Spiritual Warfare: A Question of Authority

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So far, in our efforts to become more spiritually fit, we have successfully worked our way through three of the four levels of exercise in our Workout Program; where, at…

     Level 1, we covered the basics of our Faith; learning how, through Salvation, we are Redeemed from Sin and Death, and adopted as children into the Family of God.

     Level 2, we dealt with Sanctification; or, the life-long training process by which the Holy Spirit transforms us from the Sinners we once were into Holy Sons and Daughters of God.

     Level 3, we learned about Service; or, the Work of God that we, as His Children—the Church—have been commissioned to carry out. It was here that we were introduced to the concept that we…

…as the Corporate Body of Christ, are to reach out to those in the world around us, bringing them the good news of God’s Love and Salvation;
…as the Corporate Soul of Christ, are to relate as Family to those who are already a part of God’s Family; and,
…as the Corporate Spirit of Christ, are to serve as the Army of Spiritual Warriors charged with the task of liberating those still held in captivity by Satan, and taking his territory captive for the Kingdom of God.

Since this last matter deals with Spiritual Warfare, something which we have only recently touched upon, we will make its study the objective of this fourth and final Level of Exercise in our Program—a Program which, when completed, will have helped us…

Define our Position, as a Child of God;
Refine our Person, as a Child of God;
Outline our Purpose, as a Child of God; and,
Underline our Power, as a Child of God. 

It is through this progressive pattern of growth—from Position to Person to Purpose to Power—that we have advanced from our original state of spiritual infancy to God’s more highly desired state of spiritual maturity, becoming better equipped along the way for our eternal destiny with Jesus Christ.

Not How to Spend Eternity

It’s Certainly Not Biblical

What is this destiny for which we, as the Children of God, are presently being equipped?   Contrary to one of the more popular conceptions of what life will be like in the hereafter, we will not be floating around on a cloud, with a crown on our heads and nothing better to do than strum on our harps for all eternity.  Not only is this a perfectly wasteful—not to mention boring—way to spend one’s everlasting life, but it in no way compensates us for all of the hardships we have had to suffer through during our earthly sojourns.  And, it certainly doesn’t call for any specialized equipping on our parts to prepare for it.

On the other hand, the destiny that God has planned for us is a gloriously challenging one.  In keeping with His divinely ordained principles of Sowing and Reaping, it is one that will provide us with levels of rewards commensurate with the levels of faithfulness we have demonstrated during our time of training on the earth, and elevate us to positions of authority in the coming Kingdom of God.  From these positions, we will exercise the Dominion originally gifted to us by God, lost to us as a result of the Fall, and restored to us through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Destined for Dominion, Subjected to Slavery 

We first learned about this matter of Dominion during one of our visits to the story of Adam and Eve.  For, it was there that, upon his creation, Man—as both Male and Female—was commanded by God to fill the earth with people, and to rule over everything in it.  This Right to Rule, however, was lost when Adam, as a result of his disobedience to God, forfeited his Position of Power—a position which Satan immediately claimed as his own.

In his classic book, Destined for the Throne, the late Paul Billheimer explains some of the legal issues involved in this transfer of power…

The entire universe is governed by law…God’s grant of authority and dominion over the earth to man was a bona-fide gift.  This authority and dominion became legally his.  What he did with it was his own responsibility.  If, so to speak, he ‘fumbled the ball’ and lost it, God could not lawfully step in and repossess it for him.[1]

We know from Romans 6:16 that…

…if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness.

Therefore, when Adam chose to obey Satan instead of God, he became Satan’s slave.  And…

As a slave of Satan, Adam lost all of his legal rights, not only to his person but also to his domain.  This gave Satan legal authority to rule over man and the earth.  If Satan’s dominion was to be revoked, a way had to be found to redeem fallen man and recover his lost authority without violating universal principles of justice.

No angel could enter the contest because these legal rights were never his.  Thus a member of Adam’s race had to be found who could qualify to enter suit in universal court and wrest Adam’s lost heritage and dominion from Satan.  The government of the earth had been given to man.  It was lost by man.  It could be legally recovered only by a man.[2]

But where was such a man to be found?  To qualify for the task at hand, he would have to be a full-fledged human being; and yet, because Adam and all those who would eventually descend from him had become the slaves of Satan, he would have to be sinless in order to be free from Satan’s control…

To the human mind the situation was hopeless, but God found a way.  ‘When the fullness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of woman, made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons’ (Gal. 4:4).  God solved the problem by the Incarnation.

Since Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit, the divine nature was present in Him.  Because he was sinless, Satan had no claim upon Him.  But because He was ‘made of a woman,’ He was an authentic human being and could therefore qualify as a bona-fide member of the human race to enter the legal fight to reclaim Adam’s lost estate.[3]

Victory in Jesus

He Has Made Us More than Conquerors

The Spiritual Battle to the Cross 

Although I can’t think of anyone who would willingly sign up for a task like this, the spiritual battle to win back our freedom that Jesus freely committed Himself to was one that was repeatedly characterized by humiliation, rejection, opposition, and affliction; which, when you put them all together, add up to a whole lot of suffering.

Just think of the humiliation involved when…

…Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.  And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross (Phil. 2: 5-8).

