have written it off just as, “humans are sexual creatures”, and that modern psychological form of deception is the puppet string causing your eyes to bob up and down upon different bodies throughout the day. Then, you go home, go into your room, close the door, and defile yourself with the unsatisfied fulfillment of selfish intimacy.

The secret place has become defiled and shameful. I know this firsthand…

Jesus says, “But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you. Yet, there is no reward for this other kind of secret place. The Father is indeed watching… and weeping. There, your act is worship to an unseen demon… a creature that hates you and wants to murder you despite your awareness of its presence. The place in your mind where you are supposed to “love the Lord Your God with all of” has been tyrannically ruled by lizards of lust for decades– their constant flicking tongues hitting the cerebral with a bombardment of sexualized emotion.

We live in a culture that is perpetually “turned on”–– driven to find release.
But, can we actually be released from it? I wasn’t sure until the last couple years.

You give in again and again and you don’t know why. You feel trapped in your mind. You have bowed before the idol of sex so many times to your own shame and you just want it to stop. You feel defeated, guilty, and ashamed of yourself. You feel a fake because you can’t speak to someone about the Lord while this hides just behind your eyes. But the truth is that you do love the Lord! This is why you feel so ashamed. You want to please Him, but you’re caught in failure. Can we transition to loving the Lord more than this lust and overcome it? Can we live whole-heartedly and self-controlled before Him and resist these horrific temptations?

Can we actually love the Lord God of Israel with all of our mind?

Yes.

Wounding

My first sexual experience was with a woman in her thirties when I was six. I still remember the “funny feeling” in my stomach and being very uncomfortable as she asked me to come into the dark room dressed in an open robe with only lingerie on. To worsen the situation, a pornographic vampire movie was playing on the TV in her dark room…  Then I black out and only come to as I leave the room feeling sick to my stomach. My mind still doesn’t know whether this is one or multiple experiences merged into one. It was during those young years I was also exposed to hardcore pornography for the first time. It was in a large meeting in the auditorium of my elementary school in the second or third grade… the crinkled up piece of magazine paper being secretly passed from small innocent hands to another was engrained upon my mind as the unforgettable snapshot. I didn’t want to see it, but I wanted to see it. When I was nine or ten my cousins introduced me to their father’s Playboy and Hustler collection that led to an insatiable addiction even though we didn’t know what we were doing. We were so young we only said that we got “that funny feeling in our stomachs.” Around that same time a male teacher at my elementary school began putting his hands on my body after school hours. My brother had the same teacher and experienced the same things and we would only come to know this many years later… Within those same years my cousin forced me to watch him masturbate, making it the only condition by which he would allow me to play video games in his room. I still remember hating it, and yet him saying over and over “LOOK! WATCH!” I was instructed in evil that day, and I followed suit soon thereafter. All these things led me to have an addiction to pornography in my young teens that provided the context to be molested by a male neighbor in exchange for pornography as a teenager, to have my first consensual sexual encounter with a woman when I was sixteen, and to fully lose my virginity by age 19. It was all downhill from there – an unquenchable slide towards immorality and disregard of my own purity as well as others’.

Many can empathize with this story. It is a very sad and grieving empathy we share…

Many, if not darn near all of us, were taught sex outside the covenant of marriage. Those illicit encounters, that I am so sorry we have experienced, undoubtedly created our “worldview” and perspective of sex. Such small minds and innocent bodies should never have had to endure the torture of others’ negligent promiscuity; and yet those very others most likely endured the same abuses themselves by their own perpetrators in a perpetuation of this gross cycle. Who is to be blamed with so many variables in play and with the detrimental effects of sin snowballing upon the children of this age? The Lord will surely judge on the day of His appearing. I know that the Father has wept many tears for the children that have fallen victim to such events – and this means He has wept over what happened to you.

Can the cycle be broken?

Yes.

Our wounds are very real, and I was recently awakened to the reality of just how deep these things can affect a person especially later in their adult life. As the childhood mind forms, the pathways it is taught to think in become highways by which information travels into the mind and is interpreted. Many of these paths were defiled for many of us as children which taught us to think sexually therefore – even about the things that are innocent and pure. But friends, there is hope! I will address victory, but we first must handle the other side of the coin.

