Sanctification:  Restoring the Soul through Prayer

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PrayerDuring our previous exercise in Sanctification, we learned that it is the work of the Holy Spirit to…

  • Birth us as the spiritual children of God; then,
  • Mature us into sons and daughters of God who are committed to carrying on the work of Christ in the world.

While the birthing part of the Spirit’s work is accomplished at the time of our Regeneration, the maturing part is something which takes place over time, as the Spirit works relentlessly yet lovingly within us to restore our souls to their original function as mediator between our spirits and bodies—which is to say, as the conduit through which the knowledge of God’s will is transferred from the one to the other.  The goal of all this work is to bring us to the place where we are living in obedience to God, with our carnal or fleshly natures under the control of His Spirit, for the purpose of implementing God’s will on the earth.

The way in which the Holy Spirit accomplishes this great work of restoration in a Child of God is by…

Teaching him to talk to His Father through Prayer;
Teaching him to listen to and discern the will of His Father through the Study of His Word;
Teaching him to obey His Father through Worship… 

…with the wonderful end result of all this being the production of the Fruit of the Spirit—or, the reproduction of the very Character of Christ—within the emotions, mind, and will making up his personality.  Since talking to God is such an integral part of the sanctification process, this exercise will be given over to learning more about Prayer and the way the Holy Spirit works through it to restore our souls.


Talking to God through Prayer 

Since learning to talk is one of the earliest developmental milestones in the life of a child, it should come as no surprise that one of the first things the Holy Spirit does in the life a new child of God is teach him to talk to his Heavenly Father.  This extraordinary privilege is made possible when, as a result of the New Birth, the spirit of the new believer is awakened from its previously coma-like state and the lines of communication between his spirit and God’s Spirit are opened up and activated.  Once this system is operational, the two parties involved in this wonderful new relationship can begin to communicate with one another.  This is essential because…

People in relationships must be able to talk to each other;
People who love each other must be able to express that love; and,
Prayer is the language of love connecting the Father with His children. 

The late Dr. Myles Munroe expanded on this concept in the following way…

To understand its essence, we must realize that prayer began with the creation of mankind.  It was not instituted after the Fall but before it.  Prayer existed from the beginning of God’s relationship with man…

The essence of prayer is twofold.  Prayer is…
…an expression of mankind’s unity and relationship of love with God;
…an expression of mankind’s affirmation of and participation in God’s purposes for the earth.

To pray means to commune with God, to become one with God.  It means union with Him—unity and singleness of purpose, thought, desire, will, reason, motive, objective, and feeling.  It is also the medium through which the human spirit affects and is affected by the will and purpose of the divine Creator.  Therefore, prayer is man’s vehicle of the soul and spirit by which he communes with the invisible God.[1]

In other words, prayer isn’t just about us mouthing words to God; it about us learning to speak to Him in such a way that we…

Become One with Him in His Person; and,
Become One with Him in His Purpose.

 

Prayer Makes Us Like Jesus

 
Becoming One with God in His Person
 

Let’s face it—when we first came to faith in Christ, about the best thing that could have been said about anyone of us is that we were a big spiritual mess.  That’s because, up to that point, we had spent our entire lives dancing to the tune of the world; living according to its standards, with our carnal natures dictating the ways we thought, spoke, and acted.  The Apostle Paul accurately described our pre-salvation condition in Ephesians 2:13, where he said that…

…you were dead in trespasses and sins, in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were, by nature children of wrath like the rest of mankind (Ephesians 2:1-3).

However, when our spirits were reborn and the Holy Spirit came to live within us, He began breathing life into our once dead spirits by…

  • Assuring us of our salvation and of our new positions as sons and daughters in the family of God—thus, prompting us to go to our Father with prayers of thanksgiving and praise for His gracious gift of salvation;
  • Writing the laws of God’s holiness upon our hearts—thus, making us conscious of the sin in our lives and prompting us to seek His forgiveness through prayers of repentance;
  • Making us aware of and sensitive to the needs of others—thus, moving us to prayers of petition and supplication on their behalf; and,
  • Calling our attention to the injustices in the world around us—thus, compelling us to prayers of intercession in an effort to bring about change.