Or, the rejection He must have experienced when…

  • His family…went out to seize him, for they were saying, ‘He is out of his mind (Mark 3:21).
  • The people in His hometown said, ‘Where did this man get these things?  What is the wisdom given to him?  How are such mighty works done by his hands?  Is this not the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon?  And are not his sisters here with us?’  And they took offense at him (Mark 6: 2-3).
  • John the Baptist sent messengers to Jesus, asking, ‘Are you [sure] you are the one [the Messiah] who is to come, or shall we look for another?’ (Matt. 11:3)
  • Upon hearing some of Jesus’ hard sayings, ‘…many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him.’  (John 6:66)

As for opposition, Jesus had that in abundance; for, even as a child, when He was perceived to be a contender for his throne, King Herod tried to have Him killed.  And later, during His earthly ministry, He found Himself constantly at odds with all factions of Jewish society…

  • With the Sadducees, because He threatened their economic and political power;
  • With the Pharisees, because they considered Jesus a law-breaker, and His teachings overturned their religious traditions;
  • With the Essenes, the ascetics of the day, who considered Jesus too worldly because He socialized with “sinners;”
  • With the Zealots, or the anarchists of the day, because Jesus preached a message of love instead of rebellion; and,
  • With the people who, in their apathy, did not want to be confronted with change.

And, when it came to affliction, no one has ever endured more.  Of Him, it was said that…

…he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him.  He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief, and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted.  But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed.  All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.

He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth.  By oppression and judgment he was taken away; and as for his generation, who considered that he was cut off out of the land of the living, stricken for the transgression of my people?  (Is. 53: 2-8)

And, if all this wasn’t enough, from the time of Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness at the beginning of His ministry until the moment when He drew His final breath, Satan, in an effort to take Him captive through sin just like the first Adam, was constantly working to trip Him up…

The fallen Lucifer, once the Light Bearer, the guardian of the throne of God, the highest of all pre-Adamic created beings, marshaled all of the available resources of the underworld in an effort to break down the allegiance of the God-man to His heavenly Father.  One weakness revealed, one thought of rebellion or self will entertained, and all of Jesus’ efforts to repossess the world and its enslaved race from the usurping god of the world would be lost.[4]

But, Praise God, in spite of all this pressure, Jesus didn’t give in; for…

When Jesus died without failing in the smallest detail, His death resulted not only in defeating Satan’s purpose to obtain a claim upon Him—it also canceled all of Satan’s legal claim upon the earth and the whole human race…

Therefore, since Calvary, Satan has absolutely no rights or claims upon anyone or anything.  Whatever authority he carried with him on his banishment from heaven passed into the hands of the new Man along with the lost heritage of Adam[5]

Dominion Restored

So We Can Rule and Reign with Him Throughout Eternity

Our Authority Restored

It is this authority that Jesus restored to His disciples; the same authority…

…to tread upon serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall injure you (Luke 10:19)…

…that Jesus delegated to the seventy-two He sent out to proclaim the Kingdom of God—and, it is the same authority that we possess today.  For…

As individuals we have authority over all the combined powers of the enemy.  This is an incredible, wonderful truth.  Everything at Satan’s disposal—every demon, every coven, every cult and religion, every work, and every influence—is subject to the authority given to us by Jesus.

When Jesus rose from the dead after ripping the usurped authority from Satan’s hands, He did not immediately go to heaven.  He stopped off to see the eleven remaining disciples…Jesus handed to them the authority He had taken from Satan.  The authority legally changed hands once more and belonged to man again.[6]

This truth is what we need to keep at the forefront of our thinking as we approach our upcoming exercises in Spiritual Warfare—because our success in any battle will be totally dependent upon our acknowledgement of the One who has already won the victory.  Satan and his demons certainly know who it is; for, it was Jesus who, after overcoming every form of Spiritual Warfare in His life–on the Cross and through His resurrection…

…disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them (Colossians 2:15).

Even so, Satan and his legions continue to fight on, using our ignorance of the authority in Christ as one of their chief means of success.  Let’s determine not to give them that critical edge over us; always bearing in mind that, in whatever situation we may find ourselves, the One who won the war for us has already been there on our behalf…

…For, we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin (Hebrews 4:15).

Therefore…let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.  In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.  (Hebrews 12:1-4)

The Victory of the Cross

The War Has Already Been Won for Us by Jesus

 

 

The Gaither Vocal Band reminds us of who we are in “On the Authority”…

 

 

[1] Paul E. Billheimer, Destined for the Throne (Minneapolis, Minnesota: Bethany House Publishers, 1975), 73.

[2] Billheimer, Destined, 73-74.

[3] Billheimer, Destined, 74.

[4] Billheimer, Destined, 76.

[5] Billheimer, Destined, 79-80.

[6] Dean Sherman, Spiritual Warfare for Every Christian (Seattle, Washington: YWAM Publishing, 1990), 130-131.

Service: Women and the Work of God, Part 1

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Can't Isn't in My Vocabulary

This is what my mother always told me!

In our last exercise, Service: Interrupted…By Devilish Design, we learned how Satan, in his drive to establish his kingdom’s rule over the earth, has been at work trying to prevent the establishment of God’s Kingdom on the earth.  We discovered that, from the beginning of human history to the present time, he has…

  • Grown his kingdom by alienating people from God, taking and keeping them captive through sin;
  • Limited the growth of God’s Kingdom by keeping those under his dominion ignorant of God’s goodness, as well as the freedom they could be enjoying as members of His Kingdom; and,
  • Hindered the advancement of the Kingdom of God by means of an on-going war, aimed at disrupting the Service of its citizens—namely, those liberated from Satan’s kingdom of darkness and death through the freedom of faith found only in Jesus Christ.