Idolatry

Our minds being given to sex is not purely because of wounding. Although it started there, we must also admit the truth––we have surrendered to our wounds and allowed our minds to wave that white flag instead of fighting the good fight. We have allowed our wounding to become the scapegoat for sex being our idol.

The sin of idolatry is rarely equated to sex today. We look on every corner of our western worlds and there is sex, and yet somehow we are removed from the idea that it might be an idol. Instead we call it a “struggle.” To put all of the blame on wounds is to not admit the truth of our love of sex. This is a reality that must be addressed by believers.

We love sex. But can we love the Lord our God above it?

If on the corners of western streets there were enormous golden idols with many arms covered in snakes and a Christian were seen on that corner bowing down before the golden creature, and later say in his accountability group, “I was struggling with idolatry today,” who would scoff? That man would be rebuked! Yet, we passively distinguish. This is the clever reality of billboards, magazines, tv, and movies––although it is that same type of foul false-god receiving attention and worship, it has learned to disguise itself well and mask its agenda. This idol has learned to charade itself as another thing altogether…

 

Idolatry is so easy to label in nations like Nepal and India because of its blatancy. It still happens there in the flagrant fashion of bowing down before golden statues. This form of idolatry manifests mainly in external form. Not so in the west. On the contrary, idolatry has become a predominantly internal practice. Indeed, with both forms the heart is what is engaging in the idolatry, but I am primarily speaking of the practice. With Nepal, there is a daily practice of going to the temple and touching, kissing, and bowing down before physical idols. With the West, there is a daily practice of opening up magazines, watching movies, checking out people as we check our social media, and then touching ourselves. Within all of those spheres there is a driving relentless agenda of sexualized content which in turn turns the heart, and moreover keeps the heart constantly swamped with erotic material even if you’re not looking for it.

Does the mind bow to the image? 

Yes.

Is this idolatry?

Yes.

This is not loving the Lord with all of our mind. But can it be overcome?

Yes! But we must be sober minded!

Think about ancient cultures. Sex is often a part of the rituals contained within the programs of idolatry. The false gods have always had sex within their scheme of worship because they themselves are un-pure, and defiled––apostate from what is holy. Behind the false gods however are very real creatures, demons, who hate humanity and exist for the purpose of deceiving us. They long for the worship that belongs to Jesus…

Have you ever considered the pagan god statues of greco-roman culture? They are typified as naked and sexualized, and yet powerful and secure. Surely that has some odd effect on the psychology of humans. Sex and power is embodied in the pagan gentile gods because they are actually unholy and powerless demons. This is the paradox.

Temple prostitutes are a character we’re familiar with from the Bible. Sex and idolatry went together throughout the bible, likewise in this modern era. The forces of darkness understood long ago that sex was an integral part of idolatry and it has been incorporated into their worship for millennia.

We must open our eyes to the truth of what’s happening!

The same idolatry is in fact still happening today. When sex has been equated and related to idolatry of all sorts for history past, then it should inform us of something deeper than a struggle taking place today. We must have this foundational understanding of the roots of idolatry and its application to sex if we are to ever see it for what it is and overcome the temptation to bow down to its idol. We must see it as turning away from the Lord God of Israel and worshiping another god.

It is idolatry.

In stark contrast to the pagan gods of the nations, YHWH––the God of Israel––has always maintained a standard of beautiful and undefiled purity. God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all (1 Jn. 1:5). He commanded that no form of Him ever be made because he knew what was in men’s hearts. I think He foreknew that men would inevitably portray Him the way the Greeks and Romans did their gods. The Greeks and Romans are case and point of what man believed the “gods” were doing––partaking in drunken orgies! The God of Israel wanted no such gross portrayal of Himself. He has kept Himself and His form more pure than the god-concoction man could have thought of. Even today, His main expression is seen not in a powerful deity seated on a throne with naked women surrounding Him and lightning bolts being thrown from His hand–– but in the glory of a weak man hanging upon a Cross!

Oh the depths of the wisdom of the knowledge of God!

The wisdom of man is there confounded and the glory of YHWH is magnified. This is the God that we worship. This is the God we long to be faithful to! There on that crossbeam is

“…Christ, in whom is hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” Col. 2

YHWH’s biblical worldview presents the context of sex as a life giving act that affirms and validates the covenant between a man and a woman every time that it takes place. In that holy act, the man and the woman are one flesh, testifying of their vow and the day that they left their father and mother, joined themselves to each other and forsook any chance in the future of doing that act with another person. In this light, the act of sex within covenantal marriage is worship unto the Creator who thought of this and created it for the purpose of purity. It is in fact the only act that humans partake in which is directly creational–– a life is made by the act and a person is born. It is remarkable that something that is so exploited today as filth in the industry of pornography, is actually so filled with light and truth within the marriage bed!

