Meditational Musings from the Mind of Milo
Band of Brothers
Although I never fought in a war or even served in the military, I've seen the strong bond that comrades-in-arms have for each other in shows like Band of Brothers, movies like Saving Private Ryan, books I've read, and veterans I've encountered. Their devotion to each other and willingness to sacrifice for one another is as strong as can be found in any human relationship, including marriage.
This has given me insight into why God asks His people to suffer for His cause. Serving God puts us into the middle of a cosmic battle:
- For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. (Ephesians 6:12)
No different from any other war, this epic conflict comes with casualties. Throughout the centuries Christians have been imprisoned, tortured, and killed for their faith. Others have lost family, their livelihood, and everything they own. All Christians who are persecuted for their faith comprise a Band of Brothers and Sisters with a common bond forged in the face of adversity:
- Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. But resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same experiences of suffering are being accomplished by your brethren who are in the world. (I Peter 5:8-9)
Moreover, this Band of Brothers and Sisters includes the Lord Himself:
- Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you, but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing, so that also at the revelation of His glory you may rejoice with exultation.
If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. Make sure that none of you suffers as a murderer, or thief, or evildoer, or a troublesome meddler; but if anyone suffers as a Christian, he is not to be ashamed, but is to glorify God in this name. (I Peter 4:12-16)
- More than that, I count all things to be 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 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 3:8-11)
- For just as the sufferings of Christ are ours in abundance, so also our comfort is abundant through Christ. (II Corinthians 1:5)
Just as veterans who have fought side by side in earthly wars have cemented a special bond lasting the rest of their lives, so will the brotherhood of Christ that endures trials and tribulations for the good cause of God's work on Earth enjoy a unique kinship for all eternity:
- Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs in the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. (Matthew 5:10-12)
We believers who are blessed to live in a land where we are free to exercise our faith are also fighting against a world system that opposes God, and we stand with the holy warriors on the front lines of the battle for this planet:
- Remember the prisoners, as though in prision with them, and those who are ill-treated, since you yourselves also are in the body. (Hebrews 13:3)
- And if one member (of Christ's body, the body of believers) suffers, all the members suffer with it; if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it. (I Corinthians 12:26)
- For you showed sympathy to the prisoners and accepted joyfully the seizure of your property, knowing that you have for yourselves a better possession and a lasting one. (Hebrews 10:34)
Lombardi Was Right. Winning IS the Only Thing.
I hate losing. Losing stinks. It's never good when the Packers lose, especially to the hated Vikings or Bears. In politics, I can't stand seeing my side lose an election. Maybe the only time I tolerate losing is at the craps table as a price for entertainment. Nah, I hate losing there, too. Winning is best.
Although Vince Lombardi may have said, "Winning isn't everything. It's the only thing," the sentiment is absolutely right when it comes to God executing His plan. Unlike the Packers, elections, or craps where the prospect of winning is always in doubt, God guarantees victory:
- Through God we shall do valiantly, and it is He who will tread down our adversaries. (Psalm 60:12)
- Behold, a day is coming for the LORD when the spoil taken from you will be divided among you. For I will gather all the nations against Jerusalem to battle, and the city will be captured, the houses plundered, the women ravished and half of the city exiled, but the rest of the people will not be cut off from the city.
Then the LORD will go forth and fight against those nations, as when He fights on a day of battle. In that day His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, which is in front of Jerusalem on the east; and the Mount of Olives will be split in its middle from east to west by a very large valley, so that half of the mountain will move toward the north and the other half toward the south.
You will flee by the valley of My mountains, for the valley of the mountains will reach to Azel; yes, you will flee just as you fled before the earthquake in the days of Uzziah king of Judah. Then the LORD, my God, will come, and all the holy ones with Him!
In that day there will be no light; the luminaries will dwindle. For it will be a unique day which is known to the LORD, neither day nor night, but it will come about that at evening time there will be light.
And in that day living waters will flow out of Jerusalem, half of them toward the eastern sea and the other half toward the western sea; it will be in summer as well as in winter. And the LORD will be king over all the earth; in that day the LORD will be the only one, and His name the only one. (Zechariah 14:1-9)
- And I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse, and He who sat on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and wages war.
His eyes are a flame of fire, and on His head are many diadems; and He has a name written on Him which no one knows except Himself. He is clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God.
And the armies which are in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, were following Him on white horses. From His mouth comes a sharp sword, so that with it He may strike down the nations, and He will rule them with a rod of iron; and He treads the wine press of the fierce wrath of God, the Almighty.
And on His robe and on His thigh, He has a name written, "KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS."
Then I saw an angel standing in the sun, and he cried out with a loud voice, saying to all the birds which fly in the midheaven, "Come, assemble for the great supper of God, so that you may eat the flesh of kings and the flesh of commanders and the flesh of mighty men and the flesh of horses and of those who sit on them and the flesh of all men, both free men and slaves, and small and great."
And I saw the beast and the kings of the earth and their armies assembled to make war against Him who sat on the horse and against His army. And the beast was seized, and with him the false prophet who performed the signs in his presence, by which he deceived those who had received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped his image; these two were thrown alive into the lake of fire which burns with brimstone.
