Replacing Darwin: During Reformation Month!

FIVE HUNDRED YEARS AGO this month, the Reformation was initiated by a German priest and professor named Martin Luther, and continued by others such as Calvin and Zwingli. Luther’s letter to his ecclesiastical superiors denouncing the sale of indulgences included his 95 Theses. Luther opened with theses 1 and 2, which stated, ¹”When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said, ‘Repent,’ He willed the entire life of believers to be one of repentance. ² This word cannot be understood as referring to the Sacrament of Penance, that is, confession and satisfaction, as administered by the clergy.” Luther added, “Thus those indulgence preachers are in error who say that a man is absolved from every penalty and saved by papal indulgences.” (Thesis No. 21)

In any event, Luther began the Reformation in October 1517. It was a movement that called the church back to the authority of God and away from the fallible opinions of man as vicar, which had led to severe compromise of the clear teaching of the Word of God. The Bible-upholding movement was so powerful that today we are still experiencing the effects of this historical shaking of the very foundation of doctrine that spread from Germany to the entire world.

Throughout history, whenever we witness a great work of God, our adversary the devil, “the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience” (See Ephesians 2:2) aggressively tries to undo the truth. I believe one of the major tactics Satan uses to counter the good effects of the Reformation relates back to the Book of Genesis. It began with a claim that the earth was very old, based on supposed geologic evidences (that grew out of a belief in naturalism and spread widely in the early 1800s) of slow, natural processes, with nothing supernatural involved. An old age for the earth was necessary to justify the ideas behind naturalism, and the publication of Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species soon followed in 1859.

Darwin’s book was an attempt to explain how animals and plants arose by natural processes, not supernatural means (intelligent design) revealed and documented for us by the Creator Himself in Genesis. Ultimately, armed with this cache of scientific “evidence” that the earth was supposedly millions of years old, and the supposition that molecules eventually gave rise to man, this led to the idea that man evolved from ape-like creatures, compromising the biblical teachings of theologians. Man decided that Genesis should be regarded as mythology. From both inside and outside the church, the Darwinian revolution changed the hearts and minds of generations concerning biblical authority. To this day, most church leaders and Christian academic institutions are infected by the religion of naturalism.

The result has been devastation in our churches. Today about two-thirds of our young adults are leaving the church in America, and very few are returning. There is a lack of trust in biblical authority and Scriptural knowledge in America today. See my blog post on biblical illiteracy by clicking here: https://theaccidentalpoet.net/2017/09/01/gods-point-of-view/ Today, church attendance in America is down 22 percent compared to a study taken in 2014. (See Pew Research Center Study here: http://www.pewforum.org/2012/10/09/nones-on-the-rise/ ) America’s once very Christianized culture is now divided between an aggressive secularist philosophy and a dwindling number of those with a Christian worldview.

Sadly, compromise in Genesis has undone much of what the Reformation had accomplished. It’s why at Answers in Genesis (https://answersingenesis.org/) their theme for this year has been “Igniting a New Reformation.” We need to see a new reformation in the hearts and minds of God’s people in our churches before a much-needed spiritual revival can occur in this nation – a country that’s becoming increasingly hostile towards Scripture, and, unfortunately, Christianity.

This month, to honor the Bible and the Great Reformation, Answers in Genesis scientist Dr. Nathaniel Jeanson – PhD in Cell and Developmental Biology from Harvard – has launched what is considered a ground-breaking new book entitled Replacing Darwin: The New Origin of Species. You can order a copy by clicking here: Replacing Darwin. Richard Dawkins, militant atheist extraordinaire, and author of The God Delusion, said of Darwin’s theory of evolution, “Big enough to undermine the idea of creation but simple enough to be stated in a sentence, the theory of natural selection is a masterpiece.” Dawkins is an English ethologist, evolutionary biologist, and an emeritus fellow of New College, Oxford. He was University of Oxford’s Professor for Public Understanding of Science from 1995 to 2008. I have watched his debates with Giles Fraser, John Lennox, and Denis Noble.

Jeanson’s book is the first major project to carefully research and then offer a direct frontal attack on the very essence of the arguments Darwin used to promote evolution, and which have become popularized in our culture (including also a large part of the church). If you enjoy studying apologetics, this book is a must for your personal library. Even if you don’t understand some of the technical material, you will grasp the basic arguments against evolution that people need to learn today. I’m reminded of the observation of Hosea the prophet: “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.” (Hosea 4:6)

CONCLUDING REMARKS

Debates between the likes of Richard Dawkins and Dinesh D’Souza are often portrayed in the popular media as “science versus faith,” but in reality these disputations are more accurately “an atheistic worldview versus a biblical worldview.” Despite what we’re lead to believe, evolution is not mainstream science, but rather a philosophical view of earth history based on speculation. Many Christians in the field of science have noted that there is no conflict between true science and the Bible. Denying evolution does not, as many atheist celebrities claim, hinder the development of new science and technology. Dr. Raymond V. Damadian, inventor of the nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) machine – the precursor to the MRI machine we use today – said, “Regarding evolution, the scientific evidence needed to sustain it does not exist.”

All that the paleoanthropologists have to show for more than 100 years of digging are remains of fewer than 2000 of our ancestors. They have used this assortment of jawbones, teeth, and fossilized scraps, together with molecular evidence from living species, to piece together a supposed line of human decent going back 5 to 8 million years to the time when humans and chimpanzees allegedly diverged from a common ancestor. Anthropologists supplemented their extremely fragmented fossil evidence with DNA and other types of molecular evidence from living animals to try to work out an evolutionary scenario that will fit. But this genetic evidence really doesn’t help much either, because it contradicts fossil evidence. N.A. Takahata, author of “Genetic Perspective on the Origin and History of Humans,” (1995) said, “Even with the DNA sequence data, we have no direct access to the processes of evolution, so objective reconstruction of the vanished past can be achieved only by creative imagination.”

“For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God’s sight. As it is written: ‘He catches the wise in their craftiness.” – 1 Corinthians 3:19

 

Advertisements

Jesus Calling

EXCERPT FROM JESUS CALLING
©2014 Sarah Young
October 25

I AM GOD WITH YOU, for all time and throughout eternity. Don’t let the familiarity of that concept numb its impact on your consciousness. My perpetual presence with you can be a continual source of joy, springing up and flowing out in streams of abundant Life. Let your mind reverberate with meanings of My Names: Jesus, the Lord saves; and Immanuel,  God with us. Strive to remain conscious of My Presence even in your busiest moments. Talk with Me about whatever upsets you, whatever is on your mind. These tiny steps of daily discipline, taken one after the other, will keep you close to Me on the path of Life.