I see your point, but why is the struggle so deep?

Recently it all just seemed so simple to me. Wounds and idolatry––

We are broken, and sex is worshiped…

Adultery is the anti-climactic end of the idolatry of sex. After having worshiped this filthy idol for so many years it is the fatal outcome and the very reason why so many succumb to its trap.

Upon the first act of adultery the biggest deception of having believed that it would be fulfilling becomes plain. I doubt that any man thinks to himself just moments after the first act of infidelity, “This was worth it!” At that very moment the woman who has carried his seed in her womb for nine months enduring the pain of childbirth multiple times out of love for him–– the very woman who has endured the in-laws and attempted to overcome the hurdles out of love them for years, the same woman that has spent endless hours of working through problems and coming to resolution with him, the only woman who has fallen asleep next to him in bed for many years is not there in the bed with him––she is at home alone with their children! The adultress, with whom he just defiled himself, has endured nothing for him except her own driving lust and brokenness that produced this horrible outcome. His true lover, His own flesh, the one who bears the vows of their wedding day in her heart and on her ring finger lies helplessly alone at home with their kids wondering why he had to work late again. She will almost certainly, very soon hear the crushing words of, “There’s someone else.” What a tearful, grievous outcome, and yet is one that is now commonplace.

The weighty implications and perspective of such a scenario when viewed outside the “hot perspective” of those within the deception of adultery is staggering. Adultery is the most paradoxical conclusion a person in the covenant of marriage can make. What great betrayal it is that takes place in total contradiction to the covenant between the husband and the wife!

In reality, separated from the gross fantasy the adulterer has now lived out, he is simply worshipping the idol of self-indulgent sex. He is actually worshipping himself even though he might not ever be conscious of it. It is controlling him and driving him. It is possessing him and usurping worship that belongs to Jesus, and praise that belongs to his wife, his flesh, his covenant. Oh what a great devastating lie this one has believed. It is no wonder the God if Israel has such strong regard toward this sin.

All of the men reading this now will secretly attest to this truth: our hearts are incredibly adulterous. It is only by the grace of the Holy Spirit, and an unrelenting cry before the throne of God to keep us pure that we do not commit adultery. I know this because I am a man, and I’ve walked in total transparency with a lot of men. I’ve also grown up in a church where a fair percentage of the men therein committed adultery in some way or another. I praise God that I have an earthly father who has remained faithful to my mother for these 41 years and never given in to this horrific sin––keep up the good fight dad!

The bombardment will soon find its end!

The Lifestyle of Praise

By the time I reached my thirties, the abusive events of my childhood had taken a detrimental toll on my mind. I did not feel that I could love the Lord with all of my mind many days, because my mind interpreted simple everyday events and interactions as sexual. A mere compliment from a woman could filter through the sexualized pathway created in my six year old mind and turn into something it was not. A simple smile or introduction could lead my mind to immediate improper thoughts. It seemed adultery was creeping closer and closer to me and I feared being the man that would let his wife and family and most of all, the Lord Jesus, down.

This is about as raw and transparent as it gets.

I would hear about other people’s struggles and it never seemed to be at nearly the same level of intensity as mine. I wasn’t intending to peg myself as unique, but the battle that I experienced was very different from others’ I knew. There were times when I would have demonic dreams, intensely pornographic and defiling, for weeks on end––waking up gasping for air and wondering how to escape the trial. I would fight the desire of lust, and keep my eyes on the Cross as much as I knew how. I would cry out to the Lord, I would remain in prayer and the Scriptures, and yet about every six months I would finally come to a place of feeling overwhelmed and give in to pornography. Even though I had previously been free of pornography for a 5 year period, this took place for the last 3-4 years. With this as the reality, loving brothers encouraged me to step down from leadership for a while and seek healing. This is when this blog was put on hold.

Making myself idiotically vulnerable did not come without a cost. I made it my devastating goal to tell all the details to other brothers of every sin I would commit. This transparent sharing of struggle with other brothers seems to often be the first step that is neglected by other Christians I know who have fallen into adultery.