And the rest were killed with the sword which came from the mouth of Him who sat on the horse, and all the birds were filled with their flesh. (Revelation 19:11-21)
- Then the sovereignty, the dominion and the greatness of all the kingdoms under the whole heaven will be given to the people of the saints of the Highest One; His kingdom will be an everlasting kingdom, and all the dominions will serve and obey Him. (Daniel 7:27)
- ... then comes the end, when He (the Christ) 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. The last enemy that will be abolished is death. (I Corinthians 15:24-26)
- But when this perishable will have put on the imperishable, and this mortal will have put on immortality, then will come about the saying that is written, "Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?" The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law; but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. (I Corinthians 15:54-57)
- And they sang a new song, saying, "Worthy are you to take the book and to break its seals; for You were slain, and purchased for God with your blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation. You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to our God, and they will reign upon the earth." (Revelation 5:9-10)
The Bible says it's a done deal. We win! I love winning. It's the ONLY thing. Through the blood of Christ, we have victory over sin, victory over death, and victory over the power of the devil!
God's Dress Code
In our sin we stand naked before God, as Adam and Eve found themselves after they disobeyed Him:
- Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loin coverings. (Genesis 3:7)
Our attempts to hide our sin with good deeds aren't acceptable to a holy God, just as He found Adam and Eve's clothing of themselves to be inadequate, so He dressed them Himself:
- The LORD God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife, and clothed them. (Genesis 3:21)
This was indeed the first sacrifice, for some animal had to be skinned, and foreshadowed the death of God's Son, Jesus the Christ, as the final recompense for sin:
- By this will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. (Hebrews 10:10)
Simply put, we can't save ourselves through our own effort, which the Bible again describes as clothing ourselves:
- For all of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment; (Isaiah 64:6a)
I recently heard a preacher say that the previous verse refers to a menstrual cloth. Before we think we can earn our way to heaven, let's remember that any good we do on our own behalf is just as disgusting to God as a used tampon. We need to put on God's clothing instead, which is the righteousness provided from the Christ's work:
- You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. (Galatians 3:26-27)
- Now Joshua (the high priest) was clothed with filthy garments and standing before the angel. He (the angel) spoke and said to those who were standing before him, "Remove the filthy garments from him." Again he said to him (Joshua), "See, I have taken your iniquity from you and will clothe you with festal robes." (Zechariah 3:3-4)
- Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm then. Stand firm therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; in addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. (Ephesians 6:13-17)
The Wedding Supper of the Lamb is the grand party of all parties when the Christ gathers His people together with Him in eternity. He referenced this momentous event when He instituted the sacrament of Holy Communion:
- "But I say to you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father's kingdom." (Matthew 26:29)
Everyone there must be clothed in His righteousness:
- Let us rejoice and be glad and give the glory to Him, for the marriage of the Lamb (Jesus, John 1:29) has come and His bride (the church, the true followers of Jesus, Ephesians 5:23-32) has made herself ready. It was given her to clothe herself in fine linen, bright and clean; for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints. (Revelation 19:7-8)
- But when the king came in to look over the dinner guests, he saw a man there who was not dressed in wedding clothes, and he said to him, "Friend, how did you come in here without wedding clothes?" And the man was speechless. Then the king said to the servants, "Bind him hand and foot, and throw him into the outer darkness, in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth." (Matthew 22:11-13)
For only His righteousness can cover sin:
- I advise you to buy from Me gold refined by fire (things refined by fire have eternal value, I Corinthians 3:13-15, I Peter 1:7), so that you may become rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself, and that the shame of your nakedness (i.e. sin) will not be revealed; and eye salve to annoint your eyes so that you may see. (Revelation 3:18)
- (Behold, I am coming like a thief. Blessed is the one who stays awake and keeps his clothes, so that he will not walk about naked and men will not see his shame.) (Revelation 16:15)
Imago Deo is Latin for "image of God". God created us in His image:
- God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. (Genesis 1:27)
What does being created in God's image mean? Does God have arms and legs, and a head? No, at least not before the incarnation of the Christ. It means each of us has a personality, powers of reason, the ability to love, emotions, desires, and a will. Just like God does.
It also includes being male and female. Don't get me wrong. I'm no heretic who thinks the Bible, the creeds, and our hymns need to be rewritten to be gender neutral. God is our heavenly Father and is referenced by male pronouns, and the Christ walked this planet as a man, but I believe Genesis is saying that God has apportioned His attributes to men and women in varying degrees.
The Lord is a warrior. He provides. Stereotypical male traits. He's also relational and a nurturer, things that women tend to be better at than men.
I see in this the mystery and wonder of marriage, and why God hates adultery and divorce:
- And he (Jesus) answered and said, "Have you not read that He who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, 'For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh'? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let man not separate." (Matthew 19:4-6)
The union of man and woman brings together the attributes of God that He has apportioned between them, including His ability to create, resulting in wonder, the creation of more humans.
We know what's right, yet we delight in our sin. We want to have it both ways, looking for a minimum standard to please God, and living the rest of our lives however we want. God thinks otherwise. He wants us to offer everything we have to His service:
- No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth. (Matthew 6:24, also Luke 16:13)
- Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. (I John 2:15)
- You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. (James 4:4)
In the Texas poker games on ESPN, the time comes when a player shoves all the stacks of chips he has left into the pot. All in! God wants us go all in:
- You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. (Deuteronomy 6:5)
- 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. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect. (Romans 12:1-2)
Let's submit everything to God. Let's make Him master of our finances. Let's surrender to His plan for our lives. Let's spend time with Him. Let's draw on His power to give up unholy pleasures.
Afterall, the Lord God Almighty has done no less for us. He went all in when He intervened in human history in the form of the Christ. The Holy One held back nothing, getting down and dirty in the muck and mire of our sin:
- Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. (Philippians 2:5-8)
- Surely our griefs He Himself bore, and our sorrows He carried; yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, and by His scourging we are healed. (Isaiah 53:4-5)
As Jesus, God experienced the suffering we have brought upon ourselves besides the usual toil of our lives, being hungry and tired, and such. Surely we can trust Him to supply our needs and meet the desires He has put into our hearts, and ultimately to grant us eternal life, for that's the ultimate bet, our eternal destiny, so let's go all in. The stakes are well worth it.