MATTHEW 1:21, 23; JOHN 10:10; ACTS 2:28

Overcoming Suffering

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. (2 Corinthians 1:1-4)

Sunset on green Field Landscape

There seems to be two types of suffering: (1) the suffering that comes of our own making, and (2) the suffering that comes when God prunes us. I’m sure you have experienced both. The suffering of brokenness is never easy. This second brand of suffering refers to the state of surrender and defeat we experience when hardship comes to our usually steady and painless life. Certainly, you can imagine that many of us bring about hardship based upon choices we make. In any event, the suffering of brokenness is never easy.

What’s the Point in Bringing up Suffering?

Why talk about this subject of suffering? Can we please just talk about something else? You’re going to ruin a great day. The sun’s shining. Your belly is full. You love your job. What suffering? After all, just thinking about the word or recalling the trials of Job is enough to frighten anyone. But what happens when God calls us to experience suffering firsthand? How can we bear it? It is a difficult pill to swallow, but we all suffer in one way or another. There are those who suffer physically; some suffer emotionally; others seem to suffer mentally; and, finally, many who constantly fight God’s calling in their lives suffer spiritually. Why? We suffer because we refuse to surrender and yield everything to God’s lordship. Suffering is a difficult truth, and without God in our lives, it’s impossible to understand or see any good in it. But with God’s help and His Spirit’s empowerment, it can be the sweetest thing a believer ever experiences.

God’s Spirit chooses certain people that He knows will accept the pain and sorrow of suffering.  He knows they will trust Him fully and learn How work to work.  He will make them an instrument so powerful, so special, and so sweet that no one will be able to resist them. He’s only asking us to do one thing for Him – simply put our trust completely in Him. We often forget what God has already declared in His Word. God’s ways are higher than ours. (See Isaiah 55:8-9) His wisdom and insight into who we are and what we need in our lives are perfect. And, much to our dismay, the Lord does not always reveal to us what He is doing in our lives.

When we get into the arena of suffering, often our faith begins to waver in disbelief, our hearts begin to question everything about God’s love, and our minds begin to challenge God’s authority. We take our eyes off of His love and begin to question God Himself. Satan then throws us into the pit of despair. We start spiraling out of control and we end up in a horrible and sinful place, crying out, “It doesn’t seem fair!” A question from our heart: “Why do the wicked prosper and the righteous have to suffer?” Why, for example, does a young Christian woman, who is living her life for the Lord and with great virtuousness, get raped? Why must a Christian couple have to experience the pain of a child suffering from cancer?

Even in my own life I have questioned why I have needed to wrestle endlessly with the bondage of addiction despite my sincere desire to break free? Quite frankly, I don’t think any of us can truly answer these tough questions. If we didn’t know God, we could likely brush it off as the way of human existence on go on, moving forward. But because we know the goodness of God; because we know that He is filled with grace, mercy, and compassion; and because we know that no experience – painful or otherwise – can touch us unless it goes through His hands, we struggle to make sense of the pain and suffering in life. When we are struck with pain and suffering, we automatically think that we have done something wrong and that God is trying to teach us a lesson. This is not always the case. In fact, some of the most horrific suffering can take place when we are doing exactly what we should be doing! One thing is certain: suffering produces character.

SOME TRUTHS ABOUT SUFFERING

When we encounter trials, tribulations, and sufferings, it’s then that our Christian walk really meets the road. It is often during these times that the Scriptures truly become alive to us and the Holy Spirit does His greatest work in our lives.

Suffering Helps Us Comfort Others

The Bible promises us that we will be comforted in our suffering. It does not promise that we will always understand our suffering, nor does it promise that God will deliver us from pain, suffering, or even death; but it does promise He will always be with us. Perhaps the prophet Isaiah says it best: “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned, nor shall the flame scorch you.” (Isaiah 44:2) We receive our comfort from God, and He will use the very experience that is causing our suffering to help us comfort someone else. This concept is very much alive in the realm of addictions counseling and 12-step meetings.

Paul wrote, in his second letter to the Corinthians, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ. If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same things we suffer.” (2 Corinthians 1:3-6, NIV)

At times God shakes up our lives. He brings us to a place in which we are uncomfortable in order to mold and correct us. As these verses state, sometimes we will suffer for no other reason but to make our hearts tender, and to give us great compassion toward other people. When we experience difficulty in life, we are able to turn to the Lord for His comfort. We get to mirror to others how God moves us from despair to victory. The comfort of God is something that your spouse or your best friend cannot give you. The Lord strengthens us by coming alongside us and walking with us through the storm. This coming alongside another is the very essence of the ministry of helps. (See 1 Corinthians 12:28) The Greek translation of this verse indicates literally “to relieve, succor, participate in, and/or support.” Those with the gift of helps are individuals who can aid, render assistance, or counsel others with compassion and grace.

Suffering Turns Our Focus on God

The Apostle Paul talks about the extent of his own suffering when he wrote, “For we do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, of our trouble which came to us in Asia: that we were burdened beyond measure, above strength, so that we despaired even of life. Yes, we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves but in God who raises the dead, who delivered us from so great a death, and does deliver us; in whom we trust that He will still deliver us, you also helping together in prayer for us, that thanks may be given by many persons on our behalf for the gift granted to us through many.” (2 Corinthians 1:8-11) What was the reason for Paul’s suffering? He suffered so that he would not trust in himself, but in God, who raises the dead.

I believe that every bit of suffering God allows us to experience has at its core the purpose of bringing us to a place where we do not look to ourselves, but rather to God. He wants to destroy that place of self-confidence in our lives, and to bring us to a place in which we trust only Him. God wants us to understand and know His place of comfort and, in turn, be able to reach out and comfort others just as He has comforted and taken care of us.

Suffering Allows Us to Better Glorify God

In all ways, we want the Lord to be glorified in our lives. Sometimes He gets greater glory in what may seem like nothing but suffering on our end. Remember in the book of John when Martha and Mary were crying because their brother, Lazarus, had died? Martha told Jesus that if only He had been there, Lazarus would not have died. It’s likely that the sisters had a hard time understanding why Jesus didn’t drop everything to come and rescue His friend. And, understandably so, this furthered the suffering they were experiencing. But Jesus said to them, “This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of Man may be glorified through it.” (John 11:4) Jesus loved Mary and Martha. He allowed them to suffer temporarily because it was part of God’s plan to do an even greater work than healing Lazarus. That is, to raise him from the dead. Not only would this greater miracle reveal the deity of Christ and give God glory, it would also give Mary and Martha tremendous hope. God loves His children and uses suffering to bring about far greater glory than what we could ever imagine.