Whether deeply wounded, or giving into the worship of sex, we, brothers, cannot afford to hide our sin!

I am convinced that the Lord Jesus carried me through the hardest of trials because of His great mercy, and because I was willing to embarrass myself over and over before other brothers with the truth of my darkest sins. If you are in that place of hiding in your sin, HUMBLE YOURSELF AND COME INTO THE LIGHT. Boldly I would like to ask you to come out and tell someone what’s happening before it’s too late and you really mess up. This pre-strike mentality does something in the Spirit that certainly thwarts the enemy. If you keep hiding he will prevail over you and it is only a matter of time. This isn’t pessimism, this is honesty based on 35 years of personal experience and observation.

When it all peaked for me, our family was still overseas as missionaries in Nepal. There was a lot of deliberation with my leadership over what was happening. The demonic dreams got to a place where I was overwhelmed, very discouraged, and tired of enduring such horrible nights. I would fast and pray, and remain in the Scriptures, but it would not cease. By the grace of God, our mission in Nepal was in a place where it was time to turn things over to the indigenous leaders we had discipled. It was their turn to run with the torch. Even the guys we discipled knew my weakness and walked with me through it. How could I hide it from them? This also led the way in vulnerability being part of the gospel witness in showing our need for the Cross.

In November of 2016 I officially posted the message that has been on my blog static page since. I wanted this open confession to be the help others might need to break free. I wanted my tiny candle of light to pierce the great darkness of this world wide web with a brutal confession of weakness that I might boast in Christ alone. I also wanted to be completely transparent with those who have read this blog and received encouragement from it, or help in the Scriptures. It needed to be known that the man writing these things was broken, and that He wanted to give himself to this time of consecration so that with purity he could be a faithful witness for the future. I didn’t want to be a fake.

Although I do believe that I will be partially broken until the resurrection of Christ, and that my mind will not be fully sanctified until it is completely changed on the day of His appearing, I can tell you that this time has taught me many things and matured me in the faith in many ways. Having undergone 12 weeks of counseling sessions, prayer, and deliverance the first couple months of this year, there were many things that were “gotten to the bottom of.” I steadily emerged to a new place in my mind where I felt space to “love the Lord.” A new strength arose in my spirit that loved the Lord deeper and more fiercely than the lust of the flesh and its temptations. For the first time in many years I felt strength to overcome the sin of lust.

It has now been over two years since I have given into pornography! I have resolved to never return to its vomit.

The Lord’s work is not finished, and yet I am finding new strength to love with Him with all of my heart. The despair and embarrassment that I and my family underwent as we submitted to the consequences of my sin has born fruit that I would never take back. Submitting to the discipline of the last two years was well worth it.

Christ

This is likely where many will stop reading. Oh how sad and detached we are from this beautiful Man! This is the only place to find freedom and hope so please keep reading!

Yes, there is a living Man who has never worshiped the idol of sex! Oh, how often we forget this! Jesus walked this earth for 30 odd years and never bowed his knee, mind, or heart to lust! The great Conqueror of wounds, sex and idolatry we worship! We often do not remember that this Man was killed because of our idolatry though He was infinitely pure, and then He rose from the dead, passed through the heavens and is seated at the right hand of God as our Great High Priest living to make intercession for us! If this reality were not true then the climax of this post would have been set upon that horrible hopelessness of us “just doing better in our own strength.” Yet, because of the sureness of this reality we can lift our eyes to the hope of glory and find the reason for choosing willful sanctification and worship no matter the cost.

He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him (2 Cor. 5:21). 

This biblical reality is stunning. The Man Christ Jesus never bowed his knee or his heart to idolatry of any sort, and yet He became those nasty things on our behalf, so that we are no longer in ourselves, but we are IN HIM––trapped in the glorious bosom of His righteousness, pure children of God destined to inherit glory and a kingdom with Him forever. The Father looks at us and sees His Son’s blood and righteousness, and He smiles with acceptance at our union to His Son.

This reality empowers us to abstain from sin as worship of Him.

What a testimony He has, and what authority Jesus’ prayers have before His Father to guard us, protect us, and deliver us from the temptations of the evil one. His vascular arms, pumping the very blood that was poured out on Calvary will carry us through to the day of His appearing!