Note the recurring terminology in the following verses:
- For those whom He (God) foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren. (Romans 8:29)
- But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep. (I Corinthians 15:20)
- 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. (I Corinthians 15:22-23)
- He (Jesus) is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. (Colossians 1:15)
- He is also the head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything. (Colossians 1:18)
- And when He (God) again brings the firstborn into the world, He says, "And let all the angels of God worship Him." (Hebrews 1:6)
- ... and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth. (Revelation 1:5a)
What do first fruits and firstborn mean? Does it mean that the Christ was the first to rise from the dead? Trick question! Jesus had already raised the daughter of Jairus (Mark 5:35-41), the widow's son (Luke 7:11-15), and Lazarus (John 11:38-44). There were even resurrections at the moment He died (Matthew 27:52-53).
Jesus is different. His resurrected body is the first one that never gets sick and will never die. Not like Lazarus and the others who had their old bodies and just died again. Moreover, Jesus could appear in a locked room (John 20:19), vanish from sight (Luke 24:31), and float into the sky like a spirit (Luke 24:51 and Acts 1:9), although He was corporeal because He could eat (Luke 24:42). He has a Super Body, and someday we each get one!
- For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagarly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ; who will transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of His glory, by the exertion of the power that He has even to subject all things to Himself. (Philippians 3:20-21)
- So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown a perishable body, it is raised an imperishable body; it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. (I Corinthians 15:42-44)
- For this perishable must put on the imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality. (I Corinthians 15:53)
Hindus believe in reincarnation. So do Christians, but just once. According to Ephesians 4:5, there's one Lord, one faith, and one baptism. There's also one reincarnation, i.e. the resurrection with a glorified super body.
Would we rather think like God or think like our world system? Of course, we fancy ourselves as thinking like God, but in reality we don't:
- The Lord knows the thoughts of man, that they are a mere breath. (Psalm 94:11)
- "For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways," declares the LORD. "For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts." (Isaiah 55:8-9)
- 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? (I Corinthians 1:20)
The Scripture is full of examples:
- Now the LORD said to Samuel, "How long will you grieve over Saul, since I have rejected him from being king over Israel? Fill your horn with oil and go; I will send you to Jesse the Bethlehemite, for I have selected a king for Myself among his sons." ...
When they (Jesse and his sons) entered, he (Samuel) looked at Eliab and thought, "Surely the LORD's anointed is before Him."
But the LORD said to Samuel, "Do not look at his appearance or at the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart." (I Samuel 16:1, 6-7)
- But Jesus called them to Himself and said, "You know the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over them. It is not this way among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among shall be your slave; just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many." (Matthew 20:25-28)
- Sitting down, He (Jesus) Jesus called the twelve and said to them, "If anyone wants to be first, he shall be last of all and servant of all." (Mark 9:35)
- And He (Jesus) looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the treasury. And He saw a poor widow putting in two small copper coins. And He said, "Truly I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all of them; for they all out of their surplus put into the offering; but she out of her poverty put in all that she had to live on." (Luke 21:1-4)
- As He (Jesus) passed by, He saw a man blind from birth. And His disciples asked Him, "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he would be born blind?" Jesus answered, "It was neither that this man sinned, nor his parents; but it was so that the works of God might be displayed in him." (John 9:1-3)
- "He who loves his life loses it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it to life eternal." (John 12:25)
Even after the Christ's resurrection, His disciples thought He had come merely to kick Roman butt:
- So when they had come together, they were asking Him, saying, "Lord, is it at this time You are restoring the kingdom to Israel?" (Acts 1:6)
God's thinking doesn't make sense to human reasoning:
- At that very time He (Jesus) rejoiced greatly in the Holy Spirit, and said, "I praise You, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and intelligent and have revealed them to infants. Yes, Father, for this way was well-pleasing in Your sight." (Luke 10:21)
- For 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 to save those who believe.
For indeed Jews ask for signs and Greeks search for wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block and to Gentiles foolishness, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.
Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. (I Corinthians 1:21-25)
We're all born with such a mindset. God offers us His Holy Spirit so we no longer have to conform to the pattern of this world, but can be transformed by the renewing of our minds (Romans 12:2a).
Instead, the foolishness of the world system runs as rampant as ever in our politically correct age:
- Time Magazine ran a feature article that men and women actually are different. This was news?
- Carbon, the building block of life, is a pollutant. Our breath is a greenhouse gas!
- In fact, hard-core environmentalists believe the Earth would be better off without us, and some think animals have the same rights as humans. God's Word says we're the crown jewel of the creation (Psalm 8:5, Hebrews 2:6) and have been given stewardship over the Earth (Genesis 1:28-30, Psalm 8:5-8, Hebrews 2:7-8).
Truthfully, nature is no mother that nurtures us, rather it means to kill us! We have a mandate from God to tame our world so we can survive.
- Cromwell's English Revolution. French Revolution. Communism. Our socialist regimes rejecting God have never failed to bring economic ruin and mass death, but we still believe in a man-made utopia.
- For most of history, women were held inferior to men, but our society has swung the pendulum the other way. Men and fathers are ridiculed as clueless buffoons on situation comedies. Husbands gain favor with self-deprecating humor about their wives being the "boss", always right, and the "better half". God says both men and women were created in His image, and are to treat each other as such.
- Homosexuality is normal, i.e. natural? Not according to Romans 1:26-27, and not according to nature itself, which is all about procreation.
- All religions lead to the same place. It doesn't matter what we believe, just that we believe in something. Everyone determines their own god. Utter nonsense!