Suffering Allows Us to Be More Appreciative

When we struggle through difficult times, we find ourselves being thankful for the simple things, the blessings the Lord has given us. Think of it this way: When we are sick, we become very appreciative of our health. When we are broke, we become appreciative of basic provisions. When we experience a broken relationship, we become very grateful of just having someone to eat meals with. So often we ignore God’s daily provisions for our lives and the many blessings He has bestowed on us. Not taking things for granted is a key lesson of suffering. We need to appreciate what God has given us (including each breath we take) and live each day with a thankful heart. No one likes to suffer, but it’s a necessary part of life. If our attitude is right, we will thrive during the suffering and, on the other side, be better because of it.

HOW TO VIEW SUFFERING AND COPE WITH IT

Ultimately, there are two ways to look at suffering. One way is like looking in a mirror. When trials come and difficulty hits, we immediately look in the mirror and all we see is ourselves. We see our hurts, our problems, our pain, and what others have done to us, but we are oblivious both to God and to what is going on in other people’s lives. The more we look in the mirror, the further we slide into despair. If we deal with suffering when it comes by looking into a mirror, we will never overcome it. We will never enjoy and experience the fruit God wants to bring into our lives through our suffering.

However, God wants to take the mirror away and replace it with a window – a view on the rest of the world! If we look out the window, we will see other people who are also hurting. Although we may not see the purpose of our suffering at the time, we will see that God is moving, and He is placing people and circumstances in our life for a reason. When we are looking out the window, we have no time to look in the mirror.

It’s Time for a New View

I have spent way too much time staring in the mirror, feeling sorry for myself, and blaming others for my circumstances. Looking in the mirror at my own pitiful reflection causes me to dwell on the negative aspects of my situation. I develop the attitude that no one understands, no one has experienced what I am going through, and nobody cares. It took a while for me to realize that I was staring in the mirror every day, moping, seeing nothing but heartache and suffering and loneliness. Frankly, that’s enough to destroy anyone! But the day we all choose to through the mirror away and look out the window, then we can look through our pain and suffering – the agony of our own life – and see another human being.

The Lord will lift us out of the sorrow, out of the situation, and use us as an instrument of righteousness within His kingdom. He will give us His compassion to reach out to others who are suffering, to comfort them with the same comfort that we have received. Suffering is common to all men and women. Every one of us goes through difficult times. Jesus, who did nothing wrong, suffered more than any other man or woman in history. Yet, He was able to say from the cross, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34) Throughout His life and His suffering, Jesus looked through a window instead of a mirror and was able to see others, not Himself.

Help to Cope With Suffering

We need to get out from our looking position (the inward focus, the looking in the mirror) to a helping position –  taking our eyes off our own situation and helping others through their suffering. But how do we do this? We do it by receiving God’s comfort and strength. In the Bible, the word paraclete is given to describe the Holy Spirit. In the Greek, it means “one who comes as a pillar of fire by your side.” God will be with us through the fire. He will be with us through the fire. He will be with us through the storm. He will be with us when the rivers begin to overflow. The Lord is able to comfort and help us in all situations of life. The apostle Paul, who had his own share of suffering, wrote, “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28)

Concluding Remarks

Are you battling a painful time in your life? Are you trying to make sense of it all? It’s important to stick with what you know. The Bible promises to help dispel the horrible and nagging question of “Why?” So stick with these truths: You know God loves you. You know God is true. You know He is righteous and Holy. You know God will not allow anything to come into your life that you cannot handle. You know God will use your suffering to help you minister to someone else. You know God will use your suffering for ultimate good.

We must look to the Lord and stand upon His promises. This is the only way to get through our personal suffering. We must remember what Jesus said: “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” Paul suffered through beatings and stonings and shipwrecks and imprisonments and rejection and hunger and thirst and homelessness – far more pain than most of us will ever have to endure. What did Paul say in Romans 8:18? “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.”

God is always around us. He is with us in every situation. When we’re ready to drop with exhaustion, or we fear we’re losing our way, are we to think, “I can handle this?” No, we remind ourselves, “It is God who arms me with strength and keeps my way secure.” (See Psalm 18:32)

 

How Many?

A Sunday school teacher in Ohio asked her class how many soldiers it took to hold Jesus down while they drove the nails into His hands and feet. She was humbled to explain to them how He gave His life willingly to save all who would believe.

The following is a poem written by Connie Faust.

Water Color of Crucifixion

How many soldiers did it take to hold our Savior down
as the nails were driven into His trembling flesh?
Did they hold fast His precious head to place the thorny crown,
viciously assuring it would keep the bleeding fresh?

“How many?” asked the teacher, as she faced her little brood,
each child tried to answer, as earnestly they stood.
“Four soldiers,” called Meg,
“Ten!” said Jon, mocking her with a shove.
Jimmy rose and cried, “You’re wrong! He did it out of love!”

From lips of a child the answer in startling truth rings still:
Out of love for all mankind, He did His Father’s will.
“You’re wrong!” the answer echoes loud – He willingly obeyed;
If He had fought and struggled, the debt would not be paid.

How many soldiers did it take to hold the Savior still?
He did it all for you on that dark and lonely hill!
He did it out of love for you, to save you from your sin.
He’s offering forgiveness; will you turn and follow Him?

+++

But He was punished for our transgressions,
He was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was upon Him,
and by His wounds we are healed.

(Isaiah 53, Living Bible)

What Kind of Mirror?

“I believe all of you, somewhere within your heart, want to be the instruments of God’s power, and therefore, even if you don’t feel like it now, there is buried somewhere in your subconscious the longing to be a man or woman of fervent and effective prayer.” – a quote from John Piper

Man-Kneeling-In-Prayer-Silhouette

John Piper advocates what he calls Christian hedonism which teaches that God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him. This happens when God’s highest pursuit (His glory) and man’s deepest and most measurable happiness come together in one pursuit – namely, the pursuit of joy in God.

Every one of us is created in God’s image. Each one of us was created to be a conscious mirror of God, reflecting His very character. Before sin entered the world, Adam and Eve had an overwhelming longing to be used by God to carry forth His power and wisdom and love in the world. They wanted to be mirrors of His glory. That longing is buried deep within each of us today. Unfortunately, it has been smothered by sin. In a sense, the quelling is only slight, but it has a dulling effect. The wonderment of a mirror lies in its ability to put one’s face to the light and let that light shine.

The serpent, more crafty than any other beast of the field, tempted Eve to eat of the fruit of the tree that was in the midst of the garden. God warned Eve that consuming the forbidden fruit would cause her to die. The serpent, however, said, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” (Genesis 3:4-5, ESV) [Italics mine.] But what happened when Adam and Eve ate the fruit? They suddenly became aware that they were naked, and they were ashamed. In order to hide their “reflection,” they made loincloth out of fig leaves.

