| Part 1

Righteousness Belongs to the Lord

Human nature denies the very idea that anything is beyond its power to perform. One modern day sage boasted, "What the human mind can conceive, it can also achieve." Such arrogant confidence in human potential is to be expected from the world, but it is painfully clear that this can-do spirit is equally present and welcome in what is called "the Christian Church."

Nothing could be more attractive to fallen man than the idea of recovering rightness and closing the breach between himself and God by his own moral efforts. He wants to be right by his own merit and force his version of righteousness on others. Sound familiar? It should, because this characterizes most of the activities of religious man for the last six thousand years. Ever since the serpent beguiled Eve with the promise that she could be "like God" if she would just disobey God and take things into her own hands, man's every action is proof that he does not know that true righteousness belongs to the Lord, nor does he know why it must be that way. In his quest for his own righteousness, religious man is blinded to true righteousness that comes only as a gift and can never be derived from any goodness in himself. It must be received as an unmerited gift from Him who alone is righteous (see Romans 5:17).

We do not become righteous through our own merits. Righteousness comes from a Source totally apart from man. The prevalent mentality that right doing equals righteousness is the hardest thing for religious man to give up because his every thought, motive and practice is predicated on it. Nothing so effectively blocks the flow of God's grace.

Before you can come to God in true repentance, you must first accept His judgment on all flesh. God's pronouncement upon everyone is, "There is none righteous, no not one." If we hold the misguided belief that there is anything good in us that would commend us to God, we fall into sharp disagreement with Him. Our very lives become a lie. Anyone who has not accepted God's judgment has not truly repented and his life becomes an ongoing effort to prove God wrong.

In its truest sense, repentance is coming into agreement with God. John wrote, "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and righteous to forgive us the sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (1 John 1:9 WEB). The compound Greek word translated confess in this passage is homologeo. Homo means one and the same, and logeo, to say. Together they mean to say with. To confess something is to say the same thing as another is saying, agreeing totally with his assessment. This was God's judgment against Israel when He spoke through Amos and said, "Can two walk together, unless they are agreed?"

Here is the rub. Before man can truly repent, he must first say with. He must come into agreement with God about his sin/sins. It is much easier for man to admit to an occasional act of sin than it is for him to acknowledge his utter sinfulness. To admit that you have done wrong is less humiliating than admitting that you are wrong--skewed in your very being. A man is not a sinner because he sins. He sins because he is a sinner. He can do nothing else but live out his true inner condition. God wants to lay the ax to the root, not beat at the leaves. To deal with this externally by resisting external acts of sin is like fighting the mythological hydra. You cut off one head and two take its place. It is a losing battle. Paul made it clear that this "touch not, taste not, handle not" righteousness is profitless when it comes to restraining sinful passions (see Colossians 2). More is required. This kind of will worship might make you a prude, but it cannot make you a saint.

Believing that you must act righteously to become righteous is like believing that you can turn base metals into gold through alchemy. Man is corrupt through and through. Scripture bears this out conclusively. There is none good. What do you find when you assay man's flesh? FLESH! Didn't Jesus tell his disciples, "The flesh profits nothing"? Nothing? The Oxford Dictionary defines nothing as the state of having "no prospect of success or agreement." Nothing eternal or spiritual can come out of our fallen natures. That which is born of the flesh is flesh. There is no goodness anywhere in man. The philanthropist and the hedonist are both on the same footing. Man's debauchery and his goodness come from the same source, his flesh. Isaiah did well prophesy, "We are all infected and impure with sin. When we proudly display our righteous deeds, we find they are but filthy rags. Like autumn leaves, we wither and fall. And our sins, like the wind, sweep us away" (Isaiah 64:6, NLT). God's first order of business in redeeming man is to dispel the myth of his goodness.

The Myth of Man's Goodness

In Luke 18:18-19, a certain ruler asked Jesus, "Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?" Jesus said to him, "Why do you call me good? Nobody is good except for one, even God." If there is only one good, then this young man could do nothing to inherit eternal life. All his actions would profit nothing. The secret of true righteousness is contained in these few words "Nobody is good except One." When we finally come to believe these words, then we will stop our vain activities and receive the true righteousness of God.

Religious man's favorite question, "What must I do...?" presupposes that he can do something good enough to merit God's favor and blessing. Christ's answer pronounces judgment on all the supposed goodness in man, "There is only one good." Before man can experience true repentance and know the righteousness that comes from Him who alone is good, he must first agree with God's judgment on his flesh. Paul put it succinctly, "In me, that is in my flesh dwells no good thing."

This is the ground of controversy. The whole religious world labors to prove Jesus wrong. They erect good buildings in which good Christians gather to learn how to be better Christians with the aid of good programs and good doctrines, taught by good men. Everything is said and done to perfect the goodness in man that Jesus pronounced nonexistent. The notion that you can become good through practice is the delusion that keeps man on the religious treadmill, always trying harder to be good and always building towers unto the heavens. We must come into agreement with God and see that His judgment is as heavy upon our best efforts as it was on Nimrod's tower to heaven (see Genesis 11). We must repent of such dead works and come into agreement with Jesus' words, "There is only one good."

Most people learn this lesson after years of struggle and defeat. How would God teach man that there is nothing he can do to recover the rightness he once had before the fall? How would He show decadent humanity its utter lack of goodness?

After eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, Adam and Eve stood, divided in their very beings, astonished and confused about what had just happened to them. Their eyes were opened, and they could see many things, but not their true condition. They fell from something wonderful on a higher plain of existence to a lower plain beneath the dignity and purpose God created them for. The goodness God spoke of when He said, "It is good" was lost. How would God show man how far he had fallen? How would He teach man of his deep inner infection and impurity? How would God show mankind that their righteous deeds are nothing but filthy rags? How would He show them their utter depravity and powerlessness in doing what once was as natural as breathing to Adam before the fall? How indeed!

Enter the Law

God chose a Pharisee who once stood proudly in what he called, "...my own righteousness, which is of the law" as the champion of an entirely different kind of righteous, the righteousness of God. God had to stop this Pharisee dead in his tracks and convince him that man's goodness is like dung, fecal matter, in His sight. Paul learned this lesson very well. He saw the depravity of his own murderous heart in a divine encounter on the Damascus Road, where the risen Christ said to him, "I am Jesus whom you are persecuting." Paul had been so sure of his righteousness in imprisoning and killing the saints of God. His righteousness blinded him to the truth that is only found in Jesus Christ.

After fourteen years of obscurity and wilderness, Paul wrote the following to the Philippian church. "I count all things to be loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus, my Lord, for whom I suffered the loss of all things, and count them nothing but refuse, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own, that which is of the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith" (Philippians 3:8-9 WEB).

Throughout his epistles, Paul contrasts the righteousness that comes from God to man's law-based righteousness. To the Galatians he wrote:

...yet we know that a person is not justified by the works of the law but by the faithfulness of Jesus Christ. We, too, have believed in Christ Jesus so that we might be justified by the faith of Christ and not by the works of the law, for no human being will be justified by the works of the law. (Galatians 2:16 ISV

If righteousness comes only by believing in Jesus Christ, and we are justified by our faith in Him alone, then what purpose did the law serve? Why was it given?

God gave the law as a tutor to teach that there is only One who is good. The law does not teach this through rote performance but through failure to perform. It demands a perfection or goodness from man that belongs only to God. Whoever tries to keep the law is destined for failure after failure until he becomes wretched and weary and, like the Romans chapter seven man, cry out, "Who will deliver me from the body of this death?" Only then can we accept the righteousness that comes from God by faith. Only then can we understand these words, "But by Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification and redemption" (1Corinthians 1:30 ALT). Here we see that this gift of righteousness is not a thing, but a Person. He is our righteousness! Righteousness comes in the form of God's gift of Himself to man and with that gift comes a new nature with new desires. All things become new. We are righteous when He lives out His righteousness through us.

Paul made this foundational truth clear to the Roman believers when he wrote:

Now we know that whatever the law says applies to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world held accountable to God. Therefore, no human being will be justified in God's sight by means of the works prescribed by the law, for through the law comes the full knowledge of sin. But now, apart from the law, God's righteousness is revealed and is attested by the Law and the Prophets- God's righteousness through the faithfulness of Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction, since all have sinned and continue to fall short of God's glory. By his grace they are justified freely through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God offered as a place where atonement by Christ's blood could occur through faith. He did this to demonstrate his righteousness, because he had waited patiently to deal with sins committed in the past. He wanted to demonstrate at the present time that he himself is righteous and that he justifies the person who has the faithfulness of Jesus. What, then, is there to boast about? That has been eliminated. On what principle? On that of works? No, but on the principle of faith. For we maintain that a person is justified by faith apart from the works prescribed by the law... (Romans 3:19-28 ISV, emphasis ours).

First, Paul points out that "Whatever the law says applies to those who are under the law." This is an extremely important point that we shall discuss at length momentarily. For now, it is enough to say that we who believe and have received the righteousness of God through faith in His Son are not under the law and what the law says doesn't apply to us.The point is that God gave the law to stop every self-righteous mouth and show man that there is no goodness in him, so that the entire world would stand silent and guilty before Him. God gave the law to prove that no mortal could keep it. "But the scripture (law) hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe" (Galatians 3:22).

No one can become righteous through law-keeping. The more you know about the law, the more convinced of your sinfulness you become. The law brought the knowledge of sin, not the remedy for sin. Paul described it this way, "I was alive apart from the law once, but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died" (Romans 7:9 WEB). The law brought no remedy for sin but heightened the sense of it, leaving the sinner fully convinced of his ever-present body of death. "The law entered, that the offence might abound" (Romans 5:20) and "bring forth fruit unto death" (Romans 7:5). This is its only purpose. "I had not known lust, except the law had said, you shall not covet," said Paul (see Romans 7:7). "The strength of sin is the law" (1 Corinthians 15:56). The law brought the knowledge of sin but no life (Galatians 3:21). "For the Law made nothing perfect, but the bringing in of a better hope did, by which we draw near to God" (Hebrews 7:19 MKJV).

Difficult Questions about the Law

Any time we dare to bring up the fact that we are no longer under the Old Testament law, the hue and cry of those who have placed their identity in law keeping rises into a deafening din. They are quick to quote Jesus' words to the Jews.

Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled. Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:17-19, NKJV)

Let us look at the two Greek words fulfill and fulfilled.

Fulfill - pleroo pleroo {play-ro'-o}
1) to make full, to fill up, i.e. to fill to the full
2) to render full, i.e. to complete
2a) to fill to the top: so that nothing shall be wanting to full measure, fill to the brim
2b) to consummate
2b1) to make complete in every particular, to render perfect
2b2) to carry through to the end, to accomplish, carry out, (some undertaking)
2c) to carry into effect, bring to realisation, realise
Fulfilled - ginomai {ghin'-om-ahee}
1) to become, i.e. to come into existence, begin to be, receive being
4) to be made, finished

Now with these definitions in mind, let's look at what Jesus is really saying here.

"Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fill up to the brim and consummate the law. For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all of it is finished."

How were the righteous requirements of the law filled up? How was the law consummated? Jesus, the perfect Son of God who gave the Law to Moses, came to fill-up the just requirements of the law in One Life for all--in one perfect offering of a spotless Lamb, the Lamb of God.

Look at these words He spoke in regard to John the Baptist:

And He said to them, "You are those who justify yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts. For what is highly esteemed among men is an abomination in the sight of God. The law and the prophets were until John. Since that time the kingdom of God has been preached, and everyone is pressing into it. And it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away than for one tittle of the law to fail." (Luke 16:15-17, NKJV).

"The law and the prophets were until John." John the Baptist came announcing the One who was to fill-up the purpose of the law in His own righteous life. The law and the prophets not only pointed to a higher order of righteousness, but they also pointed to the One who would fulfill all righteousness, Jesus Christ. Jesus first filled-up and then terminated the need of the law in His perfect conception, birth, life, death and finally His perfect resurrection that once for all tore down the wall of separation between man and God. As Jesus hung on the cross He cried out, "It is finished." It was then that the veil of the Holy of Holies was torn from top to bottom, opening the way into the holiness of God for all men. First, by faith in the Son alone we enter in by the sprinkling of the blood of the Lamb and secondly, being made holy by His holiness abiding within us. In the past only the high priest could enter in, but now everyone that believes in the One High Priest of God, Jesus Christ, has equal access to the righteousness and presence of Him who alone is good.

Jesus cried out, "It is finished!" What was finished? The same "finished" in the passage in John quoted above. "I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled [finished]."

Contrast this with what Jesus said to the Pharisees and all law keepers, "You are those who justify yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts. For what is highly esteemed among men is an abomination in the sight of God." Is the law an abomination? No way! The heart of man that thinks that he can do what only the Son of God could do is the abomination before God. It is an affront to His holiness.

Note John's opening words in his gospel speaking of John the Baptist.

John bore witness of Him and cried out, saying, "This was He of whom I said, 'He who comes after me is preferred before me, for He was before me.'" And of His fullness [filled up--"It is finished"] we have all received, and grace for grace. For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. (John 1:15-17, NKJV).

Another difficult passage that seems to promote law keeping but does not is Romans 3:31.

Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid: yea, we establish the law. (Romans 3:31 KJV).

Does this passage imply that we should keep the law? Is establishing the law the same as keeping it? We must take these words in context. The Greek word translated establish in the above scripture means "to stand by...to set or place in a balance...to weigh: money to one (because in very early times before the introduction of coinage, the metals used to be weighed)" (Thayer). Among other things, Paul was implying that the view of righteousness held by Judaism at that time was far afield from God's view. He claimed to hold the law in proper perspective.

Paul stood by the law by showing how the law itself gives record of the righteousness of faith, without the works of the law. He asked, "What then will we say that Abraham, our forefather, has found according to the flesh? For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not toward God. For what does the Scripture say? 'Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.' Now to him who works, the reward is not counted as grace, but as debt. But to him who doesn't work, but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness" (Romans 4:1-5 WEB).