The more we prayed these Spirit-led prayers, the stronger our spirits became while the weaker our flesh grew.  Then, with our spirits growing stronger, it became easier for us to…

…be imitators of God as beloved children (Eph. 5:1);

…give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you (1 Thes. 5:18);

…put off your old self, which belongs to your former way of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness (Eph. 4:22-24);

…set your minds on the things that are above, not on the things that are on earth…put to death, therefore, what is earthly in you:  sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desires, covetousness, which is idolatry (Col. 3: 2,5); and,

…put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience…forgiving each other…And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony (Col. 3: 12, 14)…

…changes in our attitudes and actions enabling us to become more like Jesus while, at the same time, becoming One with God in His Purpose.  And, just what is that purpose?

 

Prayer and the Purpose of God


Becoming One with God in His Purpose
 

We find God’s purpose laid out for us quite clearly in Ephesians 1:4-14, where it was revealed that…

…he [God] chose us in him [Christ] before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him.

In love, he predestined [pre-designed] us to be adopted as sons through Jesus Christ, according the purpose of his will…

…In him [Christ] we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace…making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ, as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. 

In him [Christ] we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will; and,

…In him [Christ] you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.

In short, it was God’s purpose, before the world ever began, to have a family of spiritual sons and daughters who would be holy, just like Him.  In order for them to be holy, though, they would first have to be redeemed and forgiven of their transgressions of God’s holy law—something made possible through the gracious and atoning work of Christ on the Cross.  To those choosing to receive His gift of redemption and Sonship, God also purposed to reveal the mystery of His will, which is to bring the Kingdom of Heaven, or the rule of God, to Earth through Christ; and, His plan to provide them with an eternal spiritual inheritance, guaranteed by the Holy Spirit Himself.

So, then, what is the ultimate purpose of this great Purpose of God?  It is so that, as we are transformed from sinners into the image and likeness of His Son, Jesus Christ, and we carry that image and likeness to the four corners of the earth—

…the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea (Hab. 2:14); and, 

…in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus (Eph. 2:7).

And, just how did our participation in this great Purpose of God begin?  It all began with prayer!
 

The Practice of and the Pattern for Prayer 

Now that we have familiarized ourselves with the purpose for and the restorative power of prayer, all that remains for us to accomplish in this exercise is to discuss the Practice of Prayer itself.  Since there are a number of guidelines for prayer scattered throughout the Bible, especially in the New Testament, as a means of providing ourselves with a handy reference, I have organized some of them into the following question and answer format…

  1. How should we come to prayer?

In faith…

…[for] without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him (Heb. 11:6);

With confidence…

Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need (Heb. 4:16); and,

…this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.  And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him (1 John 5:14-15);

In humbleness

Humble yourself, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you (1 Pet. 5:6-7); and,

Without any unforgiveness in our hearts…

And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses (Mark 11:25).

  1. When should we pray?

At all times and without ceasing

…praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication…with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints… (Eph. 6:18);

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, giving thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you (1 Thes. 5:16-18).

  1. Who should we pray for?

Everyone…

First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.  This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth (1 Tim. 2:1-4);

But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you (Luke 6:28);

Is anyone among you suffering?  Let him pray.  Is anyone among you sick?  Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord.  And the prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise him up.  And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven.  Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you might be healed.  The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working (James 5:13-16).

  1. What are we to pray about?

Everything… 

Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation.  The spirit indeed is willing but the flesh is weak (Mark 14:38);

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9);

The harvest is plentiful but the laborers are few.  Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest (Luke 10:2);

If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him (James 1:5);

…do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.  And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus (Phil. 4:6-7); and,

Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father maybe glorified in the Son (John 14:13).

Many of these guidelines were covered, at least in principle, in the instructions and the Pattern for Prayer that Jesus gave to His disciples in His Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 6:1-13, when He said…

Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven.

And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward.

But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words.  Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.

The Lord's Prayer

The Pattern for Prayer Given by Jesus

 

Finally, we are to pray, remembering always that…

…the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For [when] we do not know what to pray for as we ought…the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God (Rom. 8:26-27).

 

Smiley Face with Earphones2

 

Damaris Carbaugh reminds us that prayer takes us into the presence of God…

 

 

[1] Dr. Myles Munroe, Understanding the Purpose and Power of Prayer: Earthly License for Heavenly Interference (New Kensington, PA: Whitaker House 2002) 35-36.

Sanctification: Regeneration Perfected

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Regeneration

In our first set of exercises, we began stretching our spiritual muscles as we learned some of the basic principles of Salvation…

We also learned that Salvation is the process by which God redeems lost sinners—those who have been in bondage to the world, the flesh, and the devil since their births; buying their freedom for them through the substitutionary death of Christ on the Cross and thus making it possible for them to be adopted into the family of God as His children.