We want to decide for ourselves which way to turn our faces. “This is my good side.” We want people to esteem us and admire us and compliment us. We loath the idea of being a mirror which does not reflect beauty. We tire of having to turn our face wherever the light wants to go. We want to be our own light. We want to be God. This comes with our fallen humanity. It is the very essence of sin. If honest, you will admit you too have felt this way. But this universal experience of sin is Satan’s distortion of something wonderful: Our pure and righteous longing to be used by God to reflect His glory in the world. Concealed beneath our pride, craving for self-esteem, and our love of power and influence, is a good thing that has been distorted: the longing to be a mirror of God.

reflecting god.png

A mirror faces away from itself to its source of light so that it might have some use in the world. A mirror is designed to receive light and channel it for the good of others. The value of a mirror is not in itself, but in its potential to let something else be seen. It is utterly dependent upon the source of light outside itself. Sometimes it seems God shows much more of Himself to some people than to others – but this is not because He is playing favorites. Rather, it has to do with us. The instrument through which we see God is our whole self. And if our self is not kept clean and bright, as with a mirror, then our glimpse of God will be blurred – like the moon seen through a dirty telescope.

God can show Himself as He really is only to real men, who are united together in a body, aware of the importance of all the parts of the body, loving one another, helping one another, showing Him to one another. For that is what God meant humanity to be like: musicians in one orchestra, or organs in one body.

“For the body does not consist of one member, but many. If the foot should say, ‘Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,’ that would not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear should say, ‘Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,’ that would not make it any less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as He chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, yet one body.” (1 Cor. 12:14-20, ESV)

Consequently, the one really adequate instrument for learning about God is the whole Christian community looking for Him together. Christian fellowship is, so to speak, the technical equipment for this search. That’s why the false prophets who turn up every few years with some patently simplified religion of their own are really wasting time. He or she may appear to be very clever; may even sound more convincing than the true men of Christ. Matthew 24:24 says, “For false messiahs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, the very elect.” (NIV)

When all is said and done, God is the Gospel. Gospel means “Good News.” Christianity, therefore, is not theology but news. But what is the ultimate good in this Good News? It all ends in one thing: God Himself. All the words of the Bible lead to Him. Christ is revealed from cover to cover. “Salvation” is not good news if it only saves us from Hell and not for God. Forgiveness is not good news if it only gives relief from guilt but does not open the way to God. Justification is not good news if it only makes us legally acceptable to God, but doesn’t spark fellowship with God. Redemption is not good news if it only liberates us from bondage, but doesn’t lead us to relationship with God.

Unfortunately, many people seem to embrace the Good News without embracing God. There is no real assurance that we have a new heart – that our image in the mirror has changed – simply because we are motivated to escape Hell. That’s a perfectly natural desire, but it is not a supernatural one. It doesn’t take a new heart to want the psychological relief of forgiveness, or the removal of God’s wrath, or the inheritance of God’s world. All these things are understandable without any spiritual change. You don’t need to be born again to want these things. Even Satan and his minions want them.

Why is this the essence of the Good News? Because we were made in the image of God, to experience full and lasting peace – shalom – and to see and savor the glory of God. He created us in such a way that His glory is displayed through our joy in it. The Gospel of Christ is the Good News that, at the cost of His Son’s life, God has done everything to enthrall us with what will make us eternally and everlastingly happy. Namely Himself. Long before Christ came, God revealed Himself as the true source of full and lasting pleasure. “You made known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” (Psalm 16:11) Then He sent Christ to suffer “that He might bring us to God.”

So here we are: image bearers. The word image means representative likeness. This tells us at once that we should be reflecting, at our creature level, what Genesis 1 shows God to be. We must always act with a godliness that comes from elsewhere, reflected – indeed, imitated – in what we say and do. Our mirror must show others what the face of God looks like. We are to be His hands, His feet, His arms, His words. God generated value by producing what was truly good – so should we. We should be showing love and goodwill toward all other persons. A distinction has to be drawn. We still bear the image of God formally – that is, we still have in us the abilities that, if rightly harnessed, would achieve a fully-righteous, God-like life – and so the unique dignity of each human being must still be recognized and respected as a gesture of honor to our Maker. This is the kind of mirror we are called to be.

The Gospel: Part Three – The Consummation of all Things

Consummation, from a biblical perspective, deals with eschatology. The part of theology concerned with death, judgment and the final destiny of the soul and of all of mankind. It is commonly referred to as the end of the world, or the “end times.” Of course, most modern fiction regarding this topic does not deal with the end of time, but rather with the end of a certain period of time; the end of life as it is now, and the beginning of a new period of time. Most books or films on this subject depict violent disruption or destruction of the world. Christian eschatologies show the end times as the consummation or perfection of God’s creation of the world.

The Book of Revelation is at the core of Christian eschatology. It shows God in control as life moves toward the consummation of a great goal in accordance with the purposes of His will. Man may hinder, deflect, or delay God’s plans, but he cannot destroy them. Righteousness ultimately will win out. Evil will be utterly destroyed. The God of Revelation is the Creator. All who gather around the throne proclaim, “Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power: for Thou hast created all things.” (Revelation 4:11) In Revelation 14:7, the angel says, “Fear God and give Him glory, for the hour of His judgment has come. Worship Him who made the heavens, the earth, the sea and the springs of water.” (NIV) He made us. He is with His people. He is guiding the course of human events, and His cause will ultimately be victorious.

The climax of the ages-long conflict between Christ and Satan is depicted in those scenes portraying the woman versus the dragon, the Lamb versus the beast, and Jerusalem versus Babylon. In the climax, there will be only two classes of people: those who receive the seal of God and those who receive the mark of the beast. God’s victory will give the church great assurance. Believers will be comforted and encouraged as they recall how God has upheld His faithful throughout the centuries. He has been the guard and the Great Protector of those in the church who have been loyal and true throughout the eons. He still holds the stars in His right hand. He is still the Lion of the Tribe of Judah.

The last battle with be the most spectacular ever seen. Satan and his demons, indeed all his minions, will gather as an army. His opponent? The KING OF KINGS and LORD OF LORDS. According to Isaiah 25:9, “In that day they will say, ‘Surely this is our God; we trusted in Him, and He saved us. This is the LORD, we trusted in Him; let us rejoice and be glad in His salvation.'” (NIV) The complete work of Christ is nothing less than to redeem the entire creation from the effects of sin. His purpose will not be accomplished until He has ushered in the great new earth; until Paradise Lost has become Paradise Regained. It is through a clear understanding of the doctrine of the new earth in order that we fully see God’s redemptive program in cosmic proportions. God will not be satisfied until the entire universe has been purged of all the results of man’s Fall.

Old Testament prophesies speak of a glorious future for the earth. We are told that, at some point, the earth will become far more productive and spectacular than we can possibly imagine. The Old Testament views this future redemption as a restoration of life in creation. God picked the Israelites – His chosen people, the apple of His eye – to show the world how He intended it all to work. He gave the Jews specific instructions, shaping every part of their public and private lives. The Law was meant to govern their environment, their economy, their families, their society, their politics, their worship, their everything. As the Israelites submitted to the Law of God, they would show the nations how life was supposed to go. Israel was going to demonstrate to the world how walking as God’s image-bearers under explicit acknowledgment of His sovereignty and majesty, and in complete rhythm with God’s design, worked.