Nobody likes a braggart. The NFL players who are so full of themselves with their end zone celebrations have caused a backlash so their behavior is penalized. Worse yet are the self-righteous. Jesus didn't approve of their attitude either:
- Then Jesus spoke to the crowds and to His disciples, saying, "The scribes and the Pharisees have seated themselves in the chair of Moses; therefore all that they tell you, do and observe, but do not do according to their deeds; for they say things and do not do them. They tie up heavy burdens and lay them on men's shoulders, but they themselves are unwilling to move them with so much as a finger.
But they do all their deeds to be noticed by men: for they broaden their phylacteries and lengthen the tassels of their garments. They love the place of honor at banquets and the chief seats in the synagogues, and respectful greetings in the market places, and being called Rabbi by men. ...
Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which on the outside appear beautiful, but inside they are full of dead men's bones and all uncleanness. So you, too, appear outwardly righteous to men, but inwardly you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness." (Matthew 23:1-7, 27-28)
The same disdain is held in our day for certain "religious" evangelists. The same applies to our secular religious faithful:
- "Look at me. I'm better than you because I drive a non-polluting car."
- "I'm a good person for saving the Earth because I don't eat meat, use the right light bulbs, and don't use toilet paper."
- "I care more than you because I wear colored ribbons for every disease and good cause."
However, in light of this, there's actually a time when bragging is good and proper:
- My soul will make its boast in the Lord; the humble will hear it and rejoice." (Psalm 34:2)
- In God we have boasted all day long, and we will give thanks to Your name forever. (Psalm 44:8)
- Thus says the LORD, "Let not a wise man boast of his wisdom, and let not the mighty man boast of his might, let not the rich man boast of his riches; but let him who boasts boast of this, that he understands and knows Me, that I am the LORD, who exercises lovingkindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for I delight in these things," declares the LORD. (Jeremiah 9:23-24)
- But may it never be that I would boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world." (Galatians 6:14)
My God is the best God there is, and so I brag. He's creator and master of the universe, yet He has infinite love and mercy for me. His works are mighty. He even died for me because I'm special and important to Him. He created me for a purpose. He approves of me and delights in me. I'm His child and heir to an eternal inheritance. These are things worth bragging about.
The "Rest" of the Christmas Story
In the same region there were some shepherds staying out in the fields and keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terribly frightened.
But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.
This will be a sign to you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger." And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased." (Luke 2:8-14)
I've wondered why the angels only appeared to some shepherds. This is only conjecture, but I like to imagine the behind-the-scenes part of this story as follows:
For centuries, the Lord God has predicted by His prophets the sending of His deliverer to the planet Earth, and the angels in heaven are buzzing with excitement that a grand moment in human history is about to begin. Who is this deliverer? The rumors are flying in the heavenly places. The Lord God Almighty intends to appear on the Earth Himself! He has become that little baby in Bethlehem.
The heavenly host cannot restrain their enthusiasm. What an incredible wonder! How favored are humans, sinners though they are, that the Most High is willing to stop at nothing to restore them. They surround the throne and beg the Father, "We must go down there and proclaim the marvelous news to the human race, please, please, please!"
The Father is reluctant. The Christ is on a stealth mission in enemy territory to be carried out in utmost humility.
"Please, please, please!" They beg. "Your plan is transcendant, beyond anything we could have ever imagined, we cannot hold ourselves back. We must proclaim Your mighty deed!"
The Father knows they only desire to serve and worship Him as they were created to do, so He tells them, "See those lonely shepherds outside the town? You may go tell them the good news."
So with great gusto, the angelic throng descends on the shepherds' fields to make their announcement and sing praises to Almighty God, which I like to think is the rest of the story.
How God Will Decide When to End the World
There are plenty of crackpots holding signs, and charlatans claiming they know when the Christ is returning, even though Jesus Himself didn't know, but only God the Father (Matthew 24:36). Even so, the Bible provides a good idea how God will select the date, whatever it is, by telling us about His competing objectives:
- This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. (I Timothy 2:3-4)
- The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wanting for any to perish but for all to come to repentance. (II Peter 3:9)
- For You, Lord, are good, and ready to forgive, and aboundant in lovingkindness to all who call upon You. (Psalm 86:5)
- But You, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and aboundant in lovingkindness and truth. (Psalm 86:15)
- The LORD is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in lovingkindness. (Psalm 103:8)
- The LORD is gracious and merciful; slow to anger and great in lovingkindness. The LORD is good to all, and His mercies are over all His works. (Psalm 145:8-9)
- When the Lamb broke the fifth seal, I saw underneath the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God, and because of the testimony which they had maintained; and they cried out with a loud voice, saying, "How long, O Lord, holy and true, will You refrain from judging and avenging our blood on those who dwell on the earth?" (Revelation 6:9-10)
- O LORD, God of vengeance, God of vengeance, shine forth! Rise up, O Judge of the earth, render recompense to the proud. How long shall the wicked, O LORD, how long shall the wicked exult? (Psalm 94:1-3)
On the one hand, God is merciful and full of grace, and wants to allow enough time for as many as possible to find salvation. On the other hand, He's listening to the pleas of His people for deliverance from an all too often horrible persecution. God is asking His people to suffer so that others may be saved, but at some point the situation will become so bad that God will decide He must rescue His own. Then time's up:
- "Unless those days had been cut short, no life would have been saved; but for the sake of the elect those days will be cut short." (Matthew 24:22)
- "... now, will not God bring about justice for His elect who cry to Him day and night, and will He delay long over them? I tell you that He will bring about justice for them quickly." (Luke 18:7-8a)
My software engineer mind thinks of God's timetable this way:
saving = saving the lost
delivering = delivering His people
while (saving > delivering)
trumpet call (Second Coming)
saving = saving the lost
delivering = delivering His people
until (delivering > saving)
trumpet call (Second Coming)
Let's Raze Hell
Some decades ago a hit song by Trooper named Raise A Little Hell advocated making a ruckus to protest injustice. Rather than "raising" hell, perhaps our efforts can be more effective by "razing" hell. The Christ made some fascinating statements on the subject:
- "When a strong man, fully armed, guards his own house, his possessions are undisturbed. But when someone stronger than he attacks him and overpowers him, he takes away from him all his armor on which he relied and distributes his plunder." (Luke 11:21-22)
- "Or how can anyone enter the strong man's house and carry off his property, unless he first binds the strong man? And then he will plunder his house." (Matthew 12:29)
The strong man is the devil, our enemy who prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour (I Peter 4:8). Jesus invites us to pray for him to be restrained so the lost can be freed from his deceptions and have a chance to come to know the one true God:
- "Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing will injure you. Nevertheless do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are recorded in heaven." (Luke 10:19-20)
The lost are the possessions the devil claims for his own, but the Christ has made His own claim sealed by His blood sacrifice. The devil has robbed us of so much joy and peace, it's time to plunder him in return! God can use us to rescue the lost and de-populate hell!