A person’s Salvation isn’t limited to his just being adopted by God, though; it also involves his being transformed into a true Christ-resembling Child of the Most High.  That’s because, once a person becomes a child of God through the process known as the New Birth, he or she can no longer continue to think, speak, and act like the sinner he or she once was; instead, he or she must learn to think and behave in a manner befitting the son or daughter of a Holy King.  And, this is where Sanctification comes into play.

 

Sanctification

As we discovered in Salvation: What It Is and Why We Need It, Sanctification is the second of the three Stages in Salvation, with the first being Redemption and the last being Glorification; and, that it means…

To make holy; set apart as sacred; consecrate;
To purify or free from sin;
To make productive of or conducive to spiritual blessing. 

And, according to Easton’s Bible Dictionary, it is something which…

…involves more than a mere moral reformation of character, brought about by the power of the truth:  it is the work of the Holy Spirit bringing the whole nature more and more under the influences of the new gracious principles implanted in the soul in regeneration.  In other words, sanctification is the carrying on to perfection the work begun in regeneration, and it extends to the whole man.[1]
 

The Work of Regeneration

In order to better understand the work being referred to here, we will need to go back to Salvation:  How Do We Get It, where we learned that…

…Regeneration is the act by which our dead spirits are brought back to life again by the Holy Spirit of God…

…and, where we learned that the need for this regeneration goes all the way back to Adam and Eve’s sin in the Garden of Eden.  For, it was then that their spirits, as well as those of all of their future descendants, died—or, were separated or cut off from God.  As for how this spiritual death impacted them, and us, in practical terms, it completely shut down the communication system God had established between Him and Man; and, it overturned the authority structure He had designed for His entire created world.

System Failure and Structural Collapse

When God created man, He fashioned him with a Spirit, Soul, and Body, so that…

  • Through his Spirit, he could relate to and communicate with God;
  • Through his Body, he could relate to and function in the physical world; and,
  • Through his Soul, consisting of his mind, will, and emotions, he could not only relate to other human beings, but his soul could also serve as the connecting point between his spirit and his body.

When this system was functioning as it should—which was, before the entrance of sin into the world—it meant that…

  • God’s Spirit could speak to man’s spirit, telling him what God wanted him to do;
  • Man’s spirit could relay that message to man’s soul; and,
  • Man’s soul could then direct man’s body to carry out the command it had been given by God…

…and, in this way, the will of God would be carried out on the earth by man.

As for the authority structure that God had devised for His creation, it was ordered along very similar lines—with God at the top of the structure and Man next in authority under Him; then, with Woman, an equal partner with her husband, yet coming under his authority—to be followed lastly by the creatures in the animal world.  Given that this arrangement was one which was ordained by God, it should come as no surprise that in his scheme to overturn it, Satan would come disguised in the form of an animal (a creature at the bottom rung of the ladder) and present himself first to the woman (on the next level up), who would then turn around and entice the man (on the next higher rung) to disobey God.

Unfortunately, and certainly unforeseen by our forbearers, this colossal structural collapse marked the beginning of what would turn out to be mankind’s perpetual rebellion against authority in every form; manifesting itself not only in his rebellion against God’s authority, but also in the rebellion of wives against husbands, children against parents, workers against employers, and the governed against those governing them.  It was a rebellion which also gave rise to an egocentric lust for power which would eventually lead to the commission of every other kind of sin that man could imagine.

This entrance of sin into the world also resulted in the failure of the once ideal system of communication between God and Man.  Instead of the top down system previously described, it became a bottom up one in which man’s flesh, instead of his spirit, began dictating to him what his thoughts, feelings, and actions should be.  That’s because, with the death or separation of man’s spirit from God’s Spirit because of sin, there was no longer any communication between God and man; a situation which left man’s powerful fleshly appetites to determine what he would or would not do in any given situation.  And, this is the way that it has been ever since.

The Apostle James explains the consequences of this system failure in the following way…

…what causes quarrels and what causes fights among you?  Is it not this, that your passions are at war with you?  You desire and do not have, so you murder.  You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel (James 4:1-2)…

…each person is tempted when he lured and enticed by his own desire.  Then desire when it is conceived gives birth to sin and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death (James 1:13-15).

The Effects of the Fall
Extending Regeneration to the Whole Man

Since the unregenerate, or…

…the natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned (1 Cor. 2:14)…

…when a person becomes Born Again, it then becomes the work of the Holy Spirit, through the process of Sanctification, to restore what was lost to that person as a result of The Fall and to reprogram him as to the right way to live.  As we have just learned, this means that…

  • His soul will have to be restored to its proper function; and,
  • His inborn tendency to rebel against authority will have to be dealt with and brought under control.