We also learned that Satan has enjoyed a considerable amount of success in this war, simply by keeping those in God’s Kingdom…

  • In the dark as to their true mission in life, and ignorant of the resources available to them for successful living, merely by limiting their knowledge and understanding of the Bible;
  • At odds with one another by stirring up misunderstandings, envies, and petty offenses among them; and,
  • Battle-fatigued, or frustrated, discouraged, and completely worn out from all the conflict.

These aren’t the only tactics he has used to good effect, though.  Through his exploitation of the conflict between the sexes, a by-product of man’s fall from grace, he has been able to sideline roughly one-half of the workforce in God’s Kingdom, thereby greatly reducing the amount of Kingdom Work being done in the world.  These workers, whose God-ordained right to serve has so often been denied, are none other than the female members of God’s Family—the very ones (as we learned in Service: The Church as the Family of God) who were meant to serve as pictures in the flesh of the person and work of the Holy Spirit.

For us to better understand how this situation came to be, we’ll need to revisit the story of Adam and Eve.  This time, instead of focusing our attention on the pattern of seduction used by the devil to ensnare our ancient forbearers, we will be approaching the story with an eye to understanding God’s purposes for the Man and Woman, as well as the ways in which sin has affected those purposes.

  1. God’s Purpose for the Sexes

As we have mentioned more than once during the course of these exercises, God’s purpose in creating Man was to provide Himself with a Family to love, both now and throughout eternity.  As a Family of Beings bearing the image and likeness of the One who was giving them life; and, since…

…God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship him in spirit and truth (John 4:24) …

…it was essential that the members of God’s Family also be Spirit Beings.  As the late Dr. Myles Munroe explains in his excellent book, Understanding the Purpose and Power of Woman

…when God made man, He essentially drew man out of Himself, so that the essence of man would be just like Him.  In this way, the receiver could be just like the Giver, and could reciprocate His love.  Since ‘God is spirit,’ He created man as spirit.

So man—the spirit-man—was created as a result of God’s love.  Note carefully that, at this point, we are still talking about man, the spirit.  We are not yet talking about male and female.  Whom did God create in His image?  Man.  Man is spirit, and spirits have no gender.  The Bible never talks about a male or female spirit.  God created the spirit-man without a gender.[1]

Thus, when the time was right for His Family to come into existence, the first thing God did was create a Spirit Being whom He called Man…

So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them (Genesis 1:27).

And, once this Spirit had been created…

God took this spirit-man, and He placed him in two physical forms:  male and female.  The spirit-man is neither male nor female.  However, to fulfill His eternal purposes, God used two physical forms, called male and female, to express the one entity of man.  Therefore, the essence of both male and female is the resident spirit within them, called ‘man.’

Whom did God call man?  Both male and female.[2]

Male and Female Houses

Different Houses for Different Purposes

With God’s “eternal purposes” being the creation of Family—and a family being the product of the sexual union between Male and Female—God took the Spirit-Man and placed him in separate physical “houses” or bodies; bodies differing from one another because of the unique roles or functions they were designed to perform.  In the role of the Male, Man was designed to demonstrate the love, leadership, strength, guidance, provision, and protection of God the Father, and to be the Giver of the Seed of Life; while, in the role of the Female, Man was designed to demonstrate the love, respect, wisdom, care-giving, gentleness, grace, empathy, and sensitivity of God the Holy Spirit, and to be the Receiver and Nurturer of the Seed provided by the Male.  Through the coming together of the Giver and Receiver, then, the life shared by them would be reproduced over and over, and the Family of God would continue to grow.

In keeping with His divine order of creation, God built the house for the Male first, as He…

…formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being (Genesis 2:7).

Once the Male had become a living being, God placed him in the garden home He had created for him.  And, after instructing him as to his responsibilities and the rules by which he was to live,  God set about completing His final work of creation, with this pronouncement…

It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him (Genesis 2:18).

Turning His attention to the construction of the house for the Female, He…

…caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed its place with flesh.

And the rib that the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man.

Then the man said, ‘This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man (Genesis 2:21-23).’

Here, in this special construction of the Female’s house, we see how God, in the same way that He had taken Man out of Himself to be someone He could love, took the Woman out of the Man and gave her to him to love.[3]  Here, too, we have Man’s acknowledgment that the Woman, having been made of the same stuff as he was, was his equal and partner in the work of God.  With His creation then complete…

…God blessed them. And God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth’… And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good (Genesis 1:28, 31).

So, here at the beginning of things, and in keeping with the purposes of God, in Man—that is, the Spirit-Man created by God for relationship with Himself—there was no Male or Female.  It was only in the human body that sexual distinctions were made—distinctions determined solely by the part each sex was to play in the creation of God’s Family.  Here…

  • Both Male and Female were equal in the eyes of God;
  • Both Male and Female were given the task of stewardship over God’s creation;
  • Both Male and Female were blessed by God…

…and, as far as God was concerned, it was all very good!

God's Creation is Good

It Was All Good

 

  1. God’s Punishment on the Sexes 

With so much good going on in the Garden, it seems such a shame that Evil had to rear its ugly head and spoil it all.  And yet, for Man to truly be a son of God, it wasn’t enough for him to be…

An eternal spirit, like God;
A rational being, like God;
An emotional being, like God;
A willful being, like God; or,
A moral being, like God.

He would also have to be Holy, like God.  Before this could happen, though, he would have to do what was right in every situation, just like God.  But, at this point in Man’s brief history, he was living in his original state of innocence, for his righteousness had yet to be proven through testing. 

People have often wondered why a Holy God would allow Evil into the world, without taking into consideration that for Man to truly be like God, he must want the same things God wants and love God enough to do what He says.  For Man to be free to choose God’s way, then, there would have to be an alternative from which he could choose—with Evil being the only other option to obedience to God.