Paul went on to show how Abraham was pronounced righteous before he was circumcised. Therefore, circumcision does not make you righteous. He concluded that an uncircumcised person who believes in Christ is of the "faith of our father Abraham, which he had in uncircumcision" (4:12). What is Paul's point here? He is establishing the law! He is standing by what the scriptures say and showing, by them, the righteousness of faith without the works of the law. Paul stood by the law as it pointed to faith and grace. This is why he could write, "I through the law am dead to the law, that I might live unto God" (Galatians 2:19). The law itself gives irrefutable testimony of our freedom from it. Paul was not promoting law keeping. The whole of his argument is against it. Remember that the law had not been given when God reckoned Abraham righteous. Therefore the faith of Abraham has nothing to do with the letter.

The Conflict between Two Sons

So the law, which brings forth fruit unto death, failed the main criterion for righteousness--life. "If a Law had been given which could have conferred Life, righteousness would certainly have come by the Law" (Galatians 3:21 WNT). The law cannot confer life. This is its chief failing. It cannot impart grace and truth. If it could, "...then Christ is dead in vain" (Galatians 2:21). In stark contrast, John wrote of Jesus, "In HIM was life and the life was the light of men."

God's righteousness comes through the faithfulness of Jesus Christ, inherent in His very life, apart from the law. This righteousness is never something inherently our own. For Jew and Gentile alike have sinned and continue to fall short of God's glory. None are righteous, no not one. Everyone is justified by the grace that comes through the redemption that is forever in Christ Jesus. Only He is full of grace and truth. In this, God demonstrates His righteousness. He demonstrates that He is just in justifying those who believe in His Son through faith alone.

The legalists of Paul's day viewed this as an unlawful act, because the law demanded circumcision before you could be reckoned righteous and accepted into the commonwealth of God's chosen people. If God were to justify the Gentiles through faith alone, He would break His own law, or so it seemed to the Judaizers in the Jerusalem church. So they set out to harmonize the two and developed a more balanced doctrine. "Some men came down from Judea to Antioch and were teaching the brothers: 'Unless you are circumcised, according to the custom taught by Moses, you cannot be saved'" (Act 15:1 NIV)

Jesus warned the disciples to beware of the leavening of the Pharisees. After His resurrection, the Jewish establishment and enforcers of the law made inroads into the infant church in the city that killed Him (see Acts 6:7 and 21:20). In Acts we read that a little leaven began to leaven the whole lump. Even Peter was caught-up in it and later repented. These legalists became Paul's greatest persecutors and opponents of the gospel of grace.

He explained this phenomenon to the Galatian Church:

Tell me, you who desire to be under the law, do you not hear the law? For it is written that Abraham had two sons: the one by a bondwoman, the other by a freewoman. But he who was of the bondwoman was born according to the flesh, and he of the freewoman through promise, which things are symbolic. For these are the two covenants: the one from Mount Sinai which gives birth to bondage, which is Hagar--for this Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia, and corresponds to Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children-- but the Jerusalem above is free, which is the mother of us all. For it is written: "Rejoice, O barren, You who do not bear! Break forth and shout, You who are not in labor! For the desolate has many more children than she who has a husband." Now we, brethren, as Isaac was, are children of promise. But, as he who was born according to the flesh then persecuted him who was born according to the Spirit, even so it is now. Nevertheless what does the Scripture say? "Cast out the bondwoman and her son, for the son of the bondwoman shall not be heir with the son of the freewoman." So then, brethren, we are not children of the bondwoman but of the free. Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage. (Galatians 4:21-5:1, NKJV).

Even so it is now. He who is born according to the flesh persecutes he who is born according to the Spirit. Could this explain the divisions that exist among those calling themselves Christian today? Those of you who have found Jesus as your sufficiency in all things have also found yourselves targets of those who continue in the works of the Judaizers. No, today they do not demand circumcision as the proof of righteousness but they do glory in flesh by attempting to deal with its impurities by a power no greater than the human will. Paul wrote,

If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world, why, as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to regulations--"Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch" (referring to things that all perish as they are used)--according to human precepts and teachings? These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh. If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. (Colossians 2:20-3:4, ESV).

Wherever Christ's liberty is found, legalists soon come in and seek to impose some form of self-made and self-powered religion. Paul even found this to be true in the Jerusalem church, of which he wrote,

And this occurred because of false brethren secretly brought in (who came in by stealth to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, that they might bring us into bondage), to whom we did not yield submission even for an hour, that the truth of the gospel might continue with you. (Galatians 2:4, 5, NKJV).

Stand fast in your liberty, dear saints. Stand fast!

Now let us answer the claim that for God to fulfill the righteous demands of the law solely through the faithfulness of Christ was to break His own law.

God, the Law, and Grace

God fulfilled the righteous demands of the law through the sacrifice of Christ. It did not stop there. By that same sacrifice, He also freed those who were shut up under the law. Isn't that illegal? How could God do that and remain just? Paul referred to the law as the law of sin and death - you sin, you die! All have sinned in the past and still come short of the glory of God in the present. Then ALL, everyone, without exceptions, must die. You and I must die. That's the law.

How could God, who is rich in mercy, show kindness to those whom He loves, who sin and fall short, and yet fulfill the righteous demands of the law? Love found a way. God loved the world so much that He sent His only Son to die that whosoever believes in Him would not perish but have everlasting life (see John 3:16). Through Christ's sacrifice, the demands of the law are fulfilled or finished. Through His death we are accounted righteous. The only way God could free us from the curse of the law was through death. "Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your sting? O grave, where is your victory? The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the Law" (1 Corinthians 15:54-56 MKJV).

You sin - you die! The law demands it. God would be unjust not to execute its demands to the letter. How will mercy triumph over judgment? How is death swallowed up in victory? How can God remain just and yet show His mercy to sinful humanity? How will He justify the sinner who is incapable of keeping His law? How will He justify the Gentiles through faith alone and remain righteous? We must answer these questions and trust in the answer if we are ever to have the righteousness that comes from God.

We find the answer in Paul's second letter to the Corinthians.

For the love of Christ constrains us; because we judge thus, that one died for all, therefore all died. He died for all, that those who live should no longer live to themselves, but to him who for their sakes died and rose again. (2 Corinthians 5:14-15 WEB)

Paul wrote of the impact of this death in his own life.

I have been put to death on the cross with Christ; still I am living; no longer I, but Christ is living in me; and that life which I now am living in the flesh I am living by faith, the faith of the Son of God, who in love for me, gave himself up for me. (Galatians 2:20 BBE)

What strange language is this? One died for all...His death is their death...all died. I am crucified with Christ, yet I live...yet not I but Christ lives. What in the world is Paul talking about here? How can I be dead and live at the same time?

Through our co-death with Jesus on the cross the penalty demanded by the law is paid in full and God is right to account us righteous. God is just in justifying everyone who lives by the faith of Christ. This consists of more than living by mere tenets of faith but Christ living through us. "Yet not I, but Christ..." Because of this death, God reckons us dead to the law and its curse. As we read earlier, the requirements of the law are demanded of those who are under the law. The person who has been crucified with Christ is not only justified but is also dead to the law, meaning, he is no longer alive to its demands. Paul explains:

Or don't you know, brothers (for I speak to men who know the law), that the law has dominion over a man for as long as he lives? For the woman that has a husband is bound by law to the husband while he lives, but if the husband dies, she is discharged from the law of the husband. So then if, while the husband lives, she is joined to another man, she would be called an adulteress. But if the husband dies, she is free from the law, so that she is no adulteress, though she is joined to another man. Therefore, my brothers, you also were made dead to the law through the body of Christ, that you would be joined to another, to him who was raised from the dead, that we might bring forth fruit to God. For when we were in the flesh, the sinful passions which were through the law, worked in our members to bring forth fruit to death. But now we have been discharged from the law, having died to that in which we were held; so that we serve in newness of the spirit, and not in oldness of the letter. (Romans 7:1-6)

We can only conclude that anyone professing undying love to Christ while bound to the old husband (the law) is an adulteress, married to one man while professing to love another. They cannot be joined to Christ and bring forth offspring to God as long as they live. Only those reckoned dead through their death with Christ are beyond the reach of the old husband. Only these are free from the demands of the law. Divorce from the law is not enough, for in divorce we remain law breakers. Only death can free us from it. We pass beyond the realm of the law through the cross, baptism-burial and resurrection life. Just as Jesus was raised in newness of life and now sits in heavenly places, far above all principalities and powers, so we are raised to sit in a realm far above the elementary principles of law, sin and death. If we are crucified with Christ we are no longer under the law, and as we read earlier, "Whatever the law says applies to those who are under the law." Now let us further examine this condition of not being under the law.

The Two Covenants

It is impossible to understand the law without first recognizing that it is a Covenant made with one nation only. Paul wrote, "And unto the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might gain the Jews; to them that are under the law, as under the law, that I might gain them that are under the law" (1Corinthians 9:20 KJV).

The first thing we learn from this verse is that Paul was addressing two groups of people, the Jews under the law and the Gentiles nations that were never under the Law of Moses. God gave the Law to Israel as a Covenant between Himself and them alone. God said to Moses, "Write you these words: for in accordance with these words I have made a covenant with you and with Israel" (Exodus. 34:27). The Law was God's covenant with Moses and Israel, not with the Gentile nations.

The Gentiles did not pass through the Red Sea nor stand at the foot of Mount Sinai when Moses came down with the law inscribed on tablets of stone. Neither did they follow Joshua through the parted-waters of the Jordan River into the land of promise. The Mosaic Covenant was purely between Moses, Israel and God. Although the Gentiles were not under the Law of Moses, they were included in a covenant made with Abraham four hundred and thirty years prior.

Paul also referred to the law as a covenant with the natural Jerusalem. "These things contain an allegory, for these are two covenants. One is from Mount Sinai, bearing children to bondage, which is Hagar. For this Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia, and answers to the Jerusalem that exists now, for she is in bondage with her children (Galatians 4:24-25 WEB)." Some people dissect the law of Moses and the traditions of the Jewish fathers and say that we are under one part as Christians, but not the other. This is so much double talk. As we see above, Paul makes it plain that all that has come down from Sinai (the law of Moses) and all that is of Jerusalem (the traditions of the fathers) are one. To adhere to any part of it is to be in bondage to it all.

What about this other Covenant? There are only two covenants. Today we call them "the Old Covenant" and "the New Covenant," but these distinctions are not completely accurate. Paul endeavored to show the Galatians that the New Covenant was really an old, old Covenant--the covenant confirmed beforehand by God in Christ. When? "Now the promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. He doesn't say, 'To seeds,' as of many, but as of one, 'To your seed,' which is Christ. Now I say this. A covenant confirmed beforehand by God in Christ--the law which came four hundred and thirty years after, does not annul, so as to make the promise of no effect" (Galatians 3:16-17 WEB). Consider the timeline on the following page.

The entire white portion of the timeline on the next page represents a single covenant--"the covenant, confirmed beforehand by God in Christ." This covenant was made with Abraham and His Seed (Christ) four hundred and thirty years before the law was given. We see then, that the gospel was first preached to Abraham (Galatians.3:8). The covenant that God made with Abraham and his Seed (Christ) was to bless all nations. This Covenant was wider in scope than the Mosaic covenant because it included everyone, not just Israel.

God's Covenant with Abraham has never been interrupted or added to. Paul wrote regarding this, "Brothers, I speak like men. Though it is only a man's covenant, yet when it has been confirmed, no one makes it void, or adds to it" (Galatians 3:15 WEB). Therefore, the law, represented by the gray portion of our timeline, is not a postscript to the covenant that God made with Abraham, but was added parenthetically only for a short season to bring a people to Christ, the Seed to whom the promise was made. The law-covenant stands totally separate from the faith of Abraham in which those who trust in Christ, as he did, now stand.

Timeline

The Covenant that all believers share today is really the old covenant that was in effect four hundred and thirty years before the law. It was only new to the Jews who were under the law when they accepted Christ as their Messiah. Paul concludes that those who are Christ's are Abraham's seed and heirs according to promise (see Galatians 3:29). As we mentioned before, Jesus told the Pharisees, "Abraham saw my day and he rejoiced." Paul brings this truth home even more profoundly by including all believers with Isaac in the lineage of Abraham. "Now we, brothers, as Isaac was, are children of promise" (Galatians 4:28). Isaac was born an heir. He did nothing to inherit. Everything came as an unmerited gift from his father. So it is with us who are, as Isaac was, children of the promise. We are heirs of the promise through faith in Christ. Regarding this birth and inheritance, Paul wrote, "For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh; but he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the Spirit, not in the letter; whose praise is not from men but from God" (Romans 2:28, 29, NKJV). We who are in Christ and have the faith of Christ are the seed of Abraham, not the seed of Moses. The Covenant that we are under in Christ predates and postdates the law.

The law that came four hundred and thirty years after cannot annul or aid the Promise. The Promise is for both Jew and Gentile--all men and women in Christ. Simeon prophesied with the Christ child in his arms, "Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace, According to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation which you have prepared before the face of all peoples, A light to bring revelation to the Gentiles, And the glory of your people Israel" (Luke 2:29-32, NKJV, emphasis added).

Is the law against the promises? No. Can the law fulfill the promise then? Same answer: no. Righteousness could not come by the law because the law could not give life and because it cannot give life, it cannot deliver the blessing. Righteousness and life are interconnected. We cannot have one without the other. The gift of Divine life is the gift of righteousness. Remember, only God is good and when His Spirit is imparted to the believer His goodness is given as well. "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith..." (Galatians 5:22 KJV). Against such there is no law.

The blessing of Abraham that came upon all nations was not the law. Paul wrote, "Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangs on a tree: That the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith" (Galatians 3:13-14). The blessing of Abraham is the Spirit that is now poured out upon all flesh (see Acts 2). God gave the Blessing of Abraham to all flesh, not the curse of the Law.