Rebellion to Submission

Although this work is a challenging one, and one taking a lifetime to complete, its success will be insured by the presence of the Holy Spirit who, once a person is regenerated, takes up residence within him.  Working from the inside out, He not only begins teaching this new Child of God the right way to live, but He provides him with the supernatural power needed for him to succeed.  Evidences of this success will become apparent in the life of the believer as…

  • He learns to communicate with God, his Father, through Prayer;
  • His mind is transformed into the mind of Christ through the Study of God’s Word;
  • The character of Christ is formed in him through Testing;
  • The works of Christ are reproduced in his service through the Gifts of the Spirit; and,
  • He learns to successfully wage Spiritual Warfare through his respect for and submission to God’s Authority Structure.

We will learn more about this process of spiritual transformation in our upcoming workout sessions, as we begin the basic exercises in Sanctification dealing with Prayer, the Bible, Worship, the Fruit of the Spirit and Testing; with these to be followed later by the more advanced exercises in Service, the Gifts of the Spirit, and Spiritual Warfare.  Before moving on to these, however, we first need to become better acquainted with our Trainer and Coach, the Holy Spirit, whom we will meet when we get together for our next session.  Until then…

…may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.  (1 Thes. 5:23)

 

Smiley Face with Earphones2
The Sidewalk Prophets remind us that our salvation makes all things new…

 

[1]  Sanctification. Dictionary.com. Easton’s 1897 Bible Dictionary. http://www.dictionary.com/browse/sanctification (accessed: April 07, 2016).

 

 

More Blessing, Cursing, and Big Time Rebellion!

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Shem, Ham, and Japheth

Shem, Ham, and Japheth

Now that we have had some time to digest the things that were covered in part one of Blessing, Cursing, and Big Time Rebellion, it’s time for us to get back to our analysis of Vignette #9 of Act 1, Scene 1 of God’s One Big Story.  As a little reminder, just before our break, we were introduced to the idea that Noah was, in his cursing of Ham and blessing of Japheth and Shem, prophetically assigning them (and their descendants) to their respective roles as the corporate Body, Soul, and Spirit of humanity—roles naturally bringing with them some specific responsibilities.  In this part of our critique, we will take a look at these responsibilities in an effort to see…

  • How well Noah’s sons fulfilled their prophetic assignments;
  • How one line of Ham’s descendants rebelled against their divinely ordained destiny; and,
  • How that rebellion led to the division of languages which resulted in the development of nations.

Additionally, in the process of all of this, we will meet two of the shady and rather illusive New Characters who will be playing such vital yet largely unseen roles throughout the remainder of the Heavenly Story now unfolding before us.

The Prophetic Assignments of Noah’s Sons

1. Ham

Ham as the Body of MankindAlthough Ham was the youngest of Noah’s sons, since he was the first son that Noah dealt with, we will also begin with him.  As we learned last time, because of his fleshly response to his father’s drink-induced nakedness, and his apparent disregard for the spiritual position and reputation of his father, Ham and his descendants were “cursed” by being relegated to the role of the corporate Body of mankind.  In this capacity, their chief responsibility was to learn how to make the best use of the natural resources around them so they could provide not only for their own physical or material needs, but also for those of Shem, Japheth, and their descendants.  In so doing, they would be fulfilling Noah’s charge for them to be “…a servant of servants” to their brothers.

As for how well they served their “brothers” in this capacity, history has shown that, for the most part, Ham and his descendants have been highly successful in the accomplishment of this task.  For, if we were to research the history of their contributions to mankind, we would find that the development of…

…almost any essential element of our highly complex civilization—aircraft, paper, weaving, metallurgy, propulsion of various kinds, painting, explosives, mechanical principles, food, the use of electricity, virtually anything technological in nature…leads surely and certainly back to a Hamitic people and exceedingly rarely to Japheth or Shem.[1]

Through their development of such things as new farming techniques, writing and printing, the domestication of animals, fabrics and weaving, and building tools and materials…

…the Hamitic peoples have shown an amazing ability to exploit the immediate resources of their environment to the limit…”[2]

…and have, in the process, made life on the earth sustainable and far more comfortable and enjoyable for everyone.