We have very clear evidence of the strength of Jesus prayers in Luke 22:31-32. “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has demanded permission to sift you like wheat; but I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail; and you, when once you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.”

Oh the power of the prayers of God the Son! As satan prepares the wheat sifter, Jesus is there before the father crying out that Peter would stand firm. On the hem of those prayers Jesus knows the outcome because Jesus prayers get answered! There is no one with more authority to pray for you then our High Priest, For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin (Hb. 4:15).

It must’ve affected Peter deeply to hear the cock crow and know that the Son of Man had been on His knees for him. But the power of Jesus prayer is revealed not in Peter succumbing to the pressure of denial, but in the restoration that takes place as Jesus restores him. The power of Jesus prayers led the traitor to become the leader who was crucified upside down. We also, upon the failure of our sin, must remember that His prayers have prayed beyond the sin that just consumed us and will carry us through to the end. Take heart!

Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

This passage is immensely powerful. We fix our eyes upon Jesus so that we do not grow weary in striving against this idol of sex that so easily entangles us in our culture. He is the author of our faith because He walked it out perfectly, and will complete it in us!

In this cultural inundation of idolatry we do not lose heart because Jesus didn’t. Even in failures amounting seventy times seven, and in the grief and shame and remorse of our sexual deviances, we continue to try to lay aside every encumbrance. We do this by His Holy Spirit which He has given us to forsake the idols of our lives, the lust of the flesh, to turn away from her sexualized corners and fix our eyes upon Jesus! We must keep trying to cast down that idol of sex by the power of His Holy Spirit, and walk in His Spirit for you will not carry out the desire of the flesh (Gal. 5:16). We must be willing to crucify those desires because those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires knowing that the Bible is clear that the sexually immoral will not inherit the kingdom of God (1 Cor. 6:10).

Our desire to enter the kingdom of God must be stronger than our other desires so that we might overcome the lust of the flesh.

Beloved friends, let us take up that Cross together, giving Jesus a fragrant life of praise instead! Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship (Rom. 12:1). Let us worship Him by continuing to sacrifice those evil inclinations to His Cross and letting praise ascend in their place. That Jesus may receive in our life the reward of His suffering, let us press on towards the day that His and our joy are fulfilled together in the consummation of the ages when His kingdom comes and every idol is abolished and our heart is renewed in the New Covenant of His Holy Spirit dwelling in us in fullness. That is the end-game, let us not forget!

We will be fully delivered! Our mind will be fully pure! Our heart will once again be fully innocent!

We can make it with our eyes fixed upon Him! So, let us un-fix our eyes from anything that would hinder the glory He deserves.

Can we do it?

Yes.

He is worth it.

Even so, Maranatha! Come Lord Jesus!

 

The Making of a Faceless Person

Leaders on Vacation

“But whatever things were a gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. More than that, I count all things loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish (lit. crap) so that I may gain Christ, and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own, derived from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith, that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.” Philippians 3:7-11

Truly this is a passage that we should linger on until it moves us deeply to action.

This incredible passage of Scripture is a sort of magnum opus from our Father Paul, a member of the great cloud of witnesses before the Father in heaven. In these rich verses Paul describes the process of losing his face. Paul describes the face he once had, and then declares that this fleshly face known to many has become unknown and forgotten, intentionally drowned under by the tidal face of Christ. Paul’s life had completely vanished into Christ Jesus where he had purposely lost everything to gain nothing but Christ alone. What an immensely beautiful thing! Certainly we all long for this same reality. Paul’s face, the face that had been chiseled so delicately into Pharisee, circumcision, and zealous law-perfection had been swallowed whole into the endless bright and shining abyss of the face of Christ. We must also fall facefirst into this grand chasm in order that we might gain Christ and attain to the resurrection from the dead!

Many years ago this became a paramount passage in my life, although I am still seeking to see it realized as truth within me. This hurts my heart, and this post is a plea to ask you to allow it to hurt yours also.

I grew up in a Christian home, with Christian parents, and went to a church that actually represented authentic Christianity to me. The people were broken. The people were sinners, saved by grace! There was transparency and truth represented from the pulpit and even public confession of sins on multiple occasions. I grew up knowing that this was the way of the Cross––totally opposed to the idea that we could deliver ourselves through our own righteousness!