For those of us who know God’s Word, it is obvious Israel did not do so well in this regard. The Old Testament chronicles  their perfecting the art of failure. As they failed time and time again, the prophets among them looked forward to the day when Israel would return to their land,  repent of their sin, and live according to God’s will. In this way, Israel was meant to be a light to all nations. The prophets would speak, often at great length, about all nations being drawn into God’s kingdom until it encompassed the whole earth.  Escape from earth is not the goal. Old Testament Scripture views the destiny of mankind as inseparably linked with life on earth. Jesus affirms this view of salvation. The announcement of Him being God’s kingdom at hand must be placed in this very context.

Jesus was not trying to change Israel’s understanding of a new heaven and a new earth. Rather, the Gospel ministry of Jesus and his disciples shows Jesus operating in the framework of an Old Testament expectation of a new creation. His miraculous deeds demonstrate His healing of a broken world, revealing that the Gospel of the kingdom includes the eradication of disease, poverty, the usurping of death, and the ushering in of a new order. Jesus inaugurated this new kingdom in His first coming, but He hasn’t consummated it yet. We are living today in the tension of this already-not-yet world where Jesus has purchased reconciliation, but consummation still lies ahead. We get a glimpse in Matthew 19:28 when Jesus said, “Truly, I tell you, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man sits on His glorious throne, you who have followed Me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.” (NIV)

Paul’s understanding is also interconnected with the Old Testament’s forecast of a new creation and Jesus’ affirmation. In Romans 8:19-22, Paul relates that even the non-human aspects of God’s creation share in the destiny of God’s chosen people. The ground is cursed because of one man’s disobedience. It groans. It has been subjected to futility. This is not to say that the earth is alive in a pantheistic or paganistic manner, but only that Paul’s metaphorical language refers to the reality that the earth’s brokenness is bound up with man’s sin, and therefore the solution to the earth’s problems is bound up with man’s redemption through Christ.

It is common every day, all over the globe, to see man is suffering at the hands of extreme weather, wildfires, pestilence, famine, drought, evildoers, rampant sinfulness, sexual identity confusion, violence, rape, murder, envy, strife, drug and alcohol addiction, jealousy, theft, and any number of horrific conditions. All of creation groans in anticipation of its own liberation. Jesus is the answer to deliverance of the entirety of creation from the wages of sin. The end goal of redemption is a resurrected body on a new – resurrected – earth. Isaiah 65:17 tells us, “For behold, I create a new heaven and a new earth, and the former things shall not be remembered or come into mind.” [Italics mine.] I love this verse. Having spent nearly forty years in active addiction, and having served three years in state prison, I have seen firsthand the horror of sin. Isaiah prompts me, however, to look forward and envision the day that God will create a new heaven and a new earth, and all the former things – pain, sorrow, difficulty, rebellion, hatred, deliberate infliction of emotional pain will no longer be remembered at all.

“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.” (Revelation 21:1-2)

This is the ultimate fruit of the Gospel mission, and it is undoubtedly what Jesus was praying for when He prayed that God’s kingdom would come in such a way that God’s will would be done perfectly on earth as it is done in heaven. Jesus Himself was the answer to this prayer, inaugurating the kingdom through His earthly ministry and testifying that people who place their faith in Him alone will enjoy the blessings of the kingdom’s future consummation, when all the crooked ways are finally made straight.

 

Facing Late Autumn

The leaves lay like a wound,
red and deep across the lawn, while what remains
is frightened away by bursts of November wind.
I look at concrete-gray clouds and sigh,
knowing it is time to cover flower beds,
yank out roots of annuals,
their petals shriveled and frail, as fine as dust
released to the air.
Soon I will cut back roots of perennials,
until everything in the yard is brown,
until birds no longer chirp,
but vacate their nests,
more visible now as branches of trees
shake against the wind
and scrape against windows like angry fingers,
while the house creaks at its joints.

©2016 Brian Fanelli

Healing Emotional Wounds From Your Past

And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. (Romans 8:28, NASB)

Dan and Cindy were a fine, young Christian couple preparing for ministry on the mission field. Then tragedy struck. Cindy was attacked and raped by a stranger in the parking lot one night after work. The police were unable to find her attacker, and Cindy had a hard time bringing any closure to the nightmare. The trauma was so severe that Dan and Cindy moved out of the city. As hard as she tried to get back to normal life, Cindy couldn’t shake the horrible memories and feelings from her experience. She was trapped by her trauma.

One of the most vital things we can learn regarding our Christian life is how to handle the trials that will inevitably come our way. Many Christians naively expect a life of joy once they have accepted Christ as Lord and Savior. When hit with adversity, they begin to doubt the love of God. Why me? I love the Lord. I go to church. New believers, especially those who have emerged from a life of failure, are looking for success in their new life, not suffering.

Romans 8:28 is one of the most familiar verses on this subject. The NASB translation states, “God causes all things to work together for good.” Let’s not come away thinking this verse says God causes the very thing itself in order to bring about good in the life of the believer. It is saying, rather, that things don’t just happen to work out for good on their own. God providentially works all things together for good for His people according to His purpose. But while Romans 8:28 is a source of great comfort when it is properly understood, it is often misunderstood and misapplied.

BAD THINGS DO HAPPEN TO GOOD PEOPLE

Your story may not be as severe as Cindy’s, but all of us have hurtful, traumatic experiences in our past that have scarred us emotionally. You may have grown up with a physically, emotionally or sexually abusive parent. You may have been severely frightened as a child. Maybe you have suffered through a painful relationship in the past: a broken friendship, the untimely death of a loved one, a divorce. Any number of traumatic events in your past can leave you holding a lot of emotional baggage. Those experiences are buried in our memories and available for instant recall when we least expect it.

The cycle of emotions goes like this: (1) previous life history determines the intensity of primary emotions you experience when (2) a present event triggers the memory of your past trauma, then (3) you perform a mental evaluation in order to manage your present emotional response, attempting to apply reason, resulting (4) in a secondary emotional response, typically far less intense than your primary emotional reaction. Of course, many of these primary emotions lie dormant within you and have little effect on your life until something triggers them. Perhaps you’ve seen this happen when a seemingly innocuous conversation you are having with someone sends him or her storming out of the room. What set him off? you wonder. You unwittingly touched a nerve.

The problem is, you cannot isolate yourself completely from everything that may set off an emotional response. You are bound to see something on TV, or hear something in a conversation, that will bring to mind your unpleasant experience. Something in your past is unresolved, and therefore it still has a hold on you. I once heard it said that when we fail to deal with past events that have caused emotional baggage, we tend to bring the emotions of that past trauma into our current relationships. When this happens, our decisions are not so much undertaken by us as they are driven by the emotions of the prior event.