St. Paul wrote about razing hell:
- For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh, for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destuction of fortresses. We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience to Christ, and we are ready to punish all disobedience, whenever your obedience is complete. (II Corinthians 10:3-6)
The devil's lies are strongholds that need to come crashing down like Sauron's tower in the epic Lord of the Rings movie The Return of the King.
God has equipped us for spiritual battle to victory:
- Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.
Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything to stand firm. Stand firm therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplace of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace;
in addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. (Ephesians 6:10-17)
We're God's holy warriors. Time to raze hell! Pick a battlecry:
Jesus is Lord and Christ, and He's taking over this planet!
Jesus is victor!
To live is Christ and to die is gain. (Philippians 1:21b)
We live for the Christ! We die for the Christ!
God Wants Us to Commit Suicide
He does, in a manner of speaking. The New Testament exhorts us again and again to put to death the desires of our sinful nature because the Holy Spirit has empowered us to become a new person. We cannot change by sheer force of will. We need our hearts cleansed by the living water of the Spirit, and our minds renewed and transformed to think like God; conforming to the likeness of the Christ. A word to the depressed; put your self-loathing to good use and allow the living God to change you!
- May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it? Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into his death? Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.
For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin; for he who has died is freed from sin. (Romans 6:2-7)
- Even so consider yourselfs to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus. Therefore do no let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its lusts, and do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law, but under grace. (Romans 6:11-14)
- Therefore, my brethren, you also were made to die to the Law through the body of Christ, so that you might be joined to another, to Him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit to God.
For while we were in the flesh, the sinful passions, which were aroused by the Law, were at work in the members of our body to bear fruit for death.
But now we have been released from the law, having died to that which we were bound, so that we serve in newness of the Spirit and not in oldness of the letter. (Romans 7:4-6)
- If Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, yet the spirit is alive because of righteousness. But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.
So then, brethren, we are under obligation, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh -- for if you living according to the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. (Romans 8:10-14)
- 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. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that may prove what the will God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect. (Romans 12:1-2)
- For the love of Christ controls us, having concluded this, that one died for all, therefore all died; and He died for all, so that they who live might no longer live for themselves but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf. (II Corinthians 5:14-15)
- Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come. (II Corinthians 5:17)
- For through the Law I died to the Law, so that I might live to God. 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 2:19-20)
- Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. (Galatians 5:24)
- If indeed you have heard Him and have been taught in Him, just as truth is in Jesus, that, in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth. (Ephesians 4:21-24)
- Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children; and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma. (Ephesians 5:1-2)
- Set your minds on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. (Colossians 3:2-3)
- Therefore, consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry. (Colossians 3:5)
- But now you also, put them all aside: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive speech from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, since you laid aside the old self with its practices, and have put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him -- a renewal in which there is no distinction between Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and freeman, but Christ is all, and in all. (Colossians 3:8-11)
- Therefore, putting aside all filthiness and all that remains of wickedness, in humility receive the word implanted, which is able to save your souls. (James 1:21)
- Therefore, prepare your minds for action, keep sober in spirit, fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance, but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; because it is written, "You shall be holy, for I am holy." (I Peter 1:13-16)
- Therefore, putting aside all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and slander, like newborn babies, long for the pure milk of the word, so that by it you may grow in respect to salvation, if you have tasted the kindness of the Lord. (I Peter 2:1-3)
- ... and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed. (I Peter 2:24)
- Therefore, since Christ has suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same purpose, because he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, so as to live the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for the lusts of men, but for the will of God. (I Peter 4:1-2)
Reverse the Curse
No more let sins and sorrows grow
Nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make His blessings flow
Far as the curse is found.
This third verse from the Christmas hymn, Joy to the World, refers to God's curse against mankind after Adam and Eve sinned:
- To the woman He said, "I will greatly multiply your pain in childbirth, in pain you will bring forth children; yet your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you."
Then to Adam He said, "Because you have listened to the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree about which I commanded you, saying, 'You shall not eat from it'; cursed is the ground because of you; in toil you will eat of it all the days of your life.
Both thorns and thistles it shall grow for you; and you will eat the plants of the field; by the sweat of your face you will eat bread, till you return to the ground, because from it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return." (Genesis 3:16-19)
The curse of sin also adversely affected the whole creation:
- For the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God.