I worked in the youth group after High School serving as a sort of associate youth pastor in this church as well as a worship equipper for a few years. I loved leading youth because self-righteousness was rarely an issue. However, during that time I began to emphasize before others a sort of spiritual face. I distinctly remember boasting that my quite-time in the morning was two hours, when most peoples was one. I took pride in this, and noticed that it surprised people in the way I wanted it to. I received their surprise and praise gladly. My face began to be recognized as intense. 

This same boasting was evident in my life when I left the Lord for a few years and went headfirst into as much sin as I could handle. I boasted of the amount I could drink. I boasted in the women I manipulated. I boasted in musical talent. I boasted that God had called my name, and although I was in sin now, I would one day turn back to Him. This was yet another face of boasting and receiving praise from men.

When I did return to the Lord I went headfirst into one of the most intense large-scale ministries in America. Again, I began to slowly let me face be articulated by works. I was known as the “guy who fasts,” and even a “well of wisdom” to which I gladly bowed in thanks on my stage of glory. My spiritual intensity was now at the zenith of its sacrilege. The vanity in my heart was so hidden under the disguise of false humility that no one noticed. But even my humility was a sham–– a facade of what was truly inside. Even I was deceived, unaware of my own disgusting sin.

At times I would sit in the front of the room where we all gathered together to pray with my eyes closed. In my mind, I would dream of the day when God would finally confirm my spiritual purity and zeal by having me levitate off the ground in front of everyone, stamping His approval of my spiritual life in the eyes of everyone. It’s ok, I know you’ve never thought such things. But I, you see, was the chief of sinners without any knowledge of it. Oddly, the deception grew to new levels.

During this time I tried to climb the ladder within the ministry, trying to make my face slowly become more recognized, while maintaining it’s appearance of humility. I did well. I am a decently good looking guy, with an overly extroverted personality and natural leadership gifting. I have a likable charisma. With these things in place, it’s fairly easy to climb the ladder in a ministry. Have you ever seen an ugly person without charisma leading large-scale ministries? I didn’t think so. This is wickedness and opposed to the truth of the Cross. I was so locked in the deception of the love of self that I just kept trying to climb higher and higher… the spiritual rungs becoming the praise of men I continually sought.

Every time however that the door would seem ready to open for my big promotion God would do crazy things that would shut the door in my face and force me to go lower and lower. At one time, when there was opportunity for promotion the Lord actually made me leave the ministry for a season only to return with no status whatsoever. During that season God began to break me down and reveal my depravity. He began to reveal my need for the Cross. I cried at the realization and repented for my self-righteousness. As soon as the season was over though, I returned to the ministry and got right back on the ladder. The mystery of my depravity runs deep.

After five years of this spiritual zeal resulting in burn-out and spiritual fatigue in season after season, I began to wonder what was off. No matter what I did, how much I gave, how many fasting’s I accomplished––I didn’t feel pleasing to God! I also didn’t feel pleased with myself because I always lived under the accusation “you could have given more.” This is what was championed from the pulpit, and it was what I believed. I came to a desperate point. I was internally frustrated. I didn’t understand. I was finally broken.

And there… the most amazing thing happened… even now it brings tears to my eyes!

I

saw

the

Cross.

I “Beheld the Man.”

Although the Lord had continually interrupted my seasons trying to drive me to the Cross, I always “returned the favor” by trying to give Him more spiritual zeal. Whenever He showed me a little bit of His face I wanted to show Him that mine was just as beautiful as His through my works. I tried to go harder for God. I failed. Finally! When I beheld Jesus face on the Cross and the liberating understanding that He was the only means by which the Father accepted me JUST AS I AM, I slowly began to be set free. I slowly began to lose that face I had tried so hard to make.

Spiritual zeal and self-righteousness is like religious plastic surgery. You have the power to make your face look however you want it to. You can look a certain way, and it costs a lot for that to happen, but in the end your face is stiff instead of soft and a false representation of what you actually look like. You smile, but your cheeks don’t really move. You wonder why others don’t think you’re smiling when you’re trying so darn hard to look happy.

The beauty of the Cross is that we all stand there crushed beneath the beautiful force of relinquishing any and all forms of self-deliverance! We “behold the Man” God, there––naked, despised, dirty, and rejected. We realize that this is the true state of every mans heart and that Jesus became our horrid reality for all to see. Thus, we come out of the darkness and confess the depraved state of our own hearts entering into the glorious light of His freedom beaming from the Cross.