The Church at Antioch vs. the Jerusalem Church

The Church at Antioch was the first indication that God's Covenant with Abraham had come to fruition. We find clear evidence of this in the Book of Acts. No one knew how it happened, but a glorious expression of Christ's church sprang up at Antioch. The Antioch Church was a truly free Gentile church, led purely by the Spirit. They were not governed by law but by the Spirit (the blessing of Abraham). This anomaly became the talk of the Jerusalem Church. According to James and all the elders, the Jerusalem Church was comprised of thousands of believing Jews that were "all zealous for the law" (see Act 21:20).

The stark difference between these two churches caused a gathering in Jerusalem to discuss this matter. The focus was on whether the law would be placed on the Gentile believers. Thank God for Peter, who piped up just in time! "Brothers, you know that a good while ago God made choice among you, that by my mouth the Gentiles should hear the word of the gospel, and believe. God, who knows the heart, testified about them, giving them the Holy Spirit [the blessing of Abraham] just like he did to us. He made no distinction between us and them, cleansing their hearts by faith. Now therefore why do you tempt God, that you should put a yoke on the neck of the disciples which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear? But we believe that we are saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they are" (Act 15:7-11 WEB).

According to Peter, putting the yoke of the law on God's people is tempting God and being guilty of the very thing Jesus accused the Pharisees of, i.e., shutting up the kingdom of heaven against men. "For you neither go in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in . . . you bind heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on men's shoulders; but you yourselves will not move them with one of your fingers" (Matthew 23:13&4, NKJV). Today, anyone who encourages any of God's children to keep the law is putting a yoke of bondage on them that no one has ever been able to bear, consigning them to a life of wretchedness and failure. Is this the blessing that God promised the descendants of Abraham?

This Antioch Church had received the blessing of Abraham without the trappings of law. "The Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, 'In you all the nations will be blessed'" (Galatians 3:8 WEB). Israel's great conflict was that they took such pride in their distinctness, as God's chosen people, that they could not or would not embrace the full scope and intention of the Abrahamic Covenant. Instead, their exaggerated position often put them in direct opposition to the Abrahamic Covenant and caused them to scorn those God wants to include. They found their identity in the Mosaic Covenant, which made them the unique custodians of the oracles of God, elevating them above the cursed Gentiles. Israel became a divine powerbroker with the keys to lock out or admit proselytes into the commonwealth. Their instrument of power was the law and they found a sense of safety and pride in their knowledge of it. They despised and cursed those who didn't know the law (John 7:49). Why would they want to trade such power for equality with the Gentiles? But this was exactly what the gospel that was preached beforehand to Abraham demanded because it proclaimed blessing to all nations. Yes, even the gospel is not new. It also predates the law since it was preached to Abraham beforehand.

If we are honest with ourselves we must admit that a similar kind of elitism shuts up the kingdom of heaven today by taking those whom God has joined, in glorious equality, and separating them into classes, divided by badges and banners. On one street corner you will find the Baptist nation, on another the Lutheran nation and on yet another, some other nation.

Christ and all true believers are one Spirit. In the terminology of Adam, they are "bone of His bone, and flesh of His flesh." The two shall become one as man and wife become one flesh. "The person who is united to the Lord becomes one spirit with Him (1 Corinthians 6:16-17).

The words Jesus used to describe the horror of doing anything to separate a husband and wife apply to Him and His bride the church. "What therefore God has joined together, let not man put asunder" (Mark 10:9 RSV).

Law or Grace

What comes to mind when you hear these words, "Under the law"? The word under (hupo [5259]) means beneath, underneath or below, an inferior position or condition. Paul wrote of this inferior condition. "But before faith came, we were kept under the law, shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed" (Galatians 3:23 KJV). What is over us has usually mastered us. The law was given to master, NOT be mastered. Those who are under it are held in its power. Elsewhere Paul wrote:

Now we know that whatever things the law says, it speaks to those who are under the law, that every mouth may be closed, and all the world may be brought under the judgment of God. (Romans 3:19 WEB)

But before faith came, we were kept in custody under the law, shut up to the faith which should afterwards be revealed. So that the law has become our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But now that faith is come, we are no longer under a tutor. (Galatians 3:23-25 WEB)

For sin will not have dominion over you. For you are not under law, but under grace. (Romans 6:14 WEB)
But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. (Galatians 5:18 WEB)

Romans chapter seven is an extremely telling passage that graphically reveals the true condition of the man under the law.

What shall we say then? Is the law sin? May it never be! However, I wouldn't have known sin, except through the law. For I wouldn't have known coveting, unless the law had said, "You shall not covet." But sin, finding occasion through the commandment, produced in me all kinds of coveting. For apart from the law, sin is dead. I was alive apart from the law once, but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died. The commandment, which was for life, this I found to be for death; for sin, finding occasion through the commandment, deceived me, and through it killed me. Therefore the law indeed is holy, and the commandment holy, and righteous, and good. Did then that which is good become death to me? May it never be! But sin, that it might be shown to be sin, by working death to me through that which is good; that through the commandment sin might become exceeding sinful. For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am fleshly, sold under sin. For I don't know what I am doing. For I don't practice what I desire to do; but what I hate, that I do. But if what I don't desire, that I do, I consent to the law that it is good. So now it is no more I that do it, but sin which dwells in me. For I know that in me, that is, in my flesh, dwells no good thing. For desire is present with me, but I don't find it doing that which is good. For the good which I desire, I don't do; but the evil which I don't desire, that I practice. But if what I don't desire, that I do, it is no more I that do it, but sin which dwells in me. I find then the law, that, to me, while I desire to do good, evil is present. For I delight in God's law after the inward man, but I see a different law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity under the law of sin which is in my members. What a wretched man I am! Who will deliver me out of the body of this death? I thank God through Jesus Christ, our Lord! So then with the mind, I myself serve God's law, but with the flesh, the sin's law. (Romans 7:1-25 WEB)

Why was this dear brother so frustrated? He was living in death rather than resurrection life.

Although this may sound like a sad tale it is really a tale of victory. It is in this school of defeat and failure that those misguided souls who try to keep the law learn the most valuable lessons of their lives. The man of Romans chapter seven learned such a lesson."For I know that in me, that is, in my flesh, dwells no good thing. For desire is present with me, but I don't find it doing that which is good" (Romans 7:18 WEB).

Perhaps you identify with this man, after years of dolefully observing the letter and trying to jump through the hoops (expectations) held out by well-meaning religious leaders. Your inability to perform up to the group-consensus is crushing you. What to do? Frustrated and defeated, the cry wells up from within you, "O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?" Death? Yes. Death is the problem here. This is an interesting word to use in connection with law-keeping, don't you think? Throughout the scriptures, death (Greek thanatos) is separation. It is used to describe the separation of the spirit from the body, after which the body ceases to function. Death is not nonexistence but separation from the life of God. It is trying to perfect holiness without the Holy Spirit. God is Spirit and in his eyes, living without spiritual life is death. The result of Adam and Eve's sin was spiritual death, which was followed by physical death. We were dead in our trespasses and sins before God redeemed us. Paul wrote, "But she who gives herself to pleasure is dead while she lives" (1Timothy 5:6 WEB).

W.E. Vine wrote, "As spiritual life is 'conscious existence in communion with God,' so spiritual 'death' is 'conscious existence in separation from God.'" Though the Romans 7 man delighted in the law of God, he lacked the one thing required to keep it--the life of God. He set about to keep the law in his own energy, all to no avail. The law of sin, taking advantage due to the lack of divine life, sweeps everything before it like the onrush of a mighty stream.

Paul answered the question of who would deliver him from this death by declaring, "span class="verse">"There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who don't walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus made me free from the law of sin and of death" (Romans 8:1-2 WEB). Human toil and effort cannot affect salvation or sanctification. "It is not of him who wills, (decides to do a thing) nor of him who runs, (puts forth the effort) but of God who has mercy" (Romans 9:16). Christ in you is the hope of glory! The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus transforms and enlivens us, setting us free from the law of sin and death. Only life can displace death!

How sad that man will not accept God's judgment on his flesh until he has exhausted every last ounce of his human energy. God allows this struggle in order for man to see his flesh as his Creator sees it. Bankrupt! Only then will he agree with God's assessment and cry out for help. Only then can he say from the heart, "In me, that is, in my flesh, dwells no good thing." Only then will he seek God's deliverance and righteousness.

The only thing that will raise us up above the law of sin and death is another law, the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus. Remember Paul's words, "if a Law had been given which could have conferred Life, righteousness would certainly have come by the Law" (see Galatians 3:21 WNT).

Satan's chief tactic is to alienate believers from the life of Christ by enticing them to keep the law and fall to the lower plain of the graceless treadmill of religion. He knows that in doing this he has effectively cut them off from Christ. Paul wrote, "Those of you who are trying to be justified by the law have been cut off from Christ. You have fallen away from grace" (Galatians 5:4 ISV). You cannot add anything to what Christ has already accomplished and filled-up in His own righteous life and death on the cross. If you do, you set aside the grace of God and make Christ's death of no effect, "For if righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died in vain" (Galatians 2:21).

Indeed I, Paul, say to you that if you become circumcised, Christ will profit you nothing.(Galatians 5:2, NKJV).
But Israel, pursuing the law of righteousness, has not attained to the law of righteousness. Why? Because they did not seek it by faith, but as it were, by the works of the law. For they stumbled at that stumbling stone. (Romans 9:31, 32, NKJV).
For they being ignorant of God's righteousness, and seeking to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted to the righteousness of God. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes. (Romans 10:3, 4, NKJV).
I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel, which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed. (Galatians 1:6-9, NKJV).

Notice all the personal pronouns in Romans seven: I wouldn't, I was, I found, I am, I hate, I will, I do, I desire, I practice, I do not, and so forth. His only hope is found in I, Me, My. He has no power outside himself. Such is the state of the man under the law. He is left with an overwhelming sense of his impotence. Hope disappears, as his sin looms larger and larger.

In chapter seven the pronoun I is used thirty-two times, six times in verse fifteen alone. It is only used twice in chapter eight. Paul found that it was no longer I but Christ. In chapter eight he referenced God, Jesus and His Spirit sixty-one times! Paul found Christ as his sufficiency and so must we. This is the difference between the man in defeat and the man in total victory.

The miserable lives of those who have been deluded into thinking that they can become righteous by their own works are a constant warning to anyone who will heed it. It all started with Eve, who thought that if she just could eat of that forbidden tree, she could be like God. Sadly, the greatest consequence is not just the misery of these poor misled souls but the loss of the vital presence and blessing of the Lord in their lives.

Rome imprinted its values on the early church, bringing forth Roman Catholicism, and this same mindset carried forward into the Protestant reformation. Catholicism boasts of its great learned church fathers such as Ignatius, Augustine, Aquinas, Sir Thomas More and so on. Protestantism has Luther, Calvin, Zwingli, Spurgeon, Moody, all educated in the ways of worldly wisdom. Many spent their entire lives in universities. Having only a form of godliness, this apostate bride always denies access to the true source of power, preferring the tree of knowledge over the Spirit of God. What qualifies a man to serve behind a pulpit? A proper Christian education from a recognized university, of course! By this standard, not one of the leaders of the infant church was qualified to lead the body of Christ, except possibly Paul, and he counted his education under the best of Jerusalem as mere dung.

For the next few moments we will consider what we have chosen to call Calvin's Contribution to Covenant Confusion.

Calvin contributed to our captivity by encouraging a mixture of law and grace. His contribution to the current condition of bondage among God's people cannot be overstated. He handed it down to us in the form of something called "Covenant theology." Out of this came the Reform Movement and many varieties of Reform Churches. Calvin wrote:

"If it is true, that a perfect righteousness is set before us in the Law, it follows, that the complete observance of it is perfect righteousness in the sight of God; that is, a righteousness by which a man may be deemed and pronounced righteous at the divine tribunal."

This covenant confusion, which teaches that righteousness comes through keeping the law, has since surfaced in the teachings of many prominent Christian leaders, who faithfully handed it down to us. Here are some quotations from a few confounded converts to Calvin's covenant confusion.

"It is self-evident that the entire obedience to God's law is possible on the grounds of natural ability. To deny this, is to deny that man is able to do as well as he can." (Charles G. Finny, Lectures on Systematic Theology, pg.407)
"Genuine sanctification will show itself in habitual respect for God's law, and habitual effort to live in obedience to it as a rule of life." (J.C.Ryle, Holines, pg. 27)
"Christ was made under the law (Galatians 4:4) and lived in perfect submission thereto, and has left us an example that we should "follow His steps" (1 Peter 2:21). Only by loving, fearing, and obeying the law, shall we be kept from sinning...
"There is an unceasing warfare between the flesh and the Spirit, each bring forth after its own kind, so that groans ever mingle with the Christian's songs. The believer finds himself alternating between thanking God for deliverance from temptation and contritely confessing his deplorable yielding to temptation. Often he is made to cry, "O wretched man that I am!" (Rom. 7:24) Such has been for upwards of twenty-five years the experience of the writer, and it is still so." (Arthur Pink, The Doctrine of Sanctification, pp. 81,83)

Consider this question: Is this the abundant life of which Jesus spoke? These same men had thousands of devout followers. So did the blind Pharisees of 2000 years ago. As long as man glories in human potential, thinking that doing as well as he can is enough, there will always be blind guides leading the blind.

"Grace, grace to it!"

The Old Testament priest and prophet, Zechariah, saw this great truth that man is totally bankrupt when it comes to godliness and doing the work of the Father.

Now the angel who talked with me came back and wakened me, as a man who is wakened out of his sleep. And he said to me, "What do you see?" So I said, "I am looking, and there is a lampstand of solid gold with a bowl on top of it, and on the stand seven lamps with seven pipes to the seven lamps. "Two olive trees are by it, one at the right of the bowl and the other at its left." So I answered and spoke to the angel who talked with me, saying, "What are these, my lord?" Then the angel who talked with me answered and said to me, "Do you not know what these are?" And I said, "No, my lord." So he answered and said to me: "This is the word of the LORD to Zerubbabel: 'Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,' Says the LORD of hosts. 'Who are you, O great mountain? Before Zerubbabel you shall become a plain! And he shall bring forth the capstone With shouts of "Grace, grace to it!"'" (Zechariah 4:1-7, NKJV).