For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now. (Romans 8:19-22)
There's a law of entropy in the universe that keeps it winding down and leads to death. It's like God has withdrawn some of His sustaining power, which is actually an act of mercy because who in their right mind wants this imperfect world and the pain in our lives to last?
Before God gave the curse, He first cursed the serpent, i.e. Satan, thereby giving His first promise for our salvation:
- "And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; he shall bruise you on the head, and you shall bruise him on the heel." (Genesis 3:15)
Jesus, the Christ, was Eve's offspring who conquered Satan through His suffering and temporary death, and gives us the hope of restoration as in the aforementioned Romans 8 and reiterated in other passages:
- Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and there is no longer any sea.
And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband.
And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, "Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them,
and He will wipe every tear from their eyes; there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away." (Revelation 21:1-4)
- Then he (the angel) showed me a river of the water of life, clear as crystal, coming from the throne of God and of the Lamb, in the middle of its street.
On either side of the river was the tree of life, bearing twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit every month; and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.
There will no longer be any curse; and the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and His bond-servants will serve Him. (Revelation 22:1-3)
- 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.
And He will judge between the nations, and will render decisions for many peoples; and they will hammer their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not lift up sword against nation, and never again will they learn war. (Isaiah 2:3-4)
- And the wolf will dwell with the lamb, and the leopard will lie down with the young goat, and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little boy will lead them.
Also the cow and the bear will graze, their young will lie down together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox.
The nursing child will play by the hole of the cobra, and the weaned child will put his hand on the viper's den.
They will not hurt or destroy in all My holy mountain, for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea. (Isaiah 11:6-9)
- For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth; and the former things will not be remembered or come to mind.
But be glad and rejoice forever in what I create; for behold, I create Jerusalem for rejoicing and her people for gladness.
I will also rejoice in Jerusalem and be glad in My people; and there will no longer be heard in her the voice of weeping and of the sound of crying. (Isaiah 65:17-19)
For a small inkling of the wonder the future beholds, imagine what even this temporal world would be like without sin. No war and no terrorism. All the money spent on the military could be put to better use, and traveling would be a whole lot easier.
No airport security, and since nations would no longer need to protect themselves, all borders would be open. So much time would be saved! When I traveled to Colombia, I thought about how I wouldn't have to stand in line at customs in a sinless world. No need for a passport, either.
There wouldn't be any crime; murder, rape, assault, theft, fraud, and the list goes on. We would no longer need to fear walking certain streets, or bother locking doors and windows, and say bye to the law enforcement apparatus; no police, no courts, and no jails and prisons.
More money saved, and with no more lying and cheating, we wouldn't have to install anti-virus software on our computers, need passwords, or worry about identity theft.
We would no longer ruin our health with our foibles, and our better behavior would cause fewer accidents. Think how much maiming and killing wouldn't happen without drunk drivers. Add to that, the end of physical harm from wars and crime, and our insurance premiums would plummet along with our need for the medical profession.
We would also have better mental health because we wouldn't have to worry about family strife, getting robbed, or war. No more, or very little, divorce and broken families. Therapists would be out of business.
The government wouldn't have much left to do, and so not much for taxes! Especially since we wouldn't have leaders who are more interested in expanding their own wealth and grabbing more power at our expense.
Nobody would be trying to make a quick fortune with a lawsuit, and so the civil courts would become about as extinct as the criminal judiciary. Almost no lawyers!
Considering all the industries and professions that would shrink or cease to exist, wouldn't there be massive unemployment?
Actually, since we wouldn't be wasting so many resources on the result of our sin, I think we would have ample funding, and certainly more time to pursue our dreams and interests, to create and invent, and to explore God's awesome universe.
Yes, Utopia, but we're so hopelessly corrupted that we'll never be able to bring it about on our own. We need the coming of the Prince of Peace to fully reverse the curse. When the Christ returns, His blessings indeed will flow as far as the curse is found, to the point of abolishing sickness and death forever!
Then there will be no hospitals, no hospices, no health care clinics, no nursing homes, and no drug rehabilation centers. No doctors, paramedics, and nurses. No pharmaceuticals nor pharmacists. No funeral homes and undertakers. Glory to God!
- Come, Lord Jesus. (Revelation 22:20b)
I'm amused when sports teams, or even contestants on television game shows, ask God to favor them for victory as if He cares who wins. God cares about people, saving the lost, and bringing glory to His name.
Sure, let's ask Him for strength and the ability to give a best performance with dignity and class, but let's save the asking for victory to the winning that counts; victory over sin, victory over death, and victory over the power of the devil.
It's the same for more important matters than games, i.e. things on a geopolitical scale. It's absurd for a political party or a nation fighting a war to claim God's on its side. God IS a side!
Rather than asking if God's on our side, let's ask ourselves if we're on His side, like Abraham Lincoln did when he said, "My concern is not whether God is on our side; my greatest concern is to be on God's side."
An important transition in life happens when children become adults. Ideally, they develop a mature relationship based on mutual respect and even become friends with their parents. The time of correction and training is supposed to pass. The same holds true for God's relationship with us as His children. For this reason, Jesus announced a more mature relationship with His disciples at the Last Supper:
- No longer do I call you slaves, for the slave does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. (John 15:15)
God doesn't want us to remain spiritual babies:
- Therefore, putting aside all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander, like newborn babies, long for the pure milk of the word, so that by it you may grow in respect to salvation, if you have tasted kindness of the Lord. (I Peter 2:1-3)
- For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you have need again for someone to teach you the elementary principles of the oracles of God, and you have come to need milk and not solid food.