LEARNING TO RESOLVE PRIMARY EMOTIONS

You have no control over a primary emotion when it is triggered in the present, because it is rooted in the past. Therefore, it doesn’t do any good to feel guilty about something you can’t control. You can, however, stabilize the primary emotion by evaluating it in light of present circumstances. For example, suppose you meet a man named Bill. He looks hauntingly like the Bill who used to beat you up as a child. Although he is not the same person, your primary emotion will be triggered. So you quickly tell yourself, “This is not the same Bill; give him the benefit of the doubt.” This mental evaluation produces a secondary emotion that is a combination of the past and the present.

You have done this thousands of times, and you have also helped others do the same. When people fly off the handle, you try to help them cool down by talking to them. You are helping them gain control of themselves by making them think; by putting the present situation into perspective. Notice how this works the next time you are watching a football game and tempers explode on the field. On player grabs an enraged teammate and says, “Listen, meathead, you’re going to cost us a 15-yard penalty and maybe the game if you don’t simmer down!”

Some Christians assert that the past doesn’t have any effect on them because they are new creations in Christ. I would have to disagree, and here’s why. Either they are extremely fortunate to have a conflict-free past, or they are living in denial. Those who have had major past traumas and have learned how to resolve them in Christ know how devastating past experiences can be. Many Christians have brought their major traumatic experiences to counseling sessions. Some have been abused to such an extent that they have no conscious memory of their experiences. Others constantly avoid anything that will stimulate those painful memories. Most don’t know how to resolve those past experiences, so they have developed myriad defense mechanisms to cope. Some live in denial. Others rationalize their problems, or try to suppress the pain by an excess of food, sex, drugs and alcohol, or other vices.

A major role of psychotherapy is to determine the root of primary emotions. Sometimes psychotherapists resort to hypnosis or pharmacotherapy to get at the sources of their clients’ problems. I worked for eighteen months in a dissociative disorders unit at a psychiatric hospital outside of Philadelphia, PA. Dissociative disorders involve disruptions or breakdowns of memory, awareness, identity or perception. People with dissociative disorders use dissociation, a defense mechanism, pathologically and involuntarily. Dissociative disorders are thought to be primarily caused by previous severe psychological trauma. Patients suffering from possible multiple personality disorder are sometimes treated with sodium amytal interviews in order to assess and manage catatonia, hysterical stupor, and unexplained muteness, as well as in distinguishing between depressive, schizophrenic, and organic stuporous states. My clinical experience at that psychiatric facility involved treating women allegedly suffering from multiple personality disorder, which was thought to be caused by severe, long-term physical or psychological trauma during childhood and early adolescence.

SEE YOUR PAST IN LIGHT OF WHO YOU ARE IN CHRIST

I have come to believe that the answer for repressed memories is found in Psalm 139:23-24, which states, “Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” (NIV)

How does God intend you to resolve your past experiences? In two ways. First, understand that you are no longer a product of your past. You are a new creation in Christ: a product of Christ’s work on the cross. You have the privilege of evaluating your past experience in light of who you are today, as opposed to who you were then. The intensity of the primary emotion was initially established by how you perceived the event at the time it happened. People are not in bondage to past traumas so much as they are in bondage to the lies they believed about themselves, God, and how to live as a result of the trauma. That is why truth sets you free.

As a Christian, you are literally a new creature in Christ Jesus. Old things, including the traumas of your past, passed away. (2 Corinthians 5:17) The old you in Adam is gone; the new you in Christ is here to stay. We have all been victimized, lo, even traumatized, but whether we remain victims is up to us. An old-timer I knew in Alcoholics Anonymous used to share, “Victims drink!” Those primary emotions are rooted in the lies we believed in the past. Now we can be transformed by the renewing of our minds. (See Romans 12:2) The flesh patterns are still imbedded in our minds when we become new creations in Christ, but we can crucify the flesh and choose to walk by the Spirit. (See Galatians 5:22-25)

Now that you are in Christ, you can look at past events from the perspective of who you are today. You may be struggling with the question, “Where was God when all this was happening to me?” The omnipresent God was there, and He sent His own Son to redeem you from your past. The truth is, He is in your life right now desiring to release you from your past. That is the Gospel: the “Good News” that Christ Jesus came to set the captives free. Perceiving past traumatic events from the vantage point of your new identity in Christ is what starts the process of healing those damaged or toxic emotions.

FORGIVE THOSE WHO HAVE HURT YOU

The next step in resolving past conflicts is to forgive those who have offended you.  You have to break free from the typical mindset of, “Why should I forgive him? You don’t seem to understand how bad he hurt me!” The first reason is that forgiveness is required by God. As soon as Jesus spoke the “amen” to his model prayer – which included a petition for God’s forgiveness – He commented, “For if you forgive men for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions.” (See Matthew 18:14-15) We must base our relationship with others on the same criteria on which God bases His relationship with us: love, acceptance, and forgiveness. (See Matthew 18:21-35)

The second reason is because forgiveness is necessary to avoid entrapment by Satan. Unforgiveness is the number one snare Satan uses to gain entrance to our lives. I read a terrific book on this subject by John Bevere (2004) called The Bait of Satan: Living Free From the Deadly Trap of Offense. In his preface, Bevere says, “The issue of offense – the very core of The Bait of Satan – is often the most difficult obstacle an individual must face and overcome.” Bevere tells us the Greek word for “offend” used by Jesus in Luke 17:1 is skandalon, which originally referred to the part of an animal trap to which the bait was attached for luring the animal. In similar fashion regarding the sin of offense, the word signifies laying a trap in someone’s way! Paul encourages us to forgive “in order that no advantage be taken of us by Satan; for we are not ignorant of his schemes.” (See 2 Corinthians 2:11)

The third reason is simple: forgiveness is required of all believers who desire to be like Christ. Paul wrote, “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as Christ forgave you.” (Ephesians 4:31-32, NIV)

WHAT IS FORGIVENESS?

Forgiving is not forgetting. Forgetting may be a beneficial long-term byproduct of forgiving, but it is never a means to forgiveness. When God says He will remember our sins no more (See Hebrews 10:17), He is not saying, “I will forget them.” God is omniscient; He cannot forget. Rather, He is saying He will never use our past against us. He will remove it from us as far as the east is from the west. (See Psalm 103:12) Moreover, forgiveness does not involve tolerance for sin. It is proper to forgive someone’s past sins, but we must take a stand against future sin.