First, it is interesting that the meaning of the name Zerubbabel is born in or seed of Babylon. Imagine for a moment if you will what it must have been like for the "children of the captivity" who had been totally affected by the Babylonian ways and made artisans for its kings during this time (see Daniel 1-4). These people were sent to Zion to build a temple for God by one of these heathen kings! Certainly, they came somewhat cock-sure of their craftsmanship and ability to accomplish the task. They had done it and seen it done many times in Babylon. So what was the first thing that the children of the captivity had to learn? They had to learn that this work would not be accomplished by the means that built the hanging gardens, erected the Ishtar gate and raised the many monuments to Babylon's kings. Remember Nebuchadnezzar's boast that reflects the heart and attitude of Babylon, "Is not this great Babylon, which I have built for the royal dwelling-place, by the might of my power and for the glory of my majesty?" (Daniel 4:30 WEB).

No! This work would not be accomplished by the might and power of man. Babylon the Great depicts the fallen church that knows no other way but the might and power of carnal men.

In his vision, Zechariah saw olive trees, the golden bowl, the seven pipes and seven lamps on a common lampstand. What do these symbols mean? In Revelation chapters two and three, the seven lamps are symbols of the seven churches and their seven spirits among whom Jesus is seen walking and pronouncing judgments. In this vision of Zechariah, we see the church as it should be, under the authority of Christ. Seven is the number of completion or perfection.

Each of the seven "churches" is fed by way of the one Golden Bowl from the source, the Two Olive Trees. Two is the number of witness and these two trees depict the work of Jesus in establishing the church on earth and the work of the Holy Spirit who continues to guide her. "These are the two anointed ones, who stand beside the Lord of the whole earth." (Zechariah 4:14). The source of light and energy is the oil that flows from the two Olive Trees into the golden bowl and out from there to the seven oil lamps, the church in perfection. This explains the angel's interpretation of the vision which the prophet saw, "Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit says the Lord."

Today we have a church that has abandoned its source of oil. We have foolish virgins following in the steps of the churches in Revelation chapters two and three, falling away from the simplicity of Christ. These same sins are often looked upon in the churches as virtues! What sins? In Revelation 2 and 3 we read of false apostles, leaving our First Love and our first works. We also read about false prophets like Baalam, those of the Nicolaitan spirit ruling over God's people, the seducing influence of the Jezebel spirit with its false teachers and seducing spirits, boasting of real life, but actually spiritually dead, and churches that entertain false Jews of the synagogue of Satan. Last but not least, we see the vast sea of mediocrity called lukewarm Christianity that boasts in its wealth and prosperity, wanting only enough of Jesus to be "saved," but not enough to become sons of God. To these Jesus says, "Repent least your lamp shall be removed."

Like the foolish virgins, today's average church member does not seem to know where to go for oil. When trouble comes, they do what they have always done, run to other virgins for oil.

In stark contrast to all this, we have the wise virgins who get their oil from the Source. They wait on the Lord. Their lamps are fed with that constant flow that is not dependent on today's temple priests and pulpit ministers. Their oil comes down into their lamps from Jesus and His Spirit alone. They are plumbed into the Head, the golden bowl above the lamps. Lamps that depend on the priest or minister to come around and fill them soon run out of oil when the hour of darkness comes. Only the wise virgins will make it through the dark night of trial coming upon the whole earth to see the coming of their Bridegroom.

The temple of God is not built of stones and mortar by the skill and ingenuity of men who study church growth. It is a temple built of living stones by the Spirit of the living God. Jesus said, "I will build my church." It is this church and no other that will stand against the gates of hell. Our passage continues, "Who are you, O great mountain? Before Zerubbabel you shall become a plain! And he shall bring forth the capstone with shouts of 'Grace, grace to it!'" The uninterrupted flow of this divine oil from the two olive trees is accompanied by their calls of "Grace, grace unto it."

We must learn that our best efforts are not good enough and never will be in the eyes of God. The oil we need as wise virgins does not come from our own efforts nor from the efforts of other virgins. It comes from the Word of the Lord, and the Spirit of Truth. It is not by our might, not by our power, but by the Spirit of God. Our "righteous deeds" may heap up unto heaven as a great mountain before God, but they will all be cast down as nothing before the feet of Jesus, Who in the end will say to us, "I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!" Only those who know Jesus' covering, who know Him alone as their Cap Stone can appreciate Him and cry out, "Grace! Marvelous Grace!"

The Son, Not the Law

What is our part? Surely we must contribute something? Let's first consider what our role is not. We find several clues in the following verses.

From the place of His dwelling He looks on all the inhabitants of the earth; He fashions their hearts individually; He considers all their works. No king is saved by the multitude of an army; A mighty man is not delivered by great strength. A horse is a vain hope for safety; Neither shall it deliver any by its great strength. Behold, the eye of the LORD is on those who fear Him, On those who hope in His mercy. Psalms 33:14-18, NKJV.
So then it is not of him who wills, nor of him who runs, but of God who has mercy. (Romans 9:16 WEB)

We have nothing to boast about, because all righteousness is His! Only ONE is good. Only ONE possesses the power to save to the uttermost. He is our sanctification. God has made Him our Redemption, Wisdom, Sanctification and Righteousness. Even the life we now live, we live by His faith. Jesus living in and through us is our only hope of glory.

Both Paul and Peter agreed that no one can keep the Law of Moses. Considering this, we find some rather strange language in Jesus' Sermon on the Mount. He seemed to be raising the bar of righteousness. He increased the burden of those who were deceived into thinking that they were meeting the requirements of the law by their own efforts. He said, "For I tell you that unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, there is no way you will enter into the Kingdom of Heaven" (Matthew 5:20 WEB). How would this new righteousness exceed that of the Scribes and Pharisees? Elsewhere, Jesus said to them, "Woe unto you...hypocrites! For you make clean the outside of the cup and of the platter, but within they are full of extortion and excess" (Matthew 23:25). Christ makes it plain that our righteousness must go beyond a mere outside righteousness to an inside righteousness.

Jesus went on to change the law regarding murder. "You have heard that it was said to those of old, 'You shall not murder, and whoever murders will be in danger of the judgment.' But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment.

Jesus went on to say, "You have heard...'You shall not commit adultery' but I tell you that everyone who gazes at a woman to lust after her has committed adultery with her already in his heart" (Mathew 5:27-28). It gets worse!

"It has been said, Whosoever shall put away his wife, let him give her a writing of divorcement: But I say unto you, That whosoever shall put away his wife, except for the cause of fornication, causes her to commit adultery: and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced commits adultery.
You have heard that it has been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth: But I say unto you, That you resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite you on your right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if any man will sue you at the law, and take away your coat, let him have your cloak also. And whosoever shall compel you to go a mile, go with him two. Give to him that asks you, and from him that would borrow of you don't turn him away.
You have heard that it has been said, you shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; That you may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he makes his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love them which love you, what reward have you? Do not even the publicans the same? And if you salute your brethren only, what do you more than others? Do not even the publicans so? Be therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect. (Matthew 5:38-47)

Let us see if we can comprehend what Jesus just did. Jesus is showing us that we can keep the letter of the law and still fall short of the perfection of God. Keeping the law does not effect who you are in your innermost being. You may never have had intercourse with your neighbor's wife and even feel somewhat proud of your faithfulness, but what of your thoughts? Has anything changed inside? More than a mere dutiful keeping of the law is needed. Jesus is saying that outer compliance to a standard is not enough. What better way to do this than to raise the bar of righteousness so high that only God can keep it?

"Be therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect." Jesus had indeed raised the bar of the law, to reveal that outer conformity to a standard does not satisfy the righteous demands of God. The rich young ruler went away sad after assuring Jesus that he had kept the law perfectly from his youth, to which Jesus added, "If you would be perfect, sell all you have." Jesus always went right for the throat of man's self-righteousness. Our righteousness must go beyond a mere external righteousness or we will in nowise enter the kingdom of God.

God is not looking for good people who keep the law. He wants an entirely new creation, birthed of the last Adam, living by the breath of His Spirit, who stand in that goodness that comes from Him alone. The first Adam would never have dared to stand before God and claim any goodness of his own, and we creatures of the last Adam can no more boast than Adam could. We are God's workmanship, created for good works in Christ. We are new creatures with new desires. "For in Christ Jesus neither is circumcision anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation" (Galatians 6:15 WEB). In dramatic style, Jesus was saying that nothing short of this new creation could stand in the perfection of God.

True righteousness must come from the heart. The one who has never touched his neighbor's wife may have already committed adultery with her, lusting in his innermost being. Moreover, if he truly loved his neighbor he could not even think of such a thing.

The Law of Moses demanded justice, "An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth," but the law of Christ tells us to turn the other cheek when we are struck, and give up our inalienable legal right to justice. Even Stephen the first martyr, like his Master, knew the power of such a life when he prayed for his murderers, "Father forgive them, they know not what they do."

The Pharisee could think of himself as loving his neighbor--but his enemy, now that was a different story. Man in his own energy can no more be perfect as God is perfect than a cow can fly. The standard that Jesus presented was more unattainable than the Law of Moses. There must be a radical change of heart and administration within. Even the prophets foretold this need. Ezekiel prophesied, "I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them" (Ezekiel 36:26, 27, NKJV).

If no man can keep the law, then no man can truly love his neighbor as the law defines that love. If we cannot truly love our neighbor, then how shall we love our enemies? The truth is we can do nothing, and that is exactly the point! God was making it evident by giving the law and Jesus came to drive that point home. He gave the words of the prophet real meaning, and those who did not get it were totally frustrated with His teachings.

What Father requires is a total transformation, a new nature, having new desires and the grace from God to live it out. Christ had not died yet; therefore His hearers had not experienced His redemptive grace and power to live above sin and the law--the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. The dispensation of the law was a time wherein God required His perfection but gave no grace to perform it. It was a time of teaching by a strict and heartless schoolmaster. The lesson to be learned was that we are all sinners and fall short of the perfection and glory of God. There is none righteous, not even one.

Christ died to lift us above the struggle for righteousness. He died to give us a new nature just like His so that we respond as He would. It is no longer, "What would Jesus do?", but, "Look what Jesus is doing in me!" If we walk in the Holy Spirit, we will not fulfill the lusts of the flesh, so those who walk in the Spirit are not under the law. We must never fall for the deception that we can win God's favor by keeping the law. Paul wrote,

Such confidence we have through Christ toward God; not that we are sufficient of ourselves, to account anything as from ourselves; but our sufficiency is from God; who also made us sufficient as servants of a new covenant; not of the letter, but of the Spirit. For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. But if the service of death, written engraved on stones, came with glory, so that the children of Israel could not look steadfastly on the face of Moses for the glory of his face; which was passing away: won't service of the Spirit be with much more glory? For if the service of condemnation has glory, the service of righteousness exceeds much more in glory. For most assuredly that which has been made glorious has not been made glorious in this respect, by reason of the glory that surpasses. (2 Corinthians 3:4-10 WEB)

The knowledge that there is nothing good in us that would commend us to God is where brokenness begins. No one cries for help like a drowning man. When we have struggled with all our might only to be going down for the third time, we seek the intervention of another. Then we are ready to receive the help that God extends. We must understand that no one is righteous in God's sight, and that God gave the law, and allowed the struggle to keep it, to prove this very point. "For God has shut up all to disobedience, that he might have mercy on all" (Romans 11:32). How did God do this? We find the answer in Galatians, chapter three. "But before faith came, we were kept under the law, shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed" (Galatians 3:23 KJV). Praise God, a Savior has delivered us from this kind of death. This is the triumphant call of Romans, chapter eight.

"So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. For the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you through Christ Jesus from the power of sin that leads to death. The law of Moses could not save us, because of our sinful nature. But God put into effect a different plan to save us. He sent his own Son in a human body like ours, except that ours are sinful. God destroyed sin's control over us by giving his Son as a sacrifice for our sins. He did this so that the requirement of the law would be fully accomplished for us who no longer follow our sinful nature but instead follow the Spirit. Those who are dominated by the sinful nature think about sinful things, but those who are controlled by the Holy Spirit think about things that please the Spirit. If your sinful nature controls your mind, there is death. But if the Holy Spirit controls your mind, there is life and peace. For the sinful nature is always hostile to God. It never did obey God's laws, and it never will. That's why those who are still under the control of their sinful nature can never please God. But you are not controlled by your sinful nature. You are controlled by the Spirit if you have the Spirit of God living in you. (And remember that those who do not have the Spirit of Christ living in them are not Christians at all.) Since Christ lives within you, even though your body will die because of sin, your spirit is alive because you have been made right with God. The Spirit of God, who raised Jesus from the dead, lives in you. And just as he raised Christ from the dead, he will give life to your mortal body by this same Spirit living within you. So, dear brothers and sisters, you have no obligation whatsoever to do what your sinful nature urges you to do. For if you keep on following it, you will perish. But if through the power of the Holy Spirit you turn from it and its evil deeds, you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. So you should not be like cowering, fearful slaves. You should behave instead like God's very own children, adopted into his family--calling him "Father, dear Father." For his Holy Spirit speaks to us deep in our hearts and tells us that we are God's children. And since we are his children, we will share his treasures--for everything God gives to his Son, Christ, is ours, too. But if we are to share his glory, we must also share his suffering.(Romans 8:1-17 NLT)

There is now no condemnation [an adverse sentence] for those believers who belong to Christ Jesus. The word condemnation is a legal term, appropriately used to describe a legal dilemma. It speaks of the condition and impairment placed upon all who set out to be justified by compliance to a law of any kind. It is a reference to the curse of the law. But "the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you through Christ Jesus from the power of sin that leads to death. God put into effect a different plan to save us." God's plan is to destroy the dominion of sin over us. He did that by the sacrifice of His Son. Jesus fully bore the penalties for our sins, which met all the requirements of the law. The law said, "If you sin you must die." Jesus met our legal requirements by dying our death. God reckons Christ's death to be ours, and accordingly this is the legal basis on which we are declared innocent and free.