This is the foundation for the exhortation hereafter. When we come to a passage like Philippians 3, we need to first confront the face that we each have sculpted from our own works of self-righteousness. If we first do this, then the Bible can do its work.

We should first understand that what Paul is saying in Phil. 3 does not objectively apply to each one of us simply because we identify ourselves as “Christians.” Indeed, what Paul is saying here is overtly subjective in its context pertaining to the truth about himself. This verse is true about Paul, and for it to be true about us there is a lot of dying to be done. If I am honest, as this passage confronts me time and time again, the reality of its truth is still in very small seed-form in my life.

Let us seek to crystallize what losing one’s face is in Scripture. In Philippians 2 Paul begins his thesis of reputation and what becoming faceless was in his own mind. To paraphrase and add a little helpful context, he says: If you are a Christian, become like Jesus. He had the reputation of Creator of the Heavens and the Earth and yet He lived on the earth without His creation recognizing Him by this reputation. Most of His life was lived in the quiet city of Nazareth where He grew up as a child obeying His parents. He walked down Nazareth’s streets and stood in its public square and no one ever fell down to worship Him. There was not a whisper from Him of His NAME or the truth of His power. Jesus did not fight to be seen by His true identity, or to be given the worship and credit He deserved, but instead He let those accolades lay neglected and silent in the throne room of His Father where the angels still were day and night proclaiming them aloud. He became known as Servant on the earth He created, and even His title of Healer and Prophet were refuted by the onlookers at Calvary–”Physician heal yourself!” and “You who are going to destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, save yourself!” Instead of feeling the need to reprove their contemptuous voices He laid down His life to death on the Cross, silent before His accusers. The sign above Him would speak loud enough of the validity of His true identity although He never declared it with His own mouth: The King of the Jews. This was what Paul saw in Jesus’ face.

There is helpful perspective in understanding the loss of ones face by defining what keeping one’s face is. In the first several verses of Philippians 3 we see Paul announce the golden medals that once hung from his neck, the honors that he thought would deliver him into eternal life by means of his own righteousness. He gives his qualifications: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for righteousness based on the law, faultless. Paul is giving what was beheld in the eyes of the world as achievements. He carefully explains the details of his face and how it was recognized. He believed that who he had made himself to be had accredited him righteousness. In hindsight he calls this confidence in the flesh. 

“Thus says the LORD, “Cursed is the man who trusts in mankind and makes flesh his strength, and whose heart turns away from the LORD,” (Jer. 17:5).

So, we see that losing one’s face is tied to two things. The first is losing your reputation and praise in the eyes of man for the sake of gaining Christ’s reputation. The second is refuting the idea that any reputation you now have (within your own eyes or the eyes of others) contributes in any way shape or form to you inheriting eternal life––your self-deliverance must be laid wholesale upon the delivering shoulders of the Savior.

You are probably thinking, as I once did, “Glad that’s not me!” Paul once thought that also… and then a Man standing in blinding light knocked him off of his high horse. The blindness that came upon his eyes would allow him the three days needed to see into himself and mine those horrible caves of self-righteousness in his heart. When his eyes opened again I suppose he might have looked into the mirror and wept desperately at the horrid image of his own face. It would be vividly apparent to him that he looked nothing like the man he saw on the Damascus Road. He would come away from the experience Paul, as Saul was executed daily.

“I die Daily.” ––Paul 1 Corinthains 15:

Proverbs 16:2 is one of those verses we don’t allow to stick vibrantly at the front of our minds, but we should: All the ways of a man are clean in his own sight, but the Lord weighs the motives. That stingsEverything Paul thought he was doing for God was clean and righteous in his own sight, but he was actually only doing everything for himself and for the praise of men. He would not have inherited eternal life based on the biblical formula because Paul’s strength was from, for and of himself. However, it is in that blinding incident that Paul is made to see––just as the blind man in John 9. Jesus’ words to the Pharisees there (and by relation to Paul) ring out – “If you were blind, you would have no sin; but since you say, ‘We see,’ your sin remains.” (v. 41).