2.  Shem

Shem as the Spirit of MankindAfter assigning his youngest son to the task of service to his brothers, Noah redirected his attention from the physical to the spiritual, and from cursing to blessing, as he called upon God to bless his son, Shem.  Although his reason for singling Shem out in this way remains unclear—especially considering that, in Genesis 9:23, both Shem and Japheth had responded to their father’s unfortunate situation in the same thoughtful and respectful way—in his blessing of Shem, Noah was prophetically elevating this son to the role of the corporate Spirit of mankind.

In other words, Shem was being designated as the conduit through whom God would progressively reveal Himself to humanity; first through the Law and the Prophets, and then through His Own Son, Jesus Christ.  However, in order for them to fulfill the responsibilities associated with this role, Shem and his descendants would have to maintain a unique relationship with God by being obedient to His laws (so that when the Lord blessed them for their obedience, they would become witnesses of the reality of God to the rest of the world) and, protecting and preserving that which would be entrusted to them by God.

As for how well the Semites fulfilled this assignment, they were successful in that the revelation of God was preserved until it was made flesh in the coming of Christ; however, this was due more to the faithfulness of God than to the faithfulness of the people.   Had God not preserved a righteous remnant to guard this divine treasure, it would have been lost to the world as a result of Shem’s descendants’ flagrant violations of God’s statutes and their repeated disavowals of their unique relationship with Him.

3. Japheth

Japheth as the Soul of MankindOnce the roles of the Body and Spirit had been filled, Noah turned to assigning the role of the corporate Soul to his son, Japheth; something he accomplished by pronouncing a blessing on Japheth; a blessing in which he asked God to enlarge Japheth and his descendants, and to allow them to eventually become partakers in the spiritual blessing of Shem.

As for the significance of the order of Noah’s cursing and blessing, and of Japheth’s positioning in between his two brothers, we need only refer back to But Why Couldn’t We Stay the Way We Were…, where we learned that, on an individual level…

…when God created man, He first fashioned a physical Body for him, then He breathed His Spirit into that body, and when He did, the human Soul came into being.  This, then, set up the system that God intended to use when He wanted to relate to and to communicate with the man that He had created.  Once again, this is the way it worked:  God’s Spirit would speak to man’s spirit, man’s spirit would speak to his soul, and then man’s soul would speak to his body—each part relaying to man the will that God wanted to be carried out on the earth on His behalf.

As we can see, this was the very same order in which Noah prophesied over his sons; first, he dealt with Ham as the Body, then with Shem as the Spirit, and finally with Japheth as the Soul, in the middle, acting as mediator between his two brothers.  There, he was in a position to take the spiritual revelations given to Shem and, through the use of his “soul” attributes of intellect and communication, relay them to Ham for their implementation.  Or, as Arthur Custance explains the process, as it has taken place over time…

Thus it has come about that the pioneering task of opening up the world, subduing it, and rendering it habitable, was first undertaken by the descendants of Ham…

Centuries later, Japheth settled slowly into the areas already opened up by Ham, in almost every case adopting the solutions, suited to local survival, which the predecessors had already worked out.  Yet in all cases Japheth took with him a certain philosophizing tendency which acted to modify the somewhat materialistic culture which he was inheriting…

In the providence of God the Semitic people, represented in Israel, remained at the center until their spiritual education had reached a certain point.  They were then scattered among the nations and carried with them their pure monotheistic faith.  But when they should have received their King, they failed to recognize Him, and their particular Kingdom was taken from them and the responsibility of its administration given to Japheth instead.

The enlargement of Japheth has continued to this day…frequently at the expense of the Hamites who first possessed the land…This “enlargement” has also brought its own undesirable consequences.  Perhaps this is because the spiritual responsibility taken over from Shem has never been completely undertaken by Japheth who received the commission.[3]

The First Big Rebellion at Babel 

From what we can gather, then, each of Noah’s sons managed to fulfill his prophetic assignment to some degree. While the divine revelation entrusted to Shem was “stewarded” by him, it was not always done faithfully; and, even though Japheth did take up that revelation, he has not been entirely successful at passing it on to the rest of the world. Likewise, in spite of his many successes at subduing the earth and exploiting its resources—and, given the natural conflict existing between the flesh and the spirit— Ham has all too often rejected the revelation of God, and rebelled against submitting to any higher spiritual authority other than himself, something which this revelation has always demanded.

We witnessed our first recorded instance of this sort of rebellion in Vignette #9 where, from Genesis 10:6, 8 and Genesis 11:1-9, we learned that Ham’s grandson, Nimrod, rather than submitting to his God-ordained assignment to serve his brothers, determined that he would rule over them instead.  In his efforts to seize control, we also have documented for us man’s first attempt at hijacking and corrupting the system of human government, which had so recently been established by Noah at God’s direction.