In England not long ago, a rich man could hire a boy to take the beating for an offence that the courts judged him worthy of. These young men became known as "whipping boys." This is exactly what Jesus did for us. He became our whipping boy so that we would be free, not so that we could do the same crime over again with impunity, but rather that we might live free of that sin in newness of life. It is one thing to be free of the consequences of our sin, but a whole other thing to have the grace of God working in us, freeing us from the bondage of our sin natures. This is resurrection life! This is life in the Spirit.

Those who attempt to come to God by way of law are still under the control of their sinful nature, without hope. They are frustrated and confused. They might be able to overcome many outwardly forbidden sins, but for each one of these they overcome, a new form will rise up within them. Where before they murdered, now they hate and wish people were dead. Before they slept with women that were not their wives, now they burn inside with lust. The real evil of such a life is because they no longer do these things outwardly, they now judge those who do, again showing themselves guilty of the same thing (see Romans 2:1). God does not look on the outward when He sees a man, but He looks on the heart. In judging one another, the real harm comes, for we cut off God's compassion for the sinner from flowing through us, judging them without seeing into their hearts. We can be white-washed sepulchres or we can obey the upward call and becomelife-giving sons of God.

Those who are led by the Spirit, in whom Christ lives by faith, will soar with wings of eagles and defy the downward pull of sin. The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus makes them free from the law of sin and death. Christ lives within them through the Spirit of God, the same Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead. And in the same way that He raised Christ from the dead, God will elevate us above the legal and moral dilemma of law-keeping and sin. We are not obligated any longer to the urgings of the sinful nature, nor the rules of men that try to keep it in its place.

The only way to freedom from the sinful nature and the law is through the power of the Holy Spirit. "For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God." We are not cowering, fearful slaves, but God's adopted children. He has sent forth His Spirit into our hearts crying "Abba Father" or "Father, dear Father."

Paul wrote,

"Pay all your debts, except the debt of love for others. You can never finish paying that! If you love your neighbor, you will fulfill all the requirements of God's law. For the commandments against adultery and murder and stealing and coveting--and any other commandment --are all summed up in this one commandment: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' Love does no wrong to anyone, so love satisfies all of God's requirements" (Romans 13:8-10 NLT).

Love is the fulfillment of the law. The law of love is the higher law. If I love my neighbor because of the new heart within, given me by God, I will not covet his wife, nor will I covet any of his possessions. If we truly love people, we desire the best for them. We will put their well-being before our own. We will never steal from them or hurt them in any way. So love satisfies the debt and obligation of all God's requirements.

How important is it that we contend for our freedom from the Law? Very important! For no one will ever be saved by obeying the law. If we attempt to go back under the law, we make ourselves guilty by rebuilding the old system of merits that God has already discarded. As Paul wrote, "Christ is our righteousness. Nay, I even reckon all things as pure loss because of the priceless privilege of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. And for His sake I have suffered the loss of everything, and reckon it all as mere refuse, in order that I may win Christ and be found in union with Him, not having a righteousness of my own, derived from the Law, but that which arises from faith in Christ--the righteousness which comes from God through faith" span class="reference">(Philippians 3:8-9 WNT).

We have died to the law, our old husband, by being crucified with Christ. And if we have done so, it is no longer us who lives, but Christ who lives in us. We must be careful to honor Christ's sacrifice by receiving His grace daily. We must not treat the grace of God as though it were meaningless. If you are attempting to be saved by keeping the law, you are acting as if there was no need for Christ to die. You are behaving as if you can do quite well by yourself. At Antioch, Peter was not living in accordance with the truth of the good news by refusing to eat with the Gentile believers, nor is anyone else who practices will worship and legalistic forms of "Christianity."

Freedom in Christ

Paul wrote:

So, Christ has really set us free. Now make sure that you stay free, and don't get tied up again in slavery to the law. Listen! I, Paul, tell you this: If you are counting on circumcision to make you right with God, then Christ cannot help you. I'll say it again. If you are trying to find favor with God by being circumcised, you must obey all of the regulations in the whole law of Moses. For if you are trying to make yourselves right with God by keeping the law, you have been cut off from Christ! You have fallen away from God's grace... (Galatians 5:1-4, NLT)
For you have been called to live in freedom--not freedom to satisfy your sinful nature, but freedom to serve one another in love. For the whole law can be summed up in this one command: "Love your neighbor as yourself" (Galatians. 5:13-15 NLT).

May God free us all from death producing, grace inhibiting, appeasement-oriented religion. May we also be found in Christ, not having our own righteousness but that righteousness that comes from God through faith! No one can brag in God's presence. Christ "was made to us righteousness...so that even as it has been written, 'He that glories, let him glory in the Lord'" (Jeremiah 9:24, 1 Corinthians 1:31).

John wrote,

Whoever commits sin also commits lawlessness, and sin is lawlessness. And you know that He was manifested to take away our sins, and in Him there is no sin. Whoever abides in Him does not sin. Whoever sins has neither seen Him nor known Him. Little children, let no one deceive you. He who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous. He who sins is of the devil, for the devil has sinned from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil. Whoever has been born of God does not sin, for His seed remains in him; and he cannot sin, because he has been born of God. In this the children of God and the children of the devil are manifest: Whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is he who does not love his brother. (1 John 3:4-10, NKJV).

The true Christian life needs no outward law. It is powered by an inward Life--the law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus. God desires truth in the inward parts, Christ in you.

God has reserved the rule of law, external governance, for those who will not be led by His Spirit. "But if you be led of the Spirit, you are not under the law" (Galatians 5:18). We will either live by the inward Truth of God, or be under the straight jacket of the law.

The Galatian assembly began in the Spirit--dependent on the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus. The champions of the law, known as Judaizers, had bewitched them into trading that freedom for the bondage of the letter. Paul, who had lived in the body of that death in his early years as a Pharisee, could clearly see that same death working in them. They had begun in the Spirit, but now they were attempting to reach perfection by the energies of the flesh (See Galatians 3:3). Paul's appeal to them is critical, for it is foundational to true faith. With this in mind, let us carefully consider the following question. "Therefore He who supplies [present tense] the Spirit to you and works miracles [continually] among you, does He do it by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? Just as Abraham 'believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness'" (Galatians 3:5-6).

The faith of Abraham was based on the hearing of faith. We tend to believe, due to years of evangelical conditioning, that the hearing of faith comes through reading the Bible. For years Christians have sat passively in church pews listening to Bible-preachers say, "Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God." Reading the Bible is wonderful, but this is not the hearing of faith because Abraham had no Bible. So what is it then? The answer is found in the passage above. The hearing of faith comes through union with Him who supplies the Spirit and works among you. When Abraham believed God he was not reading his Bible but listening to God through the Spirit. He believed what he heard and that was accounted to him for righteousness, not through works but through faith. Religious men struggle to complete by their own efforts what was begun by God. It was to such that He took the oath, "I swear in my wrath, they shall not enter into my rest."

Entering God's Rest

Adam had an established relationship with God and had been doing some marvelous, superhuman things with Him before Eve was created. He had named all the animals, considered each of them as a possible helper, and tended a garden the size of today's Iraq! Adam did all these things while abiding in the Father's rest because none of it was done from his own flesh. Adam lived fully in the rest and provision of God. He rested in the completed works of God that were "finished from the foundation of the world" (Hebrews 4:3). It was after some time (as we know it) that he was put into a deep sleep by God, then from his own body God brought forth for him a helper worthy of him, a bride for Adam whom he named Eve.

God gave them a warning, which if not heeded would subject mankind to a process of aging, decay and death. Here in Genesis we read:

And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, "Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die." (Genesis 2:16, 17, NKJV).

Of this verse Adam Clarke writes:

Thou shalt surely die. twmt twm moth tamuth; Literally, a death thou shalt die; or, dying thou shalt die. Thou shalt not only die spiritually, by losing the life of God, but from that moment thou shalt become mortal, and shalt continue in a dying state till thou die.

Dying you shall die--literally, "you shall begin to die until you die." The clock began to tick when Eve took the first bite of the forbidden fruit. How long do you suppose that Adam had lived free of sickness, pain and death before he disobeyed God's warning? We read this as if God made Adam and Eve on one day, and the next day, they were walking through the garden and came across this tree with a talking snake in it. They were convinced that the way of the snake was better than the life that God had given them and were cast out of the garden.

Have you ever contemplated how God can be all places at the same time? Could it be that for Him there is no such thing as time? If He is outside of and not subject to time, for it is part of his creation, then it would be a small thing for Him to be everywhere at the same time. Could this be why, when asked by Moses for His name, He called Himself I Am? Why, I Am, why not I Will Be or I Was? God dwells in the eternal NOW! Could this be the very nature of God with which Adam and Eve were created in perfection, of which God said, "It is good"? They were never in conflict with the flow of the purposes of God. They were never running ahead or falling behind; they were one with Him and that was good in the eyes of God.

As far as Adam and Eve were concerned, before the fall there was no time--no aging. They were in a constant state of spiritual rest and well being. They did not toil or spin. They never knew anxiety or want. Their entire existence was filled with life and light. There were no worries about what they would eat or what they would wear. They lived in the constant provision of their Creator. He was their covering. The Garden of Eden was filled with food bearing trees. They lived in and were sustained by "the works that were finished from the foundation of the world." Theirs was a life of faith in their loving Father. But after they gave in to the enticements of the one who was a liar and murderer from the beginning, a series of events took place that put all of creation in chaos, groaning in anticipation of a day of deliverance. Paul wrote:

Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned-- (For until the law sin was in the world, but sin is not imputed when there is no law. Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those who had not sinned according to the likeness of the transgression of Adam, who is a type of Him who was to come. (Romans 5:12-14, NKJV).

In his book Sit, Walk, Stand, Watchman Nee wrote,

Adam, we are told, was created on the sixth day. Clearly, then, he had no part in those first six days of work, for he came into being only at their end. God's seventh day was, in fact, Adam's first. Whereas God worked six days and then enjoyed His sabbath rest, Adam began his life with the sabbath; for God works before He rests, while man must first enter into God's rest, and then alone can he work. Moreover it was because God's work of creation was truly complete that Adam's life could begin with rest. And here is the gospel: that God has gone one stage further and has completed also the work of redemption, and that we need do nothing whatever to merit it, but can enter by faith directly into the values of His finished work.

In Christ, God was once again working and creating anew. Just as Jesus was the Prime Mover of the first creation, so is He the progenitor of the new humanity, many sons unto glory. "All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made" (John 1:3). Jesus, the Last Adam, was sent to work and restore man unto his former state, a new creation in the Father. In Christ's ministry on the earth we see a parallel to the six days of creation, the bringing forth of a new humanity that is once again in tune with the life flow of His Father. "Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old things have passed away. Behold, all things have become new" (2 Corinthians 5:17 WEB). "For in Christ Jesus neither is circumcision anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation" (Galatians 6:15 WEB). Like Adam, we who believe are a new humanity, a new race, born into the Sabbath-rest of the Father. We are not speaking of the Sabbath as a literal "day" but as a timeless reality, which we are called to live in for eternity.

Man cannot live that Life that God created him for without the abiding presence of his Creator any more than a fish can live out of water. He will struggle and flop on the bank, vulnerable and gasping to live in this foreign environment of time and finally, beaten by time and gravity, go back to the earth from which he came. Man was not made to live in time, ruled by the clock and calendar. Ever since the fall, he has been trying to beat the effect of time and defeat the sickness and aging brought about by sin through his own self efforts. With each "cure" comes more side-effects, and each invention further prohibits his return to Eden and ends up being used as someone's new weapon of death or instrument of bondage. He even goes so far as to abort healthy full-term babies as they are being born so he can steal the matter in their brain stems in an effort to defeat the curse of aging and sickness. For the sake of saving his own self-centered life, he brings death to a new level, the holocaust of the unborn. How could we be so blind to our fallen and decadent state and not be repulsed by such sin and repent? It would seem that the soul of man, the self-centered one, knows no bounds in its downward spiral.

It is important that we grasp just what we as fallen men have lost. All of the thoughts of the natural man are focused on one thing, DOING! God's new creation is in tune with one thought, "It is finished." As Jesus the Pattern Son put it, "When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am He, and that I do nothing of Myself; but as My Father taught Me, I speak these things. And He who sent Me is with Me. The Father has not left Me alone, for I always do those things that please Him" (John 8:28, 29, NKJV).

Being caught in self-generated works and accomplishments is the direct result of eating of that forbidden tree. "If you eat of this tree, you shall be like God, knowing both good and evil." The desire to be independent of the Prime Mover of the universe and be our own prime mover is in our every waking thought. Are we content with that God-likeness that is the direct result of His creative-workmanship? A Psalmist wrote, "I shall be satisfied when I awake in Your likeness" (Psalms 17:15 NKJV). Is that enough? Or do we want to be like God, equal to Him, choosing and doing for ourselves--self-made, self-sufficient? In the first case we abide in His rest as He creates, resting and awaking in His likeness. In the second we compete with Him and try to take His place, which is the very essence of the antichrist spirit.

"I Thank God through Jesus Christ..."

So where is our hope? Are we destined to continue to degrade in body and soul, falling into ever-greater depths of separation from our righteous Creator? A thousand times No! Just as sin, sickness, aging and death entered in through Adam and Eve, so did life enter into the human equation by the Last Adam.

Carefully read this passage from Paul's letter to the Corinthian church:

So also is the resurrection of the dead. The body is sown in corruption, it is raised in incorruption. It is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness, it is raised in power. It is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body. And so it is written, "The first man Adam became a living being." The last Adam became a life-giving spirit. However, the spiritual is not first, but the natural, and afterward the spiritual. The first man was of the earth, made of dust; the second Man is the Lord from heaven. As was the man of dust, so also are those who are made of dust; and as is the heavenly Man, so also are those who are heavenly. And as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly Man. Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does corruption inherit incorruption. Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed--in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: "Death is swallowed up in victory." "O Death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory?" The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 15:42-57, NKJV).