Forgiveness does not seek revenge or demand repayment for offenses suffered. A friend of mine is notorious for saying, “I’m all about paybacks!” I told him he must not seek retribution no matter what the offense. He said, “You mean I’m just supposed to let them off the hook?” I might have gotten through to him the last time we spoke. I said, “Yes, you let them off your hook realizing that God does not let them off His hook.” We may feel like exacting justice, but we are not an impartial judge. God is the just judge who will make everything right in the end. “‘Vengeance is Mine. I will repay,’ says the Lord.” (See Romans 12:19)

Forgiveness means resolving to live with the consequences of another person’s offense. In reality, we have to live with the consequences whether we forgive the offending person or not. Actually, we are all living with the consequences of Adam’s sin. I can’t count the number of people – believers and non-believers alike – who don’t think that this is fair. Some have even gone as far as to insist they would have obeyed God and not eaten from the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Obviously, we’ll never know, will we? So our only real choice is simple: either live with the consequences of the Fall in the bondage of bitterness and offense, or in the freedom of forgiveness.

 

Jesus Calling

EXCERPT FROM JESUS CALLING
©2014 Sarah Young
October 10

TRUST ME ENOUGH TO let things happen without striving to predict or control them. Relax, and refresh yourself in the Light of My everlasting Love. My Love-Light never dims, yet you are often unaware of My radiant presence. When you project yourself into the future, rehearsing what you will do or say, you are seeking to be self-sufficient; to be adequate without My help. This is a subtle sin – so common that it usually slips by unnoticed.

The alternative is to live fully in the present, depending on Me each moment. Rather than fearing your inadequacy, rejoice in My abundant supply. Train your mind to seek My help continually, even when you feel competent to handle something by yourself. Don’t divide your life into things you can do by yourself and things that require My help. Instead, learn to rely on Me in every situation. This discipline will enable you to enjoy life more and to face each day confidently.

PSALM 37:3-6; PHILIPPIANS 4:19

What is Your Jericho?

“Now the gates of Jericho were securely barred because of the Israelites. No one went out and no one came in. The the Lord said to Joshua, ‘See, I have delivered Jericho into your hands, along with its king and its fighting men. March around the city once with all the armed men. Do this for six days. Have seven priests carry trumpets of rams’ horn in front of the ark. On the seventh day, march around the city seven times, with the priests blowing the trumpets. When you hear them sound a long blast on the trumpets, have the whole army give a loud shout; then the walls of the city will collapse and the army will go up, everyone straight in.'”

(Joshua 6:1-5)

Here’s what is important to know about the walls of Jericho. They were immense. They were structured on a three-tier plan. First was an earthen embankment, which ran from ground level upwards, on an incline, to a stone retaining wall. The retaining wall stood twelve to fifteen feet high. On top of the retaining wall stood a wall of mud-bricks, six feet thick and twenty to twenty-six feet thick. Overall, the structure stood thirty-two to forty-one feet high.

Preview_JerichoSideView

The walls of Jericho were able to withstand all sieges and repel all invaders. Until the day Joshua showed up. Until the day his army marched around the city. The unstoppable fortress met the unstoppable force of God’s army. Mighty Jericho crumbled. Neither Joshua nor his men brought the walls down. His soldiers never swung a hammer. They never rammed a door or pried loose a stone. The shaking, quaking, rumbling, and tumbling of the thick, impervious walls of Jericho fell to the power of Almighty God.

THE LAND OF CANAAN

Canaan is a life defined by grace, refined by challenge, and aligned with a heavenly call. Nothing should stop us from occupying a place in our lives that has been given over by God. In God’s plan, in God’s land, we win more often than we lose, forgive as quickly as we are offended, and give as abundantly as we receive. We serve out of our giftedness and delight in our assignments. We may stumble, but we do not collapse. We may struggle, but we defy despair. We boast only in Christ, trust only in God, and lean wholly on His power. We enjoy abundant fruit and increasing faith.

Canaan symbolizes the victory we can have today. Canaan is not a metaphor for heaven. The idea is beautiful, but the symbolism doesn’t work. Heaven will have no enemies; Canaan had at least seven enemy nations. Heaven will have no battles; Joshua and his men fought at least thirty-one. (See Joshua 12:9-24) Heaven will be free of stumbles and struggles. Joshua’s men weren’t. They stumbled and struggled, but their victories far outnumbered their defeats.

Canaan does not represent the life to come; rather it represents the life we can have now! God invites us to enter Canaan. There is only one condition: We must turn our backs on the wilderness and forget about the bondage we endured in our Egypt. Just as Canaan represents the victorious Christian life, the wilderness represents the defeated Christian life. In the desert, the Hebrew people were liberated from Egyptian bondage, but you wouldn’t have known it by listening to them. Just three days into their new freedom, “…the people grumbled at Moses, saying, ‘What shall we drink?'” (Exodus 15:24, NIV)

A few more days passed, and the Jews – troubled by the lack of food – said to Moses, “Would that we had died by the Lord’s hand in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the pots of meat, when we ate bread to the full; for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger.” (Exodus 16:3, NASB) The people literally reviled against Moses. They were plagued by anxiety, and bellyaching to the point that Moses was afraid they would stone him. (Exodus 17:4) How did the Hebrew people descend to this point? They were well acquainted with the miracle power of God. They saw God send locusts to gobble up Pharaoh’s crops, boils that devoured skin, millions of flies buzzing through Pharaoh’s court, and, the pièce de résistance, tens of millions of gallons of water swallowing up Pharaoh’s army after the Israelites crossed through the Red Sea. Despite God rescuing the Israelites from bondage in Egypt, when God called the Jews to cross over into Canaan, rather than trust God they first sent twelve spies. When only two returned, claiming “We were like grasshoppers” compared to the giants in the land, it was decided to not take the land the Lord had promised to them.

God gave the Israelites time to think it over. He put the entire nation in limbo for forty years. They walked the desert endlessly. Life was a constant Ground Hog Day, eating the same food, seeing the same scenery. Their life was nearly devoid of victories. Progress was slow as molasses. They had been saved from Pharaoh, but they were not strong. They were redeemed but not released. Stuck in the desert. Locked in a routine. Monotonous. Dull. Ho-hum. Four decades of tedium. It was a miserable existence.

THE PROMISED LAND LIFE NOW?

Does any of this seem familiar to you on a personal level? The REVEAL Research Project went on a search for modern-day Joshuas. REVEAL is an online survey that measures the spiritual growth of churches. The computerized program claims to provide a proven way to know whether or not a congregation is growing in their relationship with Christ, and in their love for God and for others. Specifically, the REVEAL Research Project wanted to determine the percentage of churchgoers who are actually propelled by their faith to love God and love others with their whole hearts. How many Christians would describe their days as though they were living in the land of milk and honey? The answer? Eleven percent!