Although the Bible tells us very little about Nimrod, there are numerous references to him in ancient extra-biblical literature.  We find one such reference in Antiquities of the Jews, compiled by the Jewish historian, Josephus

Now it was Nimrod who excited them to such an affront and contempt of God. He was the grandson of Ham, the son of Noah, a bold man, and of great strength of hand. He persuaded them not to ascribe it to God, as if it were through his means they were happy, but to believe that it was their own courage which procured that happiness. He also gradually changed the government into tyranny, seeing no other way of turning men from the fear of God, but to bring them into a constant dependence on his power…

From what we read here, Nimrod sounds very much like “the man of lawlessness” the Apostle Paul warned his readers about, later in 2 Thessalonians 2:3-10.  There, he described this man as…

…the son of destruction, who opposes and exalts himself against every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, proclaiming himself to be God…The coming of the lawless one is by the activity of Satan, with all power and false signs and wonders, and with all wicked deception for those who are perishing because they refused to love the truth and be saved.

And, from Josephus’ description of them, it would seem that those who were following Nimrod were very much like those just described by Paul…

Now the multitude were very ready to follow the determination of Nimrod, and to esteem it a piece of cowardice to submit to God; and they built a tower, neither sparing any pains, nor being in any degree negligent about the work: and, by reason of the multitude of hands employed in it, it grew very high, sooner than anyone could expect; but the thickness of it was so great, and it was so strongly built, that thereby its great height seemed, upon the view, to be less than it really was. It was built of burnt brick, cemented together with mortar, made of bitumen, that it might not be liable to admit water.[4]

It should be noted here that the building of this tower…

…was not an innocent, scientifically naive, primitive effort to reach the highest heavens! It was, instead, a brilliant but blasphemous effort to dismiss forever the God who had commanded Noah and his three sons after the Flood to ‘be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth’ (Genesis 9:1). Instead of honouring His name (i.e. His character and attributes), they said, ‘Let us build for ourselves a city … and let us make for ourselves a name; lest we be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth’ (Genesis 11:4).[5]

Tower of Babel

The Tower of Babel

In reality, this tower was created to be a religious center; one designed in the shape of a mountain which, when “scaled” through the accomplishment of varying degrees of religious ritual, would elevate men to the status of deity and to the pinnacle of human power.  The ziggurat—or stepped tower–is probably what this “mountain” would have looked like; a place where…

The top compartment represented heaven. The inner walls, in all probability, were decorated with blue glazed tile, with the sun, the moon, and the five known planets (Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn) lined up along the plane of the zodiac. In the centre of the room would be their “god” seated upon a throne! Nebuchadnezzar later rebuilt such a tower in Babylon, which the Sumerians had called E-TEMEN-AN-KI (‘the building of the foundation-platform of heaven and earth’).  The pyramids of Egypt and, much later, the great Mayan temples of Central America, reflected the design of the original Tower of Babel.[6]

So, in addition to his corruption of the established governmental system and the establishment of himself as the first tyrannical emperor in human history, Nimrod was also responsible for the development of the first false religious system in the world; one…

…based primarily upon a corruption of the primeval astronomy formulated by Noah’s righteous ancestors before the flood. In the original this system depicted by means of constellations the story of Satan’s rebellion and the war in the heavens, his subversion of mankind, the fall of Adam and Eve, the promise of One to come who would suffer and die to relieve man from the curse of sin then be installed as Lord of Creation, and the final re-subjugation of the cosmos to God through Him.

[However] These eternal truths were corrupted…into a mythic cycle wherein the great dragon is depicted as the rightful lord of the universe whose throne has been temporarily usurped by One whom we can recognize as the God of the Bible. The serpent creates man in his present miserable state, but promises that a child would one day be born of a divine mother—which child would supplant God, become a god himself, and return rulership of the Earth to the serpent. These fables were based upon the then widely-known story of the constellations, and were introduced under the guise of revealing the hidden esoteric knowledge concealed in them (regardless of the fact that the original was quite straightforward).