Here we read that the old man, this corruptible must put on incorruption, and it is done by abiding in the completed work of the Second Adam, the risen Christ. He has made every provision for us to rise from our fallen state. Yes, through the salvation of Jesus we will put on new spiritual bodies to live in that spiritual world called heaven. But not only this, He has also made the way for us to live in perfect communion with our Father and creator while we still live on this earth! We now enter into eternal life not limited by time.

Jesus said, "Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day" (John 6:54, NKJV). Note the present tense, has. He went on to say, "My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand" (John 10:27, 28, NKJV). The curse is broken as we abide in Christ, the last Adam, the Quickening Spirit, as our life. We who believe in Him never die. We simply shed this natural body subject to corruption and move into an eternal body that is fitting for our regenerated souls for the rest of eternity.

Labor to Enter into Rest

Let us carefully consider this passage for in it is a fearful warning to all believers.

While it is said: "Today, if you will hear His voice, Do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion." For who, having heard, rebelled? Indeed, was it not all who came out of Egypt, led by Moses? Now with whom was He angry forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose corpses fell in the wilderness? And to whom did He swear that they would not enter His rest, but to those who did not obey? So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief. Therefore, since a promise remains of entering His rest, let us fear lest any of you seem to have come short of it. For indeed the gospel was preached to us as well as to them; but the word which they heard did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in those who heard it. For we who have believed do enter that rest, as He has said: "So I swore in My wrath, 'They shall not enter My rest,'" although the works were finished from the foundation of the world. For He has spoken in a certain place of the seventh day in this way: "And God rested on the seventh day from all His works"; and again in this place: "They shall not enter My rest." Since therefore it remains that some must enter it, and those to whom it was first preached did not enter because of disobedience." (Hebrews 3:15-4:6, NKJV).

Earlier we mentioned that God is not bound by time, and that the effects of time came about because of the fall of Adam and Eve. God abides in the eternal now and invites man to join Him there. In his fallen state, man is driven to create and strive, to connive and scheme, to leave his mark upon the earth. In his quest for immortality, he wants to leave a legacy that he will be remembered for. For this man there is no rest because he does not know eternal life. It all started in the garden of God, "If you eat of this tree, you will be like (independent of) God, knowing both good and evil." They saw that the tree would make them wise and no longer dependent on their Father for direction.

Religious man is driven to judge what is good and evil in the lives of everyone around him. He insists on knowing all men after the flesh. He is ever accusing or excusing himself and others (Romans 2:15) as though he were the God who judges the living and the dead (2 Timothy 4:1). He is always trying to order his surroundings in an effort to recreate the harmony of the Eden of God. Consequently, his life is filled with toil and struggle. His best efforts to make heaven here on earth always turn it into a living hell. From Augustine to Calvin to the present day those who strive to recreate "The City of God" set the stage for unthinkable tyranny and brutality. Augustine had to confess, "The earthly city (Rome), which, though it be mistress of the nations, is itself ruled by its lust of rule."

All his best efforts cannot rise above his own, fallen, corrupted heart. God's answer is not in more doing, but in resting. Heaven on earth is only found as we enter into God's rest. But what is the writer of Hebrews saying, "Labor therefore to enter into His rest"? Labor to rest? Isn't that an oxymoron? Aren't our lives already filled with enough labor as it is?

We refer again to the story in Genesis about a man named Jacob. Now this guy was an unbroken schemer, builder, shaker and mover. First he schemes to take his older brother's birthright and inheritance, and with his mother's help, he succeeds in getting it all. But as a result he has to run for his life because his brother Esau was "a man's man" and was mad enough to kill him.

So Jacob headed out for the hometown of his uncle Laban in Babylon. There he met his match. Laban was shrewd and tricked Jacob into laboring for him among his flocks for twenty one years, when all Jacob wanted to do was marry one of Laban's daughters. Now to the heart of the story.

Jacob finally set out for home with his two wives, numerous children and flocks and herdsmen, only to find out that Esau was coming to meet him with 400 armed men. Not to worry. Jacob, he who supplants and undermines, is not without resource. He set his scheming mind to buy his way out of trouble once again. His whole life was filled with labor. He knew no rest. He endlessly ordered and balanced his universe. Just when he started to get it all together, trouble was on his doorstep. "So Jacob was greatly afraid and distressed; and he divided the people that were with him, and the flocks and herds and camels, into two companies. And he said, 'If Esau comes to the one company and attacks it, then the other company, which is left will escape. Pass over before me, and put some distance between successive droves.' And he commanded the first one, saying, 'When Esau my brother meets you and asks you, saying, "To whom do you belong, and where are you going? Whose are these in front of you?" then you shall say, "They are your servant Jacob's. It is a present sent to my lord Esau."' I will appease him with the present that goes before me, and afterward I will see his face; perhaps he will accept me" (Genesis 32:7,8, 17,18, 20 NKJV).

In his cowardly, self-seeking way, Jacob sent his herdsmen and livestock ahead in successive waves, trying to buy off the wrath of the brother he defrauded 21 years earlier. But word came back to him that Esau was not bought off so easily. Esau and his armies were still coming. Still scheming, Jacob divided his wives and children into bands. Genesis does not say this, but we can see him plotting to send his concubines and least favored wife Leah and their children to meet Esau first, then sending Rachael his beloved wife and her children directly in front of him.

But something happened to Jacob. He had an encounter with the living God. So what did he do? True to form, he grabbed the angel of the Lord and wrestled with him all night. Even now he took matters into his own hands, refusing to let go all night long, demanding a blessing. This man was desperate to save his hide. So God blessed Jacob. He crippled him for the rest of his life! What a blessing!

Up until then he was able to be his own god, relying on his own mind and his own strength to fix any fix he got himself into. No more, for now we read of a different man with a different heart. In the morning Jacob walked with a limp. Instead of sending the women and children ahead of him over the brook to appease the war-lust of Esau and his thugs, Jacob went over the brook to face the music ahead of them.

What was the result? Did Esau dispatch his miserable scheming, lame brother with one blow? No. They fell upon one another's necks and kissed. Esau was not there to kill his brother, but to love him. The one Jacob called "My Lord Esau" only wanted to be restored to his brother. Finally, Jacob had entered into God's rest. So much labor, always trying to avoid the inevitable, always trying to hedge his bets, but now we see a man that lives the rest of his life subject to what God deals him.

God will let us strive and struggle to save ourselves, to build our kingdoms, but in the end if we are truly one of His, He will touch us in our thigh, weaken us and bring us to the place of His mercy. He will have no strange gods before Him. He does not want our labor, what we can do for Him or give Him. He only wants us! He wants to fall on our necks and kiss us and hold us in His arms and love us. This process of getting to the end of our selves and finally yielding to Him in complete surrender is what is meant by "labor therefore to enter into His rest."

To participate in the works that God preordained before the foundation of the world and receive the benefit of the finished work of Christ, you must first cease from your own labors. The African proverb, "Lord Jesus, make my heart sit down," should be our constant prayer. Lord, make my heart cease from its scheming! Make my heart sit down! Make my heart rest in You alone, not in an unbroken and enterprising intellect! May I not be as Israel to whom you said, "'Your salvation requires you to turn back to me and stop your silly efforts to save yourselves. Your strength will come from settling down in complete dependence on me--the very thing you've been unwilling to do.... You've said, 'Nothing doing! We'll rush off on horseback!' You'll rush off, all right! Just not far enough! You've said, 'We'll ride off on fast horses!' Do you think your pursuers ride old nags? Think again: A thousand of you will scatter before one attacker. Before a mere five you'll all run off. There'll be nothing left of you--a flagpole on a hill with no flag, a signpost on a roadside with the sign torn off.' But God's not finished. He's waiting around to be gracious to you. He's gathering strength to show mercy to you. GOD takes the time to do everything right--everything. Those who wait around for him are the lucky ones" (Isaiah 30:15-18 MSG)

In returning to God and resting in Him we are saved. In quietness and confidence we are made strong. This is alien to the Jacob within man. Religious man loves to flee--riding upon the swift steed of religiosity--hedging against all possible threats. Ride, cowboy, ride! The Lord is waiting. He waits until our pursuers run us ragged, our horses collapse beneath us, or we receive a blinding revelation of Christ that makes us hang up our spurs. God waits for us to return, rest and quietly wait for Him. "Blessed (happy, fortunate, to be envied) are all those who [earnestly] wait for Him, who expect and look and long for Him [for His victory, His favor, His love, His peace, His joy, and His matchless, unbroken companionship]" (Isaiah 30:18 AMP). He waits for us to assume that posture David describes in His Psalm of Ascent. "God, I'm not trying to rule the roost, I don't want to be king of the mountain. I haven't meddled where I have no business or fantasized grandiose plans. I've kept my feet on the ground, I've cultivated a quiet heart. Like a baby content in its mother's arms, my soul is a baby content. Wait, Israel, for GOD. Wait with hope. Hope now; hope always!" (Psalms 131:1-3 MSG).

Our hearts must sit down and rest fully in God's election. We did not choose Christ but He chose us and ordained us to go and bring forth fruit. When we come to see that He chose us before the foundation of the world, before we did anything good or evil, noble or ignoble, then our hearts are made to sit down. What a mystery! God chose us before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:4-5)! God said to Jeremiah, "Before I formed you in the belly I knew you, and before you came forth out of the womb I sanctified you; I have appointed you a prophet to the nations" (Jeremiah 1:5 WEB). If you belong to Christ, God knew you and called you before. Even the works He has called you to do were "before ordained" (See Ephesians 2:10). Nothing is left to our discretion. We enter God's Rest when we cease from our own labors and yield to the calling that God preordained for our lives.

The Author of Hebrews wrote of the delicate balance of work and rest:

For we who have believed do enter into that rest, even as he has said, "As I swore in my wrath, they will not enter into my rest;" although THE WORKS WERE FINISHED FROM THE FONDATION OF THE WORLD. For he has said this somewhere about the seventh day, "God rested on the seventh day from all his works;" and in this place again, "They will not enter into my rest." (Hebrews 4:3-5 WEB)

Vincent comments,

The Sabbath rest points back to God's original rest, and marks the ideal rest the rest of perfect adjustment of all things to God, such as ensued upon the completion of his creative work, when he pronounced all things good. This falls in with the ground-thought of the Epistle, the restoration of all things to God's archetype.

"God saw that it was good" and "It is finished" are two sides of the same coin. God works where his goodness is lacking. He will not rest until every area of our lives reflects His workmanship and righteousness. We will continue in the sixth day, laboring in our own strength until we rest in God's completed work, finished from the foundation of the world.

The word work implies an unfinished task; the word rest speaks of the cessation of work. Everything is finished. In John chapter seventeen Jesus prayed, "I have glorified You on the earth. I finished the work that You gave Me to do. And now Father, glorify Me with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the existence of the world" (John 17:4-5 LITV).

Peter wrote, "Seeing that his divine power has granted (past tense) to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and virtue..." (2 Peter 1:3 WEB).

Only if you enter the works that were finished from the foundation of the world can you know God's seventh day rest. In the chapter entitled, "The New Thing Which Is Old" of his excellent book God's Reactions to Man's Defections, T. A. Sparks wrote,

That which, from man's standpoint, has always been God's new thing, from His own standpoint has not been new at all. "Known unto God are all his works from the beginning of the world". (Acts 15:18) "The works were finished from the foundation of the world". (Hebrews 4:3). In all His fresh activities and revelations, God is working backward to an original position and design. God never leaves His original premise . . . God has before Him all the time the finished and completed thing, and He knows exactly, to a detail, what He wants. He must and will have that. He cannot be denied it, and He will never give it up or take less. Whenever there is a deviation from or a falling short of it there will be a Divine reaction . . .

What is our part in all of this? Who does the work? The Holy Spirit NOW works to bring all things into conformity to God's original position, premise and design. Our part is to be led by and yield to the Spirit, allowing His transforming work within us. (See Romans 8:14). The work is done through and by the Spirit. Paul put it this way, "For through the Spirit, by faith, we wait for the hope of righteousness" (Galatians 5:5 RSV). Here we see that it is through the Spirit that we expectantly wait, in faith, for the full realization of righteousness. We wait because this is the Spirit's work. The Judaizers put their faith and hope in carnal activity and ordinances--circumcision, law-keeping and a host of other rituals, too numerous to mention here. Paul argues in favor of deference to the work of the Spirit. We wait in faith for the Holy Spirit of God to brood over and birth all things preparatory to the full realization of righteousness. Until we cease from our fleshly labors we can never know the faith and hope Paul wrote about, because it is a work of the Spirit. Remember, "It is we [true believers], not they [the Judaizing teachers, endeavoring to pervert the Gospel], who have received the true circumcision, for we worship God by means of his Spirit and rejoice in our life in union with Christ Jesus. We do not put any trust in external ceremonies" (Philippians 3:3 GNB bracketed emphasis ours).

Man is obsessed with perfecting perfection to create the new and improved thing. He even tries to improve on the finished work of Christ. You who will enter God's rest must first cease from your own labors. Rest is the end of working. Religion is preoccupied with doing. Someone is always ready to tell you what you need to do to please God. "You need to stop this and start doing that, avoid these and associate with those..." If you engage in such self-improvement, you cannot enter God's finished work because you are resisting His workmanship in your life thorough your own labors. The works were finished (past tense) from the foundation of the world! John wrote of the Logos, "All things were made through him. Without him was not anything made that has been made" (John 1:3). How can we add to that?

We tend to view Christ's death on the cross as a redemptive afterthought, an addition that was not included in the original plan of God, a sort of stop-gap measure because of Adam's fall. Then we read, "And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world" (Revelation 13:8 KJV). It is finished! These thoughts and events were all included in the council of God when He said, "Let Us make man in Our image and in Our likeness." Father's works are complete and very good! All that pertains to life and godliness is ours if we will only stop trying to do it ourselves and in faith embrace the works that were finished from the foundation of the world, and then allow the Spirit to bring us into their full realization!