Of course, Evil in this case did not look like Evil

…for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light (2 Corinthians 11:14).

Instead, it came packaged as a rational self-interest and an appealing religion of works, and was presented in such a way that it would overturn God’s established order of creation, inverting His authority structure in the process.  Like it or not, God’s order and authority structure for Creation was this…

God First,
Then Man,
Then Woman,
Then the Animal Kingdom.

We’ve already established that, up until this time, Man and Woman were…

Equal in their position before God;
Equal in their call to the work of God; and,
Equal in their blessing by God. 

But, for the sake of order, God created Man first, placing him as Head over his wife (and eventual family); a position in which he would be held accountable for everything happening in his family.  This position of Headship, however, was never meant to be a mark or measure of his superiority over the Woman.  If it was, then we would have a serious problem with the following verse…

But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God (1 Corinthians 11:3).

If, being the Head indicated one’s superiority over another, this would mean that God the Father was and is superior to God the Son—and we know from the Scriptures that this just isn’t the case.  For…

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was in the beginning with God.  All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. (John 1:1-3).

I [Christ] and the Father are one (John 10:30). 

This was why the Jews were seeking all the more to kill him, because not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God (John 5:18).

He [Christ] is the image of the invisible God…for in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell… (Colossians 1:15, 19). 

From these verses, it is easy to see that, although God is the Head of Christ, Jesus is still equal to God. That being said, what are we to make of this statement by Jesus to His disciples on the eve of His crucifixion?

You heard me say to you, ‘I am going away, and I will come to you.’ If you loved me, you would have rejoiced, because I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than II do as the Father has commanded me, so that the world may know that I love the Father (John 14:28, 31).

In this case, is God being “greater” than Jesus an indication that He is somehow superior to Jesus?  Or, in doing what the Father has commanded Him to do, has Jesus’ equality with the Father been diminished in any way?  No, not at all; for, in His Person and in His Power, Jesus remains equal to God; it is only in His Position, as Leader, that God is greater than He—with this assumption of Leadership being solely for the sake of order.  In other words, for the sake of fulfilling the Father’s Kingdom Purposes, Christ Jesus…

…who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped…emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.

And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father (Philippians 2:6-11).

So, although He was equal to God, Christ willingly chose to submit Himself to God’s Leadership so that the Plan of Redemption needed for God’s Kingdom purposes and the creation of His Family, could be realized.

Headship, then, was and is a good thing, and remains an essential and powerful component in the establishment of God’s Kingdom on earth.  However, it was not the only component that would be needed; if it had been, then God would never have created Woman.  For, in His creation of a Helper for the Man, God provided the Man with a power to help get the job done which was lacking in himself—that being, the subtle but dynamic power of the Woman’s suggestion, encouragement, and Influence.  Had the Man been left in charge on his own, his way of carrying out God’s Work would have primarily been through fiat; an effective but not necessarily a pleasant way to lead.  The Woman, on the other hand, as a picture or type of the Holy Spirit, through her powerful leadership gifts of persuasion, could help him accomplish things that he couldn’t do by himself.

Being fully aware, then, of the limitations of Man’s “Position Power,” God fashioned a partner for him with the “Influence Power”[1] he needed to complement or complete him, and to assist him in accomplishing God’s Kingdom Work.

According to Jewish Tradition

…and, that the union of the Male and Female was considered to be the reunification of their one soul?

In order for us to more fully comprehend the Fall and its effects on the Male-Female relationship, it is vital that we first understand God’s Purposes for Man, along with the system of order and authority He instituted within His Creation.  To be sure, Satan was well aware of them for, when he bypassed the Man in his Position Power in the Garden, and approached the Woman instead, he did so with the intention of using her Influence Power to achieve his Evil end of overturning God’s Kingdom, so that he could advance his own.

Because we have already covered a lot of important information in this exercise—information which will, no doubt, take a little time to digest—and, because there is still much more to come, I think it would be wise for us to divide this exercise into two parts, and take a break for reflection at this point.  Having laid the groundwork for our discussion of the role of Women in the Work of God in the first part of this exercise, when we return for part two…

  • We will learn how Satan’s manipulation of the Woman’s Influence Power led to the forfeiture of Man’s Position Power, and of the consequences of that debacle;
  • We will learn how the Woman’s Influence Power was checked during Old Testament times, and compare that to what is intended for women in New Testament times; and,
  • We will briefly discuss two of the most troublesome Scripture passages dealing with the role of Women in the Work of God…

…so be sure to check back soon for the rest of this rather vigorous workout session.

 

Shane and Shane remind us in “Liberty” that it is for freedom that we have been set free…

 

[1] Dr. Myles Munroe, Understanding the Purpose and Power of Woman (New Kensington, PA: Whitaker House, 2001), 54-55.

[2] Munroe, 55-56.

[3] Munroe, 61.

[1] Munroe, 185.

Salvation: Do We Have a Choice?

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I have been a Christian for many years and in all that time, the three subjects that seem to have generated more confusion and conflict within the Body of Christ than anything else have been…

Predestination and Election
The Eternal Security of the Believer, and
Women in Ministry.

For all of the discussion and arguments provoked by these subjects, though, not much in the way of a consensus seems to have been achieved.  I believe this is primarily due to the fact that proponents on both sides of the issues have often neglected to interpret the verses supporting their positions within their immediate contexts, as well as within the overall context of the scriptures.  However, I believe that once they have been interpreted with a proper understanding of God’s overall purpose for man, and with a clear definition of the terms involved, we will find that these concepts are not all that difficult to grasp and that most, if not all, of the confusion can be eliminated.