…this esotericism…only masked the actual goal which was the worship of the “heavenly host,” which the Bible equates with Satan’s army of fallen angels. Satan was quite willing to receive worship “by proxy”, hence the third major element of the mystery religion was emperor-worship. This religion was propagated by a hierarchy of priests and priestesses, to whom were assigned the task of initiating the populace at large into its ascending degrees of revelation, culminating at the highest level in both direct worship of Satan and demon-possession.[7]

The Division of the People into Nations

Given the true nature of this rebellious and blasphemous endeavor—and the fact that it was God’s declared will from the beginning that human beings scatter abroad over the earth so that the earth would…

…be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea (Habakkuk 2:14)…

…it was no wonder that God so quickly “came down” to earth and put a stop to it.  In the face of these men’s arrogant aspirations, He simply confused “…their language, so that they may not understand one another’s speech…” and, in this way, He “…dispersed them from there over the face of all the earth (Genesis 11:7-8).”  From this map, we can see which way each of Noah’s sons went…

Table of Nations

Noah’s Descendants Scatter

The Introduction of New Characters

From what we have just learned about Nimrod, it should now be easier for us to see that, with his appearance on the earthly stage of God’s One Big Story, we are also being introduced to a sinister new character, simultaneously making an entrance onto the heavenly stage of our Story.  This character is none other than the Antichrist—and even though he will not always be visible to us, we will certainly be able to see evidences of his work throughout the remainder of the Story.  That’s because he will not be working alone, but with a co-conspirator—one who also made her first appearance on our stage at the Tower of Babel.  Her name is Mystery Babylon and she became a reality in our Story in the following way…

As the sons and grandsons of Shem, Ham, and Japheth made their way into strange new lands, one of the familiar things they all carried with them was the false religious system which had first been established in the land of Shinar at Babel—later to be known as Babylon.  And, it was…

…from Babylon this mystery-religion spread to all the surrounding nations…Everywhere the symbols were the same, and everywhere the cult of the mother and child became the popular system…The image of the [Madonna] queen of heaven with the babe in her arms was seen everywhere, though the names might differ as languages differed. It became the mystery-religion of Phoenicia, and by the Phoenicians was carried to the ends of the earth. Ashtoreth and Tammuz, the mother and child of these hardy adventurers, became Isis and Horus in Egypt, Aphrodite and Eros in Greece, Venus and Cupid in Italy, and bore many other names in more distant places. Within 1,000 years, Babylonianism had become the religion of the world, which had rejected the Divine revelation.[8]

As a result of this, Babylon came to be known as the “mother” who had given birth to every pagan religious system in the world— the system referred to in the Bible as Mystery Babylon.  This system is described in Revelation 17:1ff as…

…a woman arrayed in purple and scarlet, and adorned with gold and jewels and pearls, holding in her hand a golden cup full of abominations and the impurities of her sexual immorality;

…the great prostitute…with whom the kings of the earth have committed sexual immorality, and with the wine of whose sexual immorality the dwellers on earth have become drunk; and,

…having written on her forehead a name of mystery: Babylon the great, mother of prostitutes and of earth’s abominations… 

…and it will be through her and the Antichrist that Satan will, throughout the remainder of our Story, attempt to deceive and seduce people into worshiping him, rather than the true God.

Mystery Babylon5 Ottheinrich_Folio300r_Rev17 Matthias Gerung [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Mystery Babylon, the Mother of all False Religions

 

Smiley Face with Earphones2
In spite of all the lies Satan has put out, Steve Green reminds us that there is only one who is deserving of our worship, and that is “God and God Alone”…

 

 

 

[1] Arthur C. Custance, Noah’s Three Sons: Human History in Three Dimensions (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, 1975), 37-38.

[2] Custance, Noah’s Three Sons, 27-28.

[3] Custance, Noah’s Three Sons, 42.

[4] Flavius Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews: Book 1 (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Kregel Publications, 1960), 79-80.

[5] https://answersingenesis.org/tower-of-babel/babel/

[6] https://answersingenesis.org/tower-of-babel/babel/

[7] Bryce Self, Semiramis, Queen of Heaven (http://www.ldolphin.org/semir.html)

[8] Harry A. Ironside, Babylonian Religion (http://www.biblelineministries.org/articles/)

 

 

The Way We Are Isn’t The Way We Were…

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While it is true that the shortest distance between two points is a straight line, and while it may seem that we have been wandering off the beaten path during some of our recent visits together, I feel certain that if we take a moment to do a brief recap of our journey together so far, we will find that we have been traveling along a remarkably straight road.  In fact, we should be able to see an orderly, even progressive, pattern starting to develop—almost as if someone had planned it that way!  I wish I could take credit for it but, in spite of the fact that I am a linear thinker (my self-imposed protection against confusion and getting lost), all organizational cudos must go to God.  My part in all of this is just to show up and ask, “What now, Lord?” and then wait for His answer.