The Principle of Life in Christ

Jesus came as a living demonstration of another principle (or Logos) of life, one that gave life and true spiritual change in the lives of hundreds that He touched. "A Greek philosopher named Heraclitus first used the term Logos around 600 B.C. to designate the divine reason or plan which coordinates a changing universe. This word was well suited to John's purpose in John 1" (Enhanced Strong's Lexicon). The Greek word Logos would more correctly be translated reason or logic. Jesus is the logic of God. His ways were not and are not the ways of natural man.

Take the instance of the Pharisees dragging a woman who was caught in the very act of adultery before Jesus. They had a two-fold plot. First they were going to enforce goodness on this sinner and others like her by killing her for breaking their law. They also plotted to pull Jesus down by getting Him either to become an accomplice to her murder, or excuse her because of His compassion for the lost. If He condoned her crime, they would be justified in stoning Him as well.

Jesus' life was a continuous demonstration of Life. His reply to the Jewish leaders not only saved this woman's life, but exposed the sin lurking in their own dark souls. When He said, "Let he who is without sin cast the first stone," He forced them to look at their own evil hearts. Paul wrote, "Therefore you are inexcusable, O man, whoever you are who judge, for in whatever you judge another you condemn yourself; for you who judge practice the same things" (Romans 2:1, NKJV). When we are judgmental and angry at those who commit a particular sin, we can be sure that very sin is lurking in the darkness within us and has not yet been exposed to God's healing light. It is this sin within that we find most repulsive.

After the challenge of Jesus' words, the self-righteous ones all went scurrying for their dwellings. He then said to her, "Woman, where are those accusers of yours? Has no one condemned you?" She said, "No one, Lord." And Jesus said to her, "Neither do I condemn you. Go and sin no more." We believe that just as "without Him was nothing made that was made," so the spoken Word of God, the Logos of Christ, created a new principle in the life of this woman. His commands are also His empowerment, releasing the grace of God. This is very different from the law that places a demand but gives no divine power to fulfill it. For the first time, this woman found rest for her troubled soul in Jesus' forgiveness and life. This is the difference between mere religion that demands adherence but gives no grace, and abiding in a relationship with the God that knows us.

An integral part of God's salvation and perfection of the saints in Christ is abiding and rest. Man entered into the decaying effects of time and came under the judgment of God when Adam sinned, but the Father has made a way for us to be where Jesus is, resting (seated together) with Him in heavenly places. "A little while longer and the world will see Me no more," Jesus said, "but you will see Me. Because I live, you will live also. At that day you will know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you" (John 14:19, 20, NKJV). To enter into Jesus with His Father is to enter into the rest of God. He was speaking of this when He said,

Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. (Matthew 11:28, 29, NKJV).

We must not pass by these words, because they hold the secret of rest. The answer for man's desperate need for rest is first met in Christ's words, "Come to Me." We will never find rest unless we come to Him, laying our burdens and works at His feet. He gives rest to those who are weary and overburdened by religion if they will only come to Him. The Message Bible interprets these verses as an invitation to "Learn the unforced rhythms of grace." Well put, Mr. Peterson! The words learn from me imply on the job training. Jesus is inviting the weary to shoulder the easy and light burden that he bore during His earthly sojourn. This yoke is the kind of burden that wings are to a bird and fins are to a fish. Christ's yoke has no bands except a love for the Father.

Jesus was referring to a young ox yoked with an older, well-trained ox for the purpose of learning. This is the quickest way to train a young ox to pull in the yoke. Jesus is inviting the weary to get into the yoke with Him and learn meekness and lowliness. I (George) am reminded of a poster I once saw in a Christian Bookstore. It was a front view of a little duckling coming out of the end of a culvert, looking exceptionally proud and confident. The caption read, "Rise! Go forth and conquer!" It was laughable, but made me question, "Is this how God sees us?" Does He see a duckling obsessed with world conquest or the meekness and lowliness of the Lamb in us? Does He find a lamb at rest or a cocksure megalomaniac who thinks the world and the church are his oyster?

Jesus gives us His remedy for the weariness and burnout in Christendom today. "I am meek and lowly in heart." This is the curriculum. If we take on Jesus' yoke and walk in tandem with Him, learning His meekness and lowliness, we will learn the unforced rhythms of grace we will learn to rest. It is here that we learn to have no agenda but the Father's agenda. Through being transformed in His humility, we behave as sons, always doing only what we see the Father doing. To enter Christ's rest we must first learn His lowliness and meekness, the opposite of the ambition and strife of the religious leaders of His day. Christ's life-principle enables us to live in the goodness of the Father. If we are in Jesus' yoke, we will live as Jesus lived, not forcing any agenda, but simply trusting, waiting and allowing God to do the work in and through us in His time.

Anxiety is sure evidence that we are no longer sharing the yoke with Christ but have left His rest. Pride abandons the yoke of the lowly Christ and the governance of God to rise, go forth and conquer by might and main. Jesus said to such shakers and movers, "your time is always." Knowing the unforced rhythms of grace enables us both to wait upon and work with God. Jesus said, "...the Father that dwells in me, he does the works" (John 14:10). Can we say this? Can we honestly say, "He does the work"? This is the rest that Jesus modeled. Only those who are in Christ's yoke, learning the unforced rhythms of grace, know this rest promised to all that come unto Him and learn of Him.

In answer to the Jews who were out to kill Him for healing on the Sabbath day, Jesus said, "My Father is working straight through, even on the Sabbath. So am I" (John 5:17 MSG). Jesus worked when the Father dwelling in Him was working, indicating that when the Father was not working, neither was He. This is the yoke of Christ. This is what and how we learn from Him. This is rest.

The absence of this rest is responsible for a host of maladies that plague humanity in general as well as the Church. The medical field tells us that many of our diseases come from simple anxiety and unrest. We have seen interviews with someone that has lived over one hundred years, and these old folks tell about living a more relaxed lifestyle. Our anxiety-driven, industrialized society is not only killing us with chemicals and pollution that are harmful to our bodies, it is killing us by driving us to wring out every bit of productivity we can get from our every waking moment. We strive to get more bang for our buck in every level of our existence. Life in the western world is filled with anxious thoughts. A reporter once asked Rockefeller which million would finally be enough. To this he replied, "The next one!" In the life driven by the world it is always the next paycheck, the next job, the next woman or man, the next house, or the next town. A typical western man is never satisfied. He knows no rest.

Now contrast this driven life that is killing us with the words of Jesus from the Sermon on the Mount.

No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon. Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature? So why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not worry, saying, "What shall we eat?" or "What shall we drink?" or "What shall we wear?" For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble. (Matthew 6:24-34, NKJV).

On the one hand we have a lifestyle driven by the lust for worldly gain and well-being -- the Babylonian god called Mammon. On the other hand, we have this Holy Man telling us that this is not at all necessary and to give no thought for such things for, "your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things." So what is His answer? Are we to just be spiritual bums and ignore the needs of our natural bodies and that of our families and just hang loose and groove on God? Not exactly. Jesus put it this way, "But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you." This is the labor to enter God's rest.

We are here to tell you that the Father does care and will meet all your needs as you seek first HIS kingdom and HIS righteousness. I, Michael, lived out the first year after being in-filled with the Spirit, proving Jesus to be The Truth. I had to know beyond a doubt that this one to whom I had given my life was indeed trustworthy. I had to know that His words were true. He called me to serve a group of young Christians that were freshly saved off the streets in what became known as "the Jesus Movement" of the early '70's. I served them as if they were my own family (and spiritually they were). My labor was a labor of love for my Savior. It was like reliving the first five chapters of the Book of Acts all over again. There was such love of God among us that none of us said what we had was our own. We shared almost everything with one another. The love of God compelled us from within to meet the needs of any who were lacking among us and to reach out to the lost with open hearts.

In that year I saw miracle after miracle of God's wonderful provision as I went flat out for God. We saw miraculous healings, people set free from drug addictions without a single withdrawal, food multiplied, people healed and hard hearts changed.

I went into that year with a wife and two small children, house payments, car payments, medical bills, and other obligations. My wife, Dorothy, had our third child during this time and neither of us had a normal job or regular source of income. We just served these young saints of God with our whole hearts. By the world's standards, we should have lost everything and been tossed out in the street. But guess what? I believed that if God hired me, He was also responsible to pay my wages. I worked in this labor of love for these young Christians as unto Jesus alone and by the end of that year, every bill had been paid and we owned our car and home free and clear. We were debt free and all without ever asking a single person for a dime or their support! Thousands of dollars were given us totally anonymously. It was all Jesus and I learned first hand what He meant when He said, "Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you." He had proven to us that He who holds the universe in His hands is indeed trustworthy.

Hebrews chapter eleven, the great "faith chapter," begins, "Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen." Have you ever thought that faith has substance? We have seen in the early lives of so many of God's people these same miraculous events or ones like them that instilled in them a faith that could not be shaken. Later as the going got rough, we were often stretched to the point that we wondered if God was still there as He had once made Himself so readily visible. But even then, we could remember that He once proved to us beyond a doubt that He cares and provides for the sheep of His pasture.

Often with His saints, as it was with Israel, we were once fed with manna from heaven. All we had to do was go out and pick it up each morning. But once we had learned the lessons of the wilderness, we find Him providing in a different way in the land of His promise.

... the land which you cross over to possess is a land of hills and valleys, which drinks water from the rain of heaven, a land for which the LORD your God cares; the eyes of the LORD your God are always on it, from the beginning of the year to the very end of the year. (Deuteronomy 11:11-12, NKJV).

Growth in Christ always stretches. It is always calling us to be bound by His love and be led forth to places where we would never have ventured in our immaturity. One day in those early years of my new faith, I, Michael, was downtown in a large city, leaning against a building and waiting for a brother to come with his car and give me a ride back home. While standing there, I looked down at the gutter and saw a small sparrow fall out of the grill of a parked car in front of me. I thought to myself, "Poor thing. He must have been hit by the car and his body just fell out." But no, he jumped up and hopped down the sidewalk to the front of the next car. He then hopped down in the gutter again and flew up into that car's grill! He had found a food supply for which he neither had to sow, nor reap or gather into barns. Man had paved and built over all his natural habitat, but Father had shown him how to find food in these four-wheeled bug catchers, by picking their radiators clean. His food was truly hot off the grill. The Father was teaching me that my old supply would soon dry up like it did for Elijah at the brook Cherith, and that I was to look for another source, just as this sparrow had--all of it ordained from above.

Where Jesus said, give no thought in the Gospels, it would have better been translated, don't be anxious. We should not think it strange or enter into unbelief and anxiety during these uncertain times. Rather, we need to learn to seek His face and learn the lessons that these events provide as they shape us into the image of His Son.

Rest for the People of God

In chapters three and four of the Book of Hebrews there is an all-important key to walking by faith. It is called rest. When the Spirit showed this to me (Michael) the first time, I shared it with the leader of our fellowship, a shaker and mover, and he assured me that "We rest after we die. Now we must work!"

Christendom is filled with more taskmasters than Pharaoh's Egypt. Like Pharaoh, these men are driven to build-up their storage cities into ever grander and more inviting citadels. We never hear the word enough coming down from the hierarchy. Instead we hear a constant plea for "More bricks! More bricks! Get your own straw!" Solomon wrote, "The horseleech has two daughters, crying, 'Give, give.'" He could have as well been talking about today's church ministries and those who levy taxes.

Now let's take a closer look at this passage in Hebrews that speaks of entering into God's rest.

For every house is built by someone, but He who built all things is God. And Moses indeed was faithful in all His house as a servant, for a testimony of those things which would be spoken afterward, but Christ as a Son over His own house, whose house we are if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm to the end. Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says: "Today, if you will hear His voice, Do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion, In the day of trial in the wilderness, Where your fathers tested Me, tried Me, And saw My works forty years. Therefore I was angry with that generation, And said, 'They always go astray in their heart, And they have not known My ways.' So I swore in My wrath, 'They shall not enter My rest.'" Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God; but exhort one another daily, while it is called "Today," lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. For we have become partakers of Christ if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast to the end, while it is said: "Today, if you will hear His voice, Do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion." For who, having heard, rebelled? Indeed, was it not all who came out of Egypt, led by Moses? Now with whom was He angry forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose corpses fell in the wilderness? And to whom did He swear that they would not enter His rest, but to those who did not obey? So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief. Therefore, since a promise remains of entering His rest, let us fear lest any of you seem to have come short of it. For indeed the gospel was preached to us as well as to them; but the word which they heard did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in those who heard it. For we who have believed do enter that rest, as He has said: "So I swore in My wrath, 'They shall not enter My rest,'" although the works were finished from the foundation of the world. For He has spoken in a certain place of the seventh day in this way: "And God rested on the seventh day from all His works"; and again in this place: "They shall not enter My rest." Since therefore it remains that some must enter it, and those to whom it was first preached did not enter because of disobedience, again He designates a certain day, saying in David, "Today," after such a long time, as it has been said: "Today, if you will hear His voice, Do not harden your hearts." For if Joshua had given them rest, then He would not afterward have spoken of another day. There remains therefore a rest for the people of God. For he who has entered His rest has himself also ceased from his works as God did from His. (Hebrews 3:4-4:10, NKJV).

First we read that everything eternal is built by God. Jesus said that unless God builds the house, they who build it labor in vain. David observed, "It is vain for you to rise up early, to sit up late, to eat the bread of sorrows; for so He gives His beloved sleep." Activity is not righteous in itself, even busyness in "good" things.