Predestination and Election

What Predestination and Election Are All About

Since both Predestination and Election and Eternal Security relate to the subject of Salvation—which we are presently addressing in this series of exercises—they will be dealt with in each of our next two sessions, while the subject of Women in Ministry will be addressed in a session of its own at a later time.  Now, as for…

Predestination

The most important requirement for understanding Predestination is the knowledge that God’s purpose in creating mankind was to bring into existence a people who could ultimately become His family.  The significance of this purpose becomes clear when we look at three passages of scripture which address the subject of predestination; for, in each one, Predestination is presented within the context of the believer’s membership in the family of God:

In Ephesians 1: 4-5:  He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself.

In Romans 8: 29:  For whom He foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren [brothers].

In Ephesians 1:11:  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, that we who first trusted Christ should be to the praise of His glory.  (This verse should be coupled with Romans 8: 16-17:  The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are the children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together.)

From these passages, it is easy to see that we have been Predestined—

–   To be adopted as sons of God—that is, to be legally placed into the family of God as His children;
–   To be conformed to the image of God’s Son, Jesus—that is, to be remade spiritually until we think, look, and act like God’s children;
–   To obtain an inheritance—that is, as legally adopted sons, and as spiritually conformed sons, to inherit the estate of our Father.  This inheritance was secured for us through the death of Jesus Christ, and is an inheritance which we will receive upon our own deaths.

Once we understand that God’s purpose for Predestination was to make us part of His family, then we can come to a better appreciation of the term’s definition.  The word predestine is made up of two components…

…pre—meaning before + destine—meaning to set apart (or intend) for a certain purpose.

When God says that we have been predestined, what He means is that pre-, or before the foundation of the world, He destined, or set man apart for a certain purpose—or, He designed us in advance for a particular destiny.  As we have just seen, that destiny is:

–   To be adopted as sons of God;
–   To be conformed to the image of Christ; and,
–   To inherit the riches of the Father.

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Supporting Adoption Through Salvation

But how did He accomplish this?  First, God pre-designed us for our destiny by the way in which He originally created us; and second, through His plan for our re-creation, or Salvation.

In Genesis 1: 26-28, we are told that when God created man, He created him in His own image and likeness.  That is, He created man:

–  With a spirit which would live eternally, like God;
–  With a soul consisting of a personality made up of mind, will, and emotions, like God; and,
–  As a moral being with the capacity to distinguish between right and wrong, like God.

However, when the first man, Adam, was seduced by Satan, he failed the first test of “Sonship” which was obedience to the Father.  As a result, man’s spirit, the means by which he communicated with God, died; and, without the spirit to give godly direction to his personality, man became a slave not only to his fleshly desires but a slave to Satan as well.

When God’s intended “sons” became slaves to sin and Satan, He put into effect the second part of His plan for our Predestination—that is, His plan for our re-creation or Salvation.  Through the substitutionary and sacrificial death of Christ on the cross, God provided the means by which we could be redeemed, justified, and regenerated from the curse, penalty, and power of sin.  Then, through the work of the Holy Spirit, He provided the means by which we could be drawn to God, convicted of our need to be saved, converted from sinners into “sons” of God, and sanctified, or set apart for the holy purposes of God.

As you can see, every human being who has ever lived has been predestined—or designed beforehand—for the glorious destiny of becoming a child of God, just by virtue of the way He was created by God.  However, because we are all sinners and have fallen short of the glory of God’s intention for us, not everyone will realize that destiny—and this is where election comes into play.

Election

By definition, Election means a choosing or choice, implying that a vote of some sort has taken place.  However, this does not mean that God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit have held an election in order to vote on which person will or will not be allowed into the family; for that would contradict the clear meaning of Scripture in passages like:

Heaven or Help

Be Sure to Cast Your Vote for Heaven Before It’s Too Late

John 3:14-16:  And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.  For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.

Joel 2: 32 and Acts 2:21:  And it shall come to pass that whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.

Romans 10: 11: For the Scripture says, Whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame. For there is no distinction between the Jew and the Greek, for the same Lord over all is rich to all who call upon Him.  For whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”

So, if the members of the Godhead are not the Ones doing the voting, then that must mean that the ones who are making the choices are the humans involved.  In other words, although God has predestined, or pre-designed, every human being to become a member of His family, the responsibility for electing, or choosing, to do so rests with the individual.  The conclusion that we must come to is that God, in His foreknowledge, knows who will and who will not elect to become His children, but He does not do the electing for them.  Man, having been created in the image of God, with the capacity to choose and a will to exercise, is not only given the opportunity but also the responsibility to choose where, and with whom, his spirit will spend eternity.

Now that we have been strengthened by this understanding of God’s purposes through Predestination and Election, we are ready move on, more fully prepared to take on our next challenging exercise—which is, the question of whether or not we can lose the Salvation that Christ died to give us.

Predestination

Everyone Has Been Predestined for Adoption into the Family of God

 

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Jesus invites ALL to come, just as they are…

 

God Remembers…

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In anticipation of our soon-to-begin Vignette #8, let’s take a few minutes to review the situation that poor Noah was in when our last Vignette ended.  As you may recall he, his immediate family, and a large number of animals were locked up in the Ark—the really big boat he had built at God’s direction—and were floating around on what must have seemed like an interminable sea.