The confrontational nature of Scripture is that it confronts. You and me, the most wicked of sinners, are therein confronted–– standing face-to-face with perfect truth and its piercing gaze into our hearts––forced to either look away or respond. Those who respond inherit eternal life. Those who do not might believe they will inherit eternal life, but the Scripture cannot bear witness for them as for the former. As we read above in Jeremiah 17–– trusting in your own strength is actually a heart that is turned away from the Lord. This is the end-game of a deceitful heart that never allows the light of Scripture to pierce too deeply. In those deep dark chambers lie the most wicked of monsterous ambitions which glory in everything other than the Cross. Unless we allow those chambers to be exposed by the light of Christ the teeth of that beast will gnaws away at our soul. As Christians we must therefore allow the Scripture, moreover welcome it, to trouble, torment and distress us that we might be converted to living its words instead of merely reading them so as to enter the kingdom of light on that day. James reminds us that this is the goal:

But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his natural face in a mirror; for once he has looked at himself and gone away, he has immediately forgotten what kind of person he was. James 1:22-25

Maybe there is a helpful picture here emphasizing our discussion. In Paul’s case, there is a purposed erasing of one’s face and reputation post the horse knock-off experience. On that day, rest assured that righteousness as he had never seen in himself or any other Pharisee questioned him from the divine radiance. From then on Paul held everything up to the reflection of purity he beheld looking up from the ground that day so that it truly shone light on how disgusting his fleshly ambition towards righteousness was. He was confronted by Jesus’ illuminating glory to believe the Scripture and to turn away from that mirror remembering his ugly face must be lost in the beauty he saw within the blinding light of Christ. For us, Christ’s face is shown in vivid beauty in the pages of Scripture, so we become those pages in daily practical life to glorify His work on the Cross. This wonderful albeit slow progression will not fail to consume your fleshly ambition if you allow it. It did so with Paul. On the contrary, another man looks into the mirror of Scripture and thinks his face is pretty good looking. He then turns away and believes that what he saw needed no improvement and lives on as he likes never conforming himself to Scripture because he believes he is already what he reads. I fear that this is the dreadful state of many of us and confess that I too am often found turning around forgetful of my heinous appearance.

Now let’s drive the point home.

“I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.” Galatians 2:20

Here, yet again, Paul makes a decisive statement about himself that does not simply translate to every believer. You might perceive this as odd, but let me explain. Often times this verse is used as a general statement about Christians. However, do we not see many people bear the name “Christian” whose lives are very clearly not crucified with Christ? There is no need to name names here, we should instead insert our own. Paul’s radical statement “I no longer live,” is actually true about him because this is the Bible without flaw or error. I cannot say the same for myself. Here I am once again confronted with the question: Have I yet been crucified with Christ? In the agonizing of my own heart I often see the truth. No, no I haven’t been. Too much of Stephen is still alive. But God I want to be! … Please help me Father to further lay down this life of mine to find Christ!

In the wake of Jesus’ Cross, forsaking all human ambition, zeal and self righteousness as the means to deliver us into eternal life is the goal of Christianity. In doing so we also despise the praise of man for we know what men see in us is held up to the infallible light of Christ. It is He that presents us faultless before the Father, it is we that hang our heads low as Mephibosheth and cry “What did you ever want with a dead dog like me?!” There was no confusion in the son of Jonathan’s mind––he couldn’t even carry himself into the presence of King David! As he would have laid on that floor and thought the King would surely kill him, the king’s merciful reception of him to his table would have erased Mephibosheth’s face of shame forever. From then on he would be known as son of David’s household, and member of the King’s table. His once identity of cripple was forever removed in the palace of King David when Mephibosheth had not even taken a step in his own strength to get there nor his lame reputation done anything to gain him entrance (couldn’t resist the pun).

The strength of the flesh is seen in the preservation of a face. Man’s ambition to do things for God instead of die to himself and be found in God are starkly opposed to each other in Scripture. Paul’s hatred for such gross sin is where such an intense symphony of pure words pour off the page of Philippians 3. Let us not only listen, but become one of the instrumentalists playing this magnum opus with our friend Paul the chief apostle to many and the chief of sinners to himself.

May Philippians 3 plague you as deeply as it has plagued me. Let it torment and distress you. Take a month and meditate on this chapter to see if there is any of your face remaining in your confidence before God. What are you recognized and known for? Take that and hold it up to the light of Christ and let it be consumed there in shimmering glory. Everything that remains that is you, take the hammer and nails and drive it into the wood of His Cross. You may find that you come away blind, whereas before, you were one who could see.