For everyone who partakes only of milk is not accustomed to the word of righteousness, for he is an infant. But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil. (Hebrews 5:12-14)
- And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual men, but as to men of flesh, as infants in Christ. I gave you milk to drink, not solid food, for you were not yet able to receive it. Indeed, even now you are not yet able.
For you are still fleshly. For since there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not fleshly, and are you not walking like mere men? (I Corinthians 3:1-3)
Instead, God wants us to grow up! St. Paul wrote:
- When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reasoned like a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things. (I Corinthians 13:11)
- It is for discipline that you endure; God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline?
But if you are without discipline, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate children and not sons.
Furthermore, we had earthly fathers to discipline us, and we respected them; shall we not much rather be subject to the Father of spirits, and live?
For they disciplined us for a short time as seemed best to them, but He disciplines us for our good, so that we may share His holiness.
All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful, yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness. (Hebrews 12:7-11)
As we grow in our Christian faith, we stake a claim to our inheritance:
- Now I say, as long as the heir is a child, he does not differ at all from a slave although he is the owner of everything, but he is under guardians and managers until the date set by the father.
So also we, while we were children, were held in bondage under the elemental things of the world. But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, so that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons. (Galatians 4:1-5)
Like it or not, those on the inside have an advantage. Politicians make deals in back rooms. Corporate executives put each other on their Boards of Directors. Every social structure down to grade school, probably, has an "in" crowd. The rest are "out" and know it.
That's not how things work in God's system. He makes His people insiders:
- Therefore remember that formerly you, the Gentiles in the flesh, who are called "Uncircumcision" by the so-called "Circumcision," which is done 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. ...
So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and of God's household, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone,
in whom the whole building, being fitted together, is growing into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit. (Ephesians 2:11-13, 19-22)
- Surely the Lord GOD does nothing unless He reveals His secret counsel to His servants the prophets. (Amos 3:7)
- To me, the very least of all saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unfathomable riches of Christ, and to bring to light what is the administration of the mystery which for ages has been hidden in God who created all things;
so that the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known through the church to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. (Ephesians 3:8-10)
- No longer do I (Jesus) call you slaves, for the slave does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. (John 15:15)
Not only do we as God's people get insider information, our Savior gets us access to the top!
- Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession.
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.
Therefore let us then draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in time of need. (Hebrews 4:14-16)
- And He (the Christ) came and preached peace to you who were far away, and peace to those who were near; for through Him we both have our access in one spirit to the Father. (Ephesians 2:17-18)
- Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. (Philippians 4:6)
We even have powerful and influential players acting on our behalf:
- Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us. (Romans 8:34b)
- In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. (Romans 8:26)
Considering how we have all this going for us, how can we not say we have it made?
I have a lampstand (Revelation 1:12-13, 20). It's my calling, my mission, my anointing, my purpose, the assignment God has given me to do. The flame of the Holy Spirit burns on top of my lampstand:
- You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on its lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house.
Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven. (Matthew 5:14-16)
- For in the case of those who have once been enlightened and have tasted of the heavenly gift and have been made partakers of the Holy Spirit, who have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, it is impossible to renew them again to repentance, since they again crucify to themselves the Son of God and put Him to open shame. (Hebrews 6:4-6)
This could mean losing God's call and anointing, like happened to King Saul, although salvation might still be available (I Corinthians 3:11-15), but without the satisfaction of fighting the good fight or running the race (II Timothy 4:7), having achieved great things building God's kingdom and receiving rewards to lay at the feet of Jesus, Lord and Christ (I Corinthians 9:24-25).
Think of a pastor or evangelist who has scuttled his ministry with marital infidelity or other moral failure. He has relegated himself to God's bench, deprived of his ministry, his lampstand. There's consequence for compromise:
- Therefore remember from where you have fallen, and repent and do the deeds you did at first; or else I am coming to you and will remove your lampstand out of its place -- unless you repent. (Revelation 2:5)
Lord God, may my lampstand never be removed. I would rather die than lose my lampstand. Thank You for giving me a lampstand. I'm humbled You've given me one.
Did Jesus Know What He Was Doing?
The devil hates our living guts. He's infuriated that we have God's favor and does everything he can to keep us away from God.
The key to our relationship with God is Jesus, the Christ, His identity as the second person in the triune Godhead, and His mission of incarnation, coming to us as a man to sacrifice Himself so God's justice may be satisfied as we're forgiven for rebelling against God; and so the devil always aims to distort, obscure, and refute this truth, and the more subtle the better.
On the contrary, the Bible says that not only did Jesus precisely know His mission so that He repeatedly predicted it in advance, but it had been planned before the creation of the world and Jesus wouldn't have been killed unless He allowed it:
A prime example is Jesus Christ Superstar, which made its first appearance during the Woodstock era as a rock opera and then a Broadway musical.
Although many Christians took it as an affirmation of their faith by the popular culture, the lyrics written by Tim Rice portray Jesus as a man with delusions of grandeur who didn't really know what was happening to him:
- Jesus Christ, Jesus Christ. Who are you? What have you sacrificed? Jesus Christ Superstar. Do you think you're what they say you are?
- He's just a man, he's just a man. (Mary Magdalene)
- He's just misguided - thinks he's important. (Pontius Pilate)
Granted, the characters are expressing the limited knowledge of people in the Bible, which clearly says even the disciples didn't have much of a clue what was happening, but Superstar also depicts Jesus as clueless during His trial in the Garden of Gethemane:
- Why should I die? Can you show me now that I would not be killed in vain? Show me just a little of your omnipresent brain. Show me there's a reason for your wanting me to die. You're far too keen on where and how and not so hot on why.
- Then some of the scribes and Pharisees said to Him, "Teacher, we want to see a sign from You."