The Ark on the Waves

At Sea in the Ark

This massive ocean had come into being (perhaps I should say it had come back into being) when God released onto the earth the waters which had been stored above and below it at the beginning of creation; an action which eliminated nearly every trace of His original creative work and restored the earth to its initial state of primordial chaos.

We also need to think back to the summary statements of our off-stage Narrator, made just before the curtains closed on Vignette #7, as he sadly reported…

And all flesh died that moved on the earth (Gen. 7:21)…
Only Noah was left, and those who were with him in the ark (Gen. 7:23)…
And the waters prevailed on the earth 150 days (Gen. 7:24)…

I don’t know about you but if it had been me, by this time I would have been one severely traumatized human being; not only because I had so recently endured the most terrorizing of all disasters—one involving earthquakes, volcanoes, fires, floods, and hurricane-like storms—but, as it was just pointed out by our Narrator, because I and all those with me would have now been cooped up on a boat for 150 days, without any sign of land or end to our cruising in sight!  Certainly, 150 days would have given me plenty of time to ruminate on our situation and to formulate a list of the “concerns” that I would have liked to have presented to God, should I ever hear from Him again.  In fact, if it had been me there, instead of Noah, here are a few of the issues I would have liked to have brought up in my next encounter with Him…

  1. God, what happened to You—where did You go? Did You forget about us?  We haven’t had a word from You in 150 days.  Given the ordeal that we have just been through, couldn’t You have made an appearance every once in a while to give us an update on what has been going on outside of this boat?
  1. Speaking of these 150 days, when I first signed on for this venture, I was led to believe that it would only last for 40 days and 40 nights—roughly six weeks and not the five months which it has become. As You well know, I have already invested a good part of my life, not to mention all of my material resources, in this undertaking; so I don’t think it is asking too much for You to have been a little more upfront about the actual terms of this contract—especially when You know how much I value having a clear “Definition of Terms” laid out for me, with no contingencies hidden away in the fine print.
  1. You see, if I had only known in advance how long this confinement was going to last, I would have packed a lot more clothes and brought a lot more scrolls to read; plus, the boys could have brought along some of their musical instruments to help break up the boredom. During the 40 days that the Deluge was in progress, we at least had the sound of the wind and the rain, not to mention the on-going underground rumblings and convulsions to listen to.  But for the past 110 days, there has been NOTHING to break up the sound of dead air and the monotonous drone of water sloshing up against the hull of the boat.
  1. Finally, about the living conditions here on the Ark, I am very sorry to have to report that they have been a lot more challenging than what I had anticipated. Of particular concern to me have been…

The Water Situation

Because of the foresight that You gave us, we knew to incorporate cisterns into the design and construction of the Ark and, during the forty-day downpour, we were able to collect and store a great deal of rainwater in them.  However, since the rain ended—and since we have been confined on board a lot longer than I had originally planned for—we have been unable to replenish our supplies.  In light of this, and not knowing how much longer we will be afloat, it seems that the wisest course for us to take now is to initiate a water rationing program for the duration of this trip.

The Sanitation Problem

Of course, the rationing of our water will mean limiting the number of baths we can take and the amount of laundry we can do–plus, it will make keeping this huge vessel clean virtually impossible.  When you consider that we haven’t had a really good breeze through here since the rain stopped, and with odor from the animals wafting up from the two lower tiers of the Ark to add to our aroma, the atmosphere in the upper tier where we are living will, no doubt, soon become rather rank.

By the way, about the animals, we are very grateful that once they were settled in their darkened cubicles and the boat started rocking back and forth, they all seemed to drift off into the deepest and most extended period of sleep imaginable—in fact, they are all still sleeping.  I just can’t imagine how we would have ever fed them all, plus dispatched all of their pooh, had they been awake all of this time!

The Matter of Our Diet

As for our food, we have been eating nothing but grains and dried fruit for the past five months and, to put it bluntly, we are getting pretty sick of it.  There are only so many ways these foods can be prepared—especially when you consider that, due to safety concerns, we cannot light a fire over which to cook them.  Mrs. Noah has done her best to be creative but really, our menu is getting awfully tiresome and, after all of this time, it is starting to taste a little stale.

It is not that I am complaining, mind You; it’s just that, while we are so very thankful to be alive—particularly when everyone else on the earth has perished—I felt I should call these things to Your attention, in the event that another flood of this magnitude is called for in the future.  If it is, then You can use this information to make adjustments to the plan, and to work out the bugs in the operation before any such disaster gets underway.  Oh…just an afterthought…in the event that another Ark is ever needed, it would really be nice to have a deck on top so that, when the rain is over, whoever is manning the ship can go out and get some sun and fresh air.  I am not complaining, mind You—I’m just saying…

With that, we begin to hear the sound of splashing water coming from the Stage, and as the curtains open, we see the Ark—just as we left it—bobbing up and down on the waves.  And, as if he had been reading my thoughts, we hear our Narrator open this Vignette with these words…

But God remembered Noah and all the beasts and all the livestock that were with him in the ark.

And God made a wind blow over the earth, and the waters subsided.  The fountains of the deep and the windows of the heavens were closed, the rain from the heavens was restrained, and the waters receded from the earth continually (Gen. 8:1-2).

And, as if to let us know that this wasn’t going to be an overnight process, he goes on to add that…

…At the end of 150 days the water had abated, and in the seventh month, on the seventeenth day of the month, the ark came to rest on the mountains of Ararat.  And the waters continued to abate until the tenth month; in the tenth month, on the first day of the month, the tops of the mountains were seen (Gen. 8:3-5).