Now, in order to see where we need to go from here, let’s take a minute to review how far we have come.  Thus far…

We have learned that the meaning of life is simple–it is all
about Jesus.
 →  Since life is all about Jesus, God’s plan for our lives is to
bring us to Jesus, then to make us like Jesus.
Although life is simple, that doesn’t mean that it is going
to be easy.
That’s because coming to and becoming like Jesus puts us at
odds with everyone and everything else around us.
When we first come to Jesus, we must overcome the opposition
presented by the world, the flesh, and the devil.
 → And, even after we come to Him, we must spend the rest of
our lives learning to overcome these same three enemies of
our spiritual well-being.
Since overcoming these things is a spiritual battle, if we are
going to be victorious, we must allow God to defeat them by
the power of His Spirit working through us.
  For that to happen, we must learn to live life in a state of
worship,which really means living a life that is daily
surrendered to God.

This all sounds simple, logical, and straightforward enough, doesn’t it?  And, isn’t it reasonable to believe that those of us who have come to Christ for salvation would all desire, at least on an intellectual level, to live out our Christian lives this simply and this victoriously?  Then why is it that when we try to put this kind of lifestyle into practice, we are so often met with frustration and failure?

At first, we may be tempted to attribute our lack of success to our own weakness, immaturity, or lack of commitment; but then, when we consider the fact that someone of the spiritual caliber of the Apostle Paul also struggled with the very same issues, we need to acknowledge that there is more to this than we may have realized.  Just listen to the frustration that Paul experienced, as he writes in his letter to the church at Rome:

For I do not understand my own actions.  For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate…For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. 

For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing.  Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.  So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. 

For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members.  Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? 

Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin. (Rom. 7:15, 18-25 ESV)

Oh woe, woe, woe–there here we have it!  Although Paul, in his mind, wanted to serve the law of God—that is, to do the will of God—in his flesh, he continued to serve the law of sin, just like we do.  What a dilemma—for both him and for us!  So, how did this happen and what, if anything, can be done to alleviate this miserable situation?  Well, for us to answer that, we will need to take a little detour and go back to the beginning, back to when God first created man, so we can see how we were originally designed, and learn how that design was altered as a result of sin—an alteration which we, like Paul, have been struggling to overcome ever since.

Back in Genesis 1-2, we find a beautiful but abbreviated description of God’s creation of a world that was designed to be the perfect dwelling place for man.  Once He had that home prepared, God set about the business of creating man, the pinnacle of His creation, and the only being ever to have been made in His very own image and likeness.  He began this process by first taking some of the dust of the earth–that is, some of the natural elements of this world—and fashioning it into a human form so ideal that later, in Psalm 8, man would be described as having been “made…a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned…with glory and honor.”   Finally, God completed the process by breathing into this being His very own breath, an act which gave man his life and made him a spirit being capable of sharing in the very moral, spiritual, and eternal essence of God Himself.

Hmmm!  If you have been paying attention all this time, you will know that this presents us with a serious question; for now we have spirit + flesh together, or, a supernatural, eternal being living in a natural, mortal body.  But haven’t we already established the fact that, “…that which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the spirit is spirit”, and that never the two shall meet?  So then, how are these two supposed to coexist together?

SpiritDark1.fw

God’s Design for Communicating with Man

Well, back again in Genesis 2:7 (KJV), where we are told that
“…the Lord God formed man of the dust of the
ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath
of life,” we also learn that when the Spirit entered
his body, “…man became a living soul.”  In
other words, a whole new entity was created; man
was not just a physical body with a detached spirit
floating around in it; he had become a physical being
with a  newly formed personality that was designed
to function as the mediator or go-between of his body
and his spirit.  In effect, this set up what I like to call
God’s “top-down” system of communication, something
which in graphical terms, might look like this:

First, God’s Spirit would speak to man’s spirit,
telling him what God wanted him to do;

man’s spirit would then pass this information on to the mind part of man’s soul which, in turn,
would communicate God’s instructions to the body for its execution.

In this way, God’s will would be carried out effectively and efficiently on the earth by His one and only legal representative, Man.

What a really great solution to the problem of communication between two such mutually exclusive entities, wouldn’t you say? And for a while, it was functioning according to plan–that is, until a seductive yet diabolical h-i-s-s-s-s was suddenly heard in the neighborhood!

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Do I Hear a Hssss Coming…

 …………………………………………………………………….to be continued next time →   

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Big Daddy Weave, wondering “What Would Life Be Like”