But He answered and said to them, "An evil and adulterous generation craves for a sign; and no sign will be given to it but the sign of Jonah the prophet;
for just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the sea monster, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth." (Matthew 12:38-40)
- From that time Jesus began to show His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised up on the third day. (Matthew 16:21)
- As they were coming down from the mountain, Jesus commanded them, saying, "Tell the vision to no one until the Son of Man has risen from the dead." (Matthew 17:9)
- And while they were gathering together in Galilee, Jesus said to them, "The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men; and they will kill Him, and He will be raised on the third day." And they were deeply grieved. (Matthew 17:22-23)
- As Jesus was about to go up to Jerusalem, He took the twelve disciples aside by themselves , and on the way He said to them, "Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem and the Son of Man will be delivered to the chief priests and scribes,
and they will condemn Him to death, and will hand Him over to the Gentiles to mock and scourge and crucify Him, and on the third day He will be raised up." (Matthew 20:17-19)
- "...the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many." (Matthew 28:20)
- The Jews then said to Him, "What sign do You show us as Your authority for doing these things?"
Jesus answered them, "Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up." The Jews then said, "It took forty-six years to build this temple, and will You raise it up in three days?"
But He was speaking of the temple of His body. So when He was raised from the dead, His disciples remembered that He said this; and they believed the Scripture and the word which Jesus had spoken. (John 2:18-22)
- And Jesus answered them, saying, "The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.
He who loves his life loses it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it to life eternal. If anyone serves Me, he must follow Me; and where I am, there My servant will be also; if anyone serves Me, the Father will honor him.
Now My soul has become troubled; and what shall I say? 'Father, save Me from this hour'? But for this purpose I came to this hour. Father, glorify your name."
Then a voice came out of heaven: "I have both glorified it, and will glorify it again." So the crowd of people who stood by and heard it were saying that it had thundered; others were saying, "An angel has spoken to Him."
Jesus answered and said, "This voice has not come for My sake, but for your sakes. Now judgment is upon this world; now the ruler of this world will be cast out.
And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to Myself." But He was saying this to indicate the kind of death by which He was to die. (John 12:23-33)
- "Men of Israel, listen to these words: Jesus the Nazarene, a man attested to you by God with miracles and wonders and signs, which God performed through Him in your midst, just as you yourselves know --
this Man, delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death.
But God raised Him up again, putting an end to the agony of death, since it was impossible for Him to be held in its power." (Acts 2:22-24)
- But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, so that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons. (Galatians 4:4-5)
- For He was foreknown before the foundation of the world, but has appeared in these last times for the sake of you who through Him are believers in God, who raised Him from the dead and gave Him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God. (I Peter 1:20-21)
- "I am the good shepherd, the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep. ...
For this reason the Father loves Me, because I lay down my life so that I may take it again. No one has taken it away from Me, but I lay it down on My own initiative. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This commandment I received from My Father." (John 10:11, 17-18)
- And behold, one of those who were with Jesus reached and drew out his sword, and struck the slave of the high priest and cut off his ear. Then Jesus said to him, "Put your sword back into its place; for all those who take up the sword shall perish by the sword.
Or do you think I cannot appeal to My Father, and He will at once put at My disposal more than twelve legions of angels (72,000)? How then will the Scriptures be fulfilled, which say that it must happen this way?" (Matthew 26:51-54)
Jesus was hardly a man not in control of the situation. He knew what He was doing. Later, before Pontius Pilate, he didn't speak of His kingdom in the wishy-washy manner shown in Superstar:
- There may be a kingdom for me somewhere - if only I knew.
Rather, He had a better concept of His kingdom than anyone:
- Jesus answered, "My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, then My servants would be fighting so that I would not be handed over to the Jews; but as it is, My kingdom is not of this realm." (John 19:36)
Finally, Jesus Christ Superstar leaves Jesus in the tomb, ending with a piece titled, John 19:42. It doesn't acknowledge His resurrection, leaving out a critical part of the story, a part the devil wants none of us to believe.
There's a spiritual truth in my second favorite movie of all time, El Cid.
The story of El Cid is the national epic of Spain, about Rodrigo Diaz who lived in the 11th century. He's played in the movie by the great Charleton Heston.
The Cid is a loyal vassal of his king, Alfonso, who doesn't appreciate his sense of justice and refuses to assist the Cid's conquest of Valencia.
When the Cid takes the city, his men implore him to take the crown for himself, but he refuses and sends it to King Alfonso. The messenger offers it to the king, "The crown of Valencia!"
The king is troubled. Why would the Cid, whom he has wronged, do this? He reaches tentatively for the crown. "The crown of Valencia? The Cid sends this to me?" Then he pulls back, wanting to know the catch. "What are his conditions?"
The messenger responds, "There are no conditions!"
God says the same thing to us. He tells us there are no conditions for His love, and we have difficulty believing it. Surely, we think, that we must do something to earn His love. The truth is, we can't.
The truth is that God demonstated His love for us by sending His Son, the Lord Jesus, to die in our place to pay the penalty for our rebellion. All we have to do is accept that. There are no conditions!
All Creation Sings
- As soon as He was approaching, near the descent of the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of the disciples began to praise God joyfully with a loud voice for all the miracles which they had seen, shouting:
"Blessed in the King who comes in the name of the LORD; Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!"
Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Him, "Teacher, rebuke your disciples." But Jesus answered, "I tell you, if these become silent, the stones will cry out!" (Luke 19:37-40)
- The heavens are telling the glory of God; And their expanse is declaring the work of His hands. (Psalm 19:1)
All creation praises its Creator, the God of Music. Each atom vibrates at its own frequency, and vibration is music.