Noah Releasing the Raven

Noah Releasing the Raven

We then watch as Noah, after waiting another forty days, opens the window of the Ark and sends out a raven which, rather than returning to the Ark, flies back and forth over the waters until they are dried up off of the earth.  Noah also sends out a dove at this time but, when she can find no dry place to land, she returns to him in the Ark.  Undaunted, seven days later, Noah tries the same thing again, only this time the dove comes back to him in the evening with a freshly plucked olive leaf in her mouth.  While this lets Noah know that the waters have subsided, ever patient, he waits another seven days before sending out the dove again.  This time, however, she does not return.

After this, our Narrator continues with this commentary…

…in the six hundred and first year, in the first month, the first day of the month, the waters were dried up from off the earth.  And Noah removed the covering of the ark and looked and behold, the face of the ground was dry.

In the second month, on the twenty-seventh day of the month, the earth had dried out.  Then God said to Noah, ‘Go out from the ark, you and your wife, and your sons and your sons’ wives with you.  Bring out with you every living thing that is with you of all flesh—birds and animal and every creeping thing that creeps on the earth—that they may swarm on the earth, and be fruitful and multiply on the earth.’

So [after spending 370 days in the ArkNoah went out, and his sons and his wife and his son’s wives with him.  Every beast, every creeping thing, and every bird, everything that moves on the earth, went out by families from the ark (Gen.8:13-19).

Noah leaving the Ark

Leaving the Ark–At Last!

In another little aside here, let me just say—if it had been me there, instead of Noah, after floating around in a boat with a bunch of animals for over a year, a boat over which I had no controls,  I would have fallen down and kissed the ground, dirt and all–even though I have no use whatsoever for dirt, sweat, or bugs!  I would have been so happy to be back on solid ground again, I would have hugged that dirt until someone came and scraped me up off of it. Once again, I am not complaining, I am just saying…

Noah's Offering Following the Flood

Noah’s Worship and Offering of Thanksgiving

However, on our Stage, we see Noah do something entirely different.  He immediately sets about building a makeshift altar with the few materials he can find, and upon which he proceeds to offer some of every clean animal and bird he brought with him as a burnt offering.  But, while we sit silently, reverently, watching the smoke from the offering rise heavenward, our reverie is suddenly shattered by the voice of the Lord as He utters this all-important promise…

I will never again curse the ground because of man, for the intention of man’s heart is evil from his youth.  Neither will I ever again strike down every living creature as I have done.  While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night shall not cease (Gen. 8:21-22).

Then, in much the same way that He did with Adam and Eve, God blesses Noah and his sons, saying…

Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth…be fruitful and multiply, teem on the earth and multiply in it (Gen. 9:1, 7).

However, unlike He did with Adam and Eve, God tells Noah that from now on…

The fear of you and the dread of you shall be upon every beast of the earth and upon every bird of the heavens, upon everything that creeps on the ground and all the fish of the sea.  Into your hand they are delivered.  Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you.  And as I gave you the green plants, I give you everything.

But you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood.  And for your lifeblood I will require a reckoning:  from every beast I will require it and from man.  From his fellow man I will require a reckoning of the life of man.  For…whoever shed the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in his own image (Gen. 9:2-6).

Then, as if this wasn’t enough, God—who had warned Noah of the Flood, who had instructed Noah how to build an Ark for the safety of him, his family, and the animals, and who had protected and provided for Noah throughout the tribulation of the Flood and its aftermath—does one more amazing thing.  He enters into a covenant with Noah—that is, He initiates a contract with him, in which He promises that…

…never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of the flood, and never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth.

This is the sign of the covenant that I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all future generations:  I have set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth.  When I bring clouds over the earth and the bow is seen in the clouds, I will remember my covenant that is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh. And the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh.

When the bow is in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth.  This is the sign of the covenant that I have established between me and all flesh that is on the earth (Genesis 9-17).

Noah's Rainbow

The Sign of God’s Promise to Noah

Wow, what a wonderful promise–and what a great place at which to end Vignette #8! Before we leave this Vignette, though, let me just say, that with this promise, all of my previously stated “concerns”–you know, the ones that were offered in the event of another flood–can be completely disregarded.  For, while they were legitimate at the time, they are now no longer relevant.  Please keep in mind that I am still not complaining, I am only saying…

 

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Join the Gaithers as they remind us that in any crisis, as long as we are in the Ark of Salvation, “It Is Well With My Soul”…

 

 

Biblical illustrations courtesy of http://www.freebibleimages.org/.

Wednesday’s Gift…

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Wednesday’s gift in celebration of His Truth, My Voice’s second birthday is a replay of my favorite teaching video, “The Bible:  The Story Behind the Bible.”  I originally created this as a PowerPoint presentation to be used in my Bible Studies and then later converted it to a video.  If you have ever wondered what the Big Story of the Bible is, then this video should help explain it to you.

 

Tuesday’s Gift…

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Tuesday’s Gift in celebration of His Truth, My Voice’s second birthday is a return visit to the reflection,

“Of Trees and Tapestries…”    

Tapestry

A Beautiful Example of a Tapestry

“The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn; to grant to those who mourn in Zion—to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the garment of praise instead of a faint spiritthat they may be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he may be glorified.” (Isaiah 61:1-3)

Try to imagine with me, if you can, what human history might look like to God, as He surveys it from beginning to end.  From the prophetic insight given to us by Isaiah in the passage above, it seems quite likely that God would view it as a forest of trees, one stretching all the way from the Garden of Eden to the coming Paradise in the new Heaven and Earth; trees which, in His eyes, are representative of the countless lives of men and women throughout history who have been made righteous by the blood of His Son, Jesus Christ.  As plantings of God, they have come in every size and shade imaginable, yet they have all produced the same desired fruit of holiness by which the Lord God, the creator and sustainer of all the earth, will forever be glorified!  What a truly satisfying picture this would be for God to behold; nothing less than a magnificent tapestry depicting His marvelous and ages-long redemption; an intricately woven work of art designed to surround His throne and to testify of His unfathomable love, grace, and mercy for all eternity.