In other words, nine out of ten Christians are languishing in the wilderness. Are they saved? Yes. Are they empowered? No! They waste away in the worst of ways – in the Land of In-Between. Sure, they are out of Egypt, but they are not yet in Canaan. Imagine for a moment if a high school graduated only eleven percent of its students, or a medical practice healed only eleven percent of its patients, or a home builder completed only eleven percent of his projects. Changes would be made to be sure!

Approximately 2.2 billion people on our planet identify themselves as Christian. That’s nearly one-third of the world’s population. If the REVEAL survey is any indication of what is happening in the church today, about 2 billion of those Christians are chugging along on a fraction of their potential power. Such sluggishness can only lead to weak churches and halfhearted ministries. What would happen if they were able to move into their Canaan and fully enjoy the power and effectiveness God intended for them? How would the world be different if 2 billion people came out of the wilderness? How much joy would be unleashed into the atmosphere? How much wisdom would be quarried and shared? How many marriages would be saved? How many wars would be prevented? How much hunger would be eliminated? How many orphanages would be built? If every Christian began to live the Promised Land life, how would the world be different?

If you began to live the Promised Land life now, how would you be different? Do you sense a disconnect between the promises of the Bible and the reality of your life? Jesus offers abundant joy. Yet you live with oppressive grief. The Epistles speak of grace. You shoulder such guilt. We are “more than conquerors,” (Romans 8:37) yet are typically conquered by temptations or weaknesses. Caught in the land between Egypt and Canaan. Think about the Christian you want to be. What qualities do you want to have? More compassion? More conviction? More courage? What attitudes do you want to discontinue? Greed? Guilt? Endless negativity? A critical spirit?

The good news is you can. With God’s help you can close the gap between the person you are and the person you want to be; indeed, the person God made you to be. You can live “from glory to glory.” (2 Corinthians 3:18) The walls of Jericho are already condemned. The giants are already on the run. The deed to your new life in Canaan has already been signed. It just falls to you to possess the land. Joshua and his men did this. They went from dry land to the Promised Land. From manna to feasts. From arid deserts to fertile fields. In other words, they inherited their inheritance.

“Thus the Lord gave to Israel all the land which He swore to give to their fathers; and having taken possession of it they settled there. And the Lord gave them rest on every side just as He had sworn to their fathers; not one of all their enemies had withstood them, for the Lord had given all their enemies into their hands. Not one of all the good promises which the Lord had made to the house of Israel had failed; all had come to pass.”  (Joshua 21:43-45, RSV)

This is God’s vision for your life. Imagine you at full throttle. You as you were intended. You as victor over the Jerichos and giants. You and your Promised Land life. It is yours for the taking. Expect to be challenged, of course. The enemy won’t go down without a fight. But expect great progress as well. Life is different on the west side of the Jordan. Breakthroughs outnumber breakdowns. God’s promises outweigh personal problems. Victory becomes, dare we imagine it, a way of life. Isn’t it time for you to change your mailing address from the wilderness to the Promised Land? God wants you there. He has, in fact, done everything necessary for you to possess the Land.

YOUR INHERITANCE

When we first come to Christ by faith, we begin to enter into our inheritance. We obtain the pardon of our sins. Some believers are not sure they have a present and perfect remission, which certainly has an adverse impact on the ability to come into their inheritance. Remember, we are joint-heirs with Christ. (See Romans 8:17) Many believe they have been washed in the Blood of Jesus, but have yet to put on the righteousness of Christ. The matter of regeneration is in no way a small matter. However, we are to arise, cross over the Jordan, and take possession of the larger inheritance. Share in the bigger picture. We are to seek after holiness. Aspire to the utmost God intends for us after regeneration.

Instead, we tend to give in at times to doubt and fear. We forget who we are. Rather, who we’ve become. This must not continue! Not only must we have faith; we must have the full assurances that come with having faith. It is in this place of full assurance – our Land of Canaan – that we fight shalom. We can, indeed, have joy in the midst of trouble; confidence in the hour of struggle. The inheritance of the believer is the choicest form of life, peace, and joy. We literally come to Canaan to live with Christ, in Christ, for Christ, as Christ. This is the life which is life indeed. All other life, in comparison, is death.

The Bible is full of references to the inheritance believers have in Christ. Ephesians 1:11 says, “In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will.” (NKJV) In 1 Peter 1:4, we are told of an inheritance that can never perish, spoil, or fade. What we have in Christ is an enduring possession. Thing is, we must understand our inheritance and possess it. The legal term “inheritance” refers to actual property (often land or real estate) or goods received after a family member’s death.

CONCLUDING REMARKS

In Canaan, we do not fight for victory. We fight from victory. In the wilderness we strive. In Canaan we trust. In the wilderness we seek God’s attention. In Canaan we already have God’s favor. In the wilderness we doubt our salvation. In Canaan we know we are saved. We move from wanting-to-have to believing we already do. When we were born again, we were given the right be become children of God. (See John 1:12) Since we are part of the family, we have access to the family blessings. Every single one of them. “In Him also we have obtained an inheritance.” (Ephesians 1:11) Paul tells us, “The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.” (Romans 8:16)

How, then, do we explain the disconnect between who we are in Christ and our failure to take possession of our inheritance? If we are co-heirs with Christ, why do we struggle through life? Our inheritance is perfect peace, yet we feel like a perfect mess. We have access to the abundant life promised by Jesus, yet we fall short. God promises to meet our every need, yet we still fret and worry. Why?

We don’t know about our inheritance. For many believers, no one ever told them about “the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe.” (Ephesians 1:19) No one explained that they fight from victory, no for victory. No one told them the land has already been conquered. Some Christians never live out of their inheritance because they don’t know they have one.

We don’t believe in our inheritance. This was the problem of Joshua’s ancestors. They didn’t really believe that God could give them the land. The days of living in the land of milk and honey could have begun for the Hebrews four decades earlier, a point God alluded to in His promise to Joshua: “Every place that the sole of your foot will tread upon I have given to you, as I promised to Moses.” (Joshua 1:3, RSV)  God was actually saying, I made this offer to the people of Moses day, but they didn’t take it. They chose the wilderness. Don’t make the same mistake. Joshua didn’t. Much to his credit, he took God at His word and set about the task of inheriting the Land.

Imagine what would happen if a generation of Christians lived from the vantage point of their inheritance. Men and women would turn off Internet porn. They would stop cheating on their taxes. The lonely would find comfort in God, not in the arms of strangers. Struggling couples would spend more time in prayer, less time in anger. Children would consider it a blessing to care for their aging parents. Generations of Christians would vacate the wilderness. The same power that raised Jesus from the dead would turn every “I can’t” into “I can.” The church would start living out the edict, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:13, NKJV)

A new day awaits us all. A new season of accomplishment, discovery, and strength. Leave every I can’t into I can.

References

REVEAL For Life Spiritual Life Survey. (2016). Retrieved from: http://revealforchurch.com/#home