Weaving on a Loom

At Work on a Loom

Although some may not be all that familiar with tapestries, they have been around for quite a long time, with some known to have been in use as far back as the ancient Grecian era.  Similar in texture to carpets, but hung on walls instead of covering floors, tapestries have served as portable murals for centuries, often gracing the throne rooms of kings as ways of depicting the memorable events or victories that have taken place during their reigns.  Typically, tapestries are woven on vertical looms, or large wooden frames, that hold two sets of threads—the longer set being the stationary, immutable threads running lengthwise which are called the “warp,” with the shorter set being the variable threads running width-wise which are called the “weft.”  The threads making up the warp are held in place under tension by the two sturdy frames at the end of the looms; while the shorter and discontinuous weft (threads) are woven in and out of part or all of the warp to create the design of the tapestry.

With this imagery in mind, let’s now try to imagine how such a weaving process might be applied to the story of God’s redemption.  To begin, let’s close our eyes and try to visualize an enormous loom being set into place by God when, “In the beginning…,” He bracketed the timeline for His redemptive story through the placement of two sturdy frames, one marking the beginning and the other marking the ending of human history.  Having already discussed these at great length during many of our previous visits, we should be quite familiar with the two wooden frames by now; for they are the two trees that man was given to choose from in the Garden of Eden.  The tree that was chosen, the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, in its choice, became the beginning frame for the tapestry; while the tree that was rejected, the Tree of Life, took its place as the end frame—the frame toward which all of the design work was to be directed.

Given the enormous distance between these two frames and the incredible number of events that the design of this tapestry was meant to depict, we should not be surprised to learn that an additional piece of wood had to be inserted at the midpoint of the loom in order to secure and support the weight of the weaving work which would be taking place upon it.  This plank was a tree, too, and one that we have also already discussed; for it was the Cross on which the Son of God was crucified; the lifeless tree which, throughout time, has served as the embodiment of all of mankind’s dead works and futile attempts at self-salvation.

Now, with the framework for the loom all set up in our minds, let’s begin to visualize the commencement of the weaving process as the first set of threads are placed on the loom.  These are the warp (threads), and for the purposes of this tapestry, they are ten unbreakable cords which have been stretched tautly from, and then securely fastened to, the first side frame, over the middle plank, and on to the other side frame.  White in color and extending out across the ages, these cords are God’s eternally fixed standards of holiness–His unchanging rules for righteous living–known to us as the Ten Commandments; the plumb lines against which the actions of all men will be and have been measured.   It is only fitting that these should be the first threads that are woven into the fabric of redemption because, unlike everything else:

     –   The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul;  the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple;
     –   The precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes;
     –   The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever, the rules of the Lord are true, and righteous altogether (Ps. 19:7-9).

Given the nature of these laws, what better foundation for redemption could have been laid, other than these?

With God’s laws now securely attached to the frames of the loom, the really intricate work on the tapestry can begin to get underway.  What makes this part of the process so tricky is that before the weft (threads)—or those short and variegated “loose threads”created by humanity’s failures to measure up to the standards of God’s laws—can be woven over and under that holy warp, they must first be tied to the crimson cord that runs through the entire length of the tapestry’s design.  This cord was introduced into the human story immediately following man’s first violation of God’s command and, as the cord of redeeming faith, it went on to connect every image in the story, from the beginning frame at the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, all the way to the Cross, and then on to the end frame at the Tree of Life.

Of course, this cord was none other than our blessed Redeemer, Jesus Christ; the One who was promised, the One who came, and the One who will come again—and, the only One capable of salvaging all of the threads left dangling by the sins of mankind and then incorporating them into a beautiful and eternal work of art for all to behold.  And how was He able to do this?  By dying the death that should have been ours, on the tree representing all of our dead works, He was able to remove sin’s curse, and open the way to the Tree of Life once more, to any and all who would believe.

Try to imagine with me, if you can, God looking around His throne room, gazing lovingly upon His glorious tapestry of redemption—the one depicting the millions, perhaps even billions, of oak trees that were made righteous through their faith in the atoning work of Jesus Christ; each tree springing up from a seed sown in the earth and then growing toward heaven, and each tree reproducing that one seed many times over through an abundant spiritual harvest, some of which will include:

     –   the “peaceful fruit of righteousness” that was produced through the discipline of the Lord (Heb. 12:11);
     –   the fruit of a life transformed by the Spirit, one in which the very character of Christ was reproduced;
     –   the fruit of many answered prayers;
     –   the fruit of souls that were won for the Lord; and,
     –   the fruit that was produced whenever fear was overcome by faith, darkness was overcome by the light, and the flesh was overcome by the Spirit.

Try to imagine with me, if you can, the kind of joy a sight such as this would bring to the heart of God.

When, at the end of time, God scans His forest of trees, will He find you there?  Will you be a part of His tapestry of redemption—one of His oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified?  If not, can there possibly be a good reason why not?

 

God's Trees of Righteousness

God’s Many Trees of Righteousness

 

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The Tapestry of Redemption presented in song, by the Tally Trio in “He Saw Me/Jesus Paid it All.”