Jesus said, "Many will tell me in that day, 'Lord, Lord, didn't we prophesy in your name, in your name cast out demons, and in your name DO many mighty works?' Then I will tell them, 'I never knew you. Depart from me, you who work iniquity.' (Matthew 7:22-23 WEB). The word knew in "I never knew you" is used of the act of sexual procreation between a husband and a wife (see Matthew 1:25). All our Christian lives we have been told the importance of us knowing Jesus but here and in two other parables the emphasis is on Him knowing us! Does He know us? Does His flow of life find expression and channel through us unto fruition? Those who came saying, "Lord, Lord did we not...do" are offering Jesus illegitimate offspring, fruit of iniquity, bastards, not born of a love-union with Him, and therefore certainly not fruit unto God. If the works we offer Christ are not born in intimate fellowship with Him, but are conceived and done of our own initiative, even though they might be done in His name, they are iniquity in His sight. The knowledge of Christ that comes through His Spirit IS the fruitfulness that God requires. Is our fruit the result of His coming in and knowing us? Are our works the result of our intimacy with Him? If we do not bring forth this fruit, what will we export? If we do not produce what is of Him do we really have anything to give except notions, and patterns from the past, the works of our flesh?

The Greek word translated fruit in Romans chapter seven, "that we should bear fruit to God," means to be fertile or bring forth offspring, and is used in the context of our marriage to Christ. If fruit is not born in a lawful, intimate union with Christ, it is born of our flesh and is works of iniquity, children of promiscuity in the eyes of God. Everything else is an independent act, a demonstration of unrest and unbelief--another Ishmael to burden a world full of such bad fruit. God is looking for those works that He foreordained that we should walk in from the foundation of the world (see Ephesians 2:10).

Many people know the works of God, or at least try to do them in and of themselves. When Jesus fed the five-thousand, they wanted to take Him by force and make Him their king. To these who were so concerned with the things of this life He said,

Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to everlasting life, which the Son of Man will give you, because God the Father has set His seal on Him." Then they said to Him, "What shall we do, that we may work the works of God?" Jesus answered and said to them, "This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent." (John 6:27-29, NKJV, emphasis added).

Religious man always asks, "What shall we do, that we may work the works of God?" This isn't the question that sets the sheep apart from the goats. Instead, the question is, "Do we know and rest in His ways or do we merely know His works?" Works deal with the outward man, but the ways of God deal with the heart. It is one thing to have our bodies fed by Him, but something more to have our hearts changed by the working of the Spirit. Those so changed can say with Jesus, "I have meat to eat that you know not of."

Above we read in Hebrews chapter three, "'They always go astray in their heart, And they have not known My ways.' So I swore in My wrath, 'They shall not enter My rest.'" To know His rest is to know His ways and to rest in them. "He made known His ways to Moses, His acts to the children of Israel" (Psalm 103:7, NKJV). Those who only knew His acts died in the wilderness. "Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God."

Our passage in Hebrews continues, "For we have become partakers of Christ if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast to the end, while it is said: 'Today, if you will hear His voice, Do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion.'"

In Paul's letter to the Galatians we see him pleading with these Gentile believers who were already starting to come under the law of the Jews.

O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you that you should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed among you as crucified? This only I want to learn from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are you now being made perfect by the flesh? Have you suffered so many things in vain--if indeed it was in vain? Therefore He who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you, does He do it by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? -- just as Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness. Therefore know that only those who are of faith are sons of Abraham. (Galatians 3:1-7, NKJV).

How about us? Are we so foolish to think that WE can perfect through dead works what God has started among us by His Spirit? Did we receive Christ and His Spirit by works and law keeping or was it by faith? What makes us think that God wants us to continue what HE has started through His Spirit by the labors of our own hands? Yet, this is what we see everywhere in the church. We build buildings and pray for Him to fill them. We design programs and pray for Him to bless them. How-to and self-help books crowd the shelves in our Christian bookstores. God will not give life to the efforts of our carnal natures! His blessing will not fall on our Ishmaels, but on those born of faith and resting in Him His works that were predestined from the foundation of the world.

The I AM

In the Hebrews passage quoted above, we see the word today occurring over and over. "Today, if you will hear His voice...exhort one another daily, while it is called 'Today,' again He designates a certain day, saying in David, 'Today'...Today, if you will hear His voice, Do not harden your hearts." To abide in God's rest is to abide in the I AM, the ever present now of the Father.

Think about it: can you alter anything in your past? Can you control what will happen tomorrow? No, the only thing you can deal with as you abide in the grace of God is the very present moment. How you live this moment may alter the future and it may change the past once today becomes yeterday, but our real lives are only in the present. This is what the above passage is addressing--living in the eternal now, today.

Carnal man spends the majority of his waking hours either worrying about tomorrow or fretting about his past. Rarely is he in the present in his mind, yet this present is the only place where God communicates and fellowships with us! Everything else is unbelief and unrest. Paul wrote to the Philippians,

Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me.
Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:12-14, NKJV, emphasis added)

It is noteworthy that the smallest measurement of time that God acknowledges is the day. "And God said, Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days, and years" (Genesis 1:14). There were no smaller measurements of time mentioned in the Bible, until the children of Israel were led away captive into Babylon. In fact, the only place in the Old Testament where the word hour is used is in the book of Daniel, in the context of worshiping idols.

The ambition to micromanage time leads to unrest and is not of or for the people of God. It is of Egyptian origin. In fact, one of the oldest clocks is the Egyptian Shadow clock or sun clock [3400 BC]. The pointer for this clock is the Obelisk, which was used in other forms of sun worship. How idolatrous is our ambition to micromanage the day--to order it, from morning to evening, according to our own designs? The more man got into merchandising and other goals in antithesis to God's eternal purpose, and tried to impose his desires on his neighbor, the more he wanted to segment his day. Before then people had no need to know the time of day. They had evening and morning. That was enough. It was only when great civilizations in the East began to rise, with their bureaucracies and formal religions, that men found a need to organize their time more efficiently. With that came the clock, calendar and itinerary. The clock has dictated the affaires of men from that time forward

The division of time was further broken down by the Alexandrian based philosopher, Claudius Ptolemeus, who divided the hour into 60 minutes, which may have been inspired by the scale of measurement used in ancient Babylon.

We miss the mark of our high callings and cut ourselves off from such sweet fellowship with God by filling today with the things of yesterday and tomorrow! We do this in our lives with others, too. How often do we spend time with our spouse and children and they know that they do not have our full attention? We are not there; we are not dwelling in today. Our itinerary will not allow us to enter God's rest or the "place of God's stopping" (Concordant Literal Translation).

Since the invention of the electric light bulb, scientists say that 80% to 90% percent of Americans do not get enough sleep and consequently, cancer, diabetes and all kinds of diseases are on the increase. When God drove man from the garden of His rest, sickness and death began to work in him--his days were numbered. "Dying you shall die."

Jesus said to His disciples, "Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble."

Only God knows how much of the grief in this world is the result of borrowing regrets from yesterday and trouble from tomorrow. We accuse people of living in the past when all their present energies are spent reacting to some past reference point of hurt or disappointment. They suffer needlessly, interpreting the present through the lens of the past. Then there are those who are paralyzed for fear of what the future might bring. These cannot rest until they have many goods laid up for many days. To these God says, "Fool! This night your soul will be required of you; then whose will those things be which you have provided?"

The last resort of the anxious soul when all other fears are allayed. The ghost of tomorrow stalks out with all its hobgoblins of doubt and distrust. (Robertson's Word Pictures)

The Message Bible reads, "Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don't get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes." (Matthew 6:34, emphasis added)

Jesus taught His disciples to pray, "Give us this day our daily bread." God met the needs of the children of Israel in the wilderness daily. They were not allowed to store up the manna. If they did, it would rot by the following day. When our lives are spent worrying about where the next meal or the next house payment is coming from, we fail to abide in Him who places far greater value on our welfare than He does on the sparrows. We must grieve His giving heart when we strive so hard to make ends meet, never casting our cares upon Him.

We labor at our jobs, we labor even at our hobbies and crafts to make something that will last beyond the moment. After "coming to Christ" we follow the examples of our Christian leaders and set out to build either their ministries or our own. But eventually, no matter how carefully we build something, "moth and rust destroy and...thieves break in and steal." We are bent on leaving our mark upon this earth, to leave a legacy, yet nothing lasts. So where is our hope? It is found in the word abide.

A philosopher once said, "You cannot cross the same river twice." The very nature of a river is that it is always flowing. To stay in the now of God is to enter into the flow of the river which comes down from the throne room of Heaven. As Ezekiel discovered, it was not enough to wade in ankle deep water. It was not enough to be knee deep, for the angel of the Lord kept drawing him ever deeper. It was not enough to be waist deep or chest deep, either. The angel kept leading him until he was in over his head, "waters to swim in" (see Ezekiel 37). The prophet was in water that flowed from the throne of God, being carried along in the ever present now of God. God was teaching him about abiding by faith in His wonderful rest.

As long as we are resisting the flow--by wanting only enough of the river for to be "in the flow," we will never know the power or the rest of God found with the flow. The river that John saw in heaven was where the tree of life is found. "And he showed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb. In the midst of the street of it, and on either side of the river, was there the tree of life, which bare twelve manner of fruits, and yielded her fruit every month: and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations" (Revelation 22:1, 2). Do you want to know the power of God in your life? It is only found as you yield up all control and let Him carry you where you know not as you abide in His rest.

The ascended Christ spoke to Peter of the nature of true spiritual maturity,

"Most assuredly, I say to you, when you were younger, you girded yourself and walked where you wished; but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will gird you and carry you where you do not wish." This He spoke, signifying by what death he would glorify God. And when He had spoken this, He said to him, "Follow Me." (John 21:18, 19, NKJV).

This is the death of the old nature. This is the death that glorifies God alone. Here you are no longer dressed in your own righteous robes, but those fit for HIS wedding feast. Here you no longer presumptuously do your own will, but are led forth daily by the Spirit, doing things that you would never have done if left under the control of your old nature. This is the death that truly glorifies God.

The Greek word for abide is "meno {men'-o} - to continue to be present." To be present is to abide in the present, drawing nourishment moment by moment. With this definition in mind consider Jesus' words:

Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, "If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. (John 8:31, NKJV).
"And a slave does not abide in the house forever, but a son abides forever. (John 8:35, NKJV).
"Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. (John 15:4, NKJV).
"If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned. "If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you. (John 15:6, 7, NKJV)
"As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love. "If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father's commandments and abide in His love. (John 15:9, 10, NKJV).

Hudson Taylor, writing to his sister in England from his mission station in Chin-kiang on Saturday, September 4, 1869, mentioned a liberating letter he had received from John McCarthy.

As to work, mine was never so plentiful, so responsible, or so difficult; but the weight and strain are all gone. The last month or more has been perhaps the happiest of my life, and I long to tell you a little of what the Lord has done for my soul....When the agony of soul was at its height, a sentence in a letter from dear McCarthy was used to remove the scales from my eyes, and the Spirit of God revealed the truth of our oneness with Jesus as I had never known it before. McCarthy, who had been much exercised by the same sense of failure, but saw the light before I did, wrote (I quote from memory): 'But how to get faith strengthened? Not by striving after faith but by resting on the Faithful One.' As I read, I saw it all!.... As I thought of the Vine and the branches, what light the blessed Spirit poured into my soul!

This truth literally revolutionized Hudson Taylor's life. After entering God's rest through abiding, he was never the same again.

"If you continue in my presence, you are my disciples. A son abides in my presence forever. Continue in my presence and you will bear My fruit. If you continue in my presence, I will give you your desires. Continue in my abiding love and you will fulfill all my commandments, for against love there is no law." This is rest, for the fruit is the produce of the Vine, not of striving branches.

The Lord's Day

We often get letters concerned about what day is the real Lord's day. Man in a religious spirit gives a lot of attention to worshiping on one particular day of the week. I, Michael, remember seeing a church marquee that read, "One day in seven will get you to heaven." But the words to an old rock song come closer to the truth, "Being holy once a week will make the odds against your getting to heaven six to one."

Some say that God's Sabbath is Saturday. Others say it is on Sunday or another day of the week. God's true rest spoken of in the Old Testament is not really a day of the week at all, but rather a place in His creation where He abides continually, a place where He bids us come and rest with Him in His Fatherly love. Could it be that all those who strive to keep some Sabbath law are also failing to enter His rest?

Religious man cannot see the forest for the trees. In his great zeal to keep the law perfectly, he misses what the law was given to teach him. In Hebrews we also read, "For the law, having a shadow of the good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with these same sacrifices, which they offer continually year by year, make those who approach perfect" (Hebrews 10:1, NKJV). The warning in chapter four is clear. We too can fail to enter into His rest by the same example of unbelief provided by those law keepers.

So if it is not about when we worship, the next thing the religious mind that does not know God's rest struggles with is where? The woman at the well of Sychar posed this same question to Jesus.

"Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, and you Jews say that in Jerusalem is the place where one ought to worship." He answered her, "Woman, believe Me, the hour is coming when you will neither on this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, worship the Father... the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth." (John 4:21-24, NKJV).

When two typical Christians meet, the first question after the introduction is, "Where do you worship?" Then what usually follows is "Who is your pastor?" This is so childish and carnal that it borders on the six-year-old saying to his peer, "My daddy is bigger than your daddy." Paul called this type of conduct carnal and those who do so are mere babes in the faith (see 1 Corinthians. 3).

Jesus made it clear to this woman of Sychar that worship is not about doing it in a certain place, but it is a matter of the heart, "God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth." If not, it cannot be said that we are worshiping God no matter where or with whom we gather to "worship."

God is Spirit. If we want to worship Him we must get beyond this mentality that comes from our fallen natures. God is not about time or space. He does not dwell in houses made by men, here and there.

"However, the Most High does not dwell in temples made with hands, as the prophet says, 'Heaven is My throne, And earth is My footstool. What house will you build for Me? says the LORD, Or what is the place of My rest? Has My hand not made all these things?' You stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears! You always resist the Holy Spirit; as your fathers did, so do you." (Acts 7:48-51, NKJV).

So where is the place of God's rest? Is it found in Israel? Israel of today is the focal point of the world's unrest! To worship Him we must transcend thinking in terms of time and place and enter into God's eternal rest in His Son. Where true faith abides there is peace and rest. Where it is lacking we read, "...for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord" (James 1:6-7, NKJV).

Have you ever wondered how Jesus, the Son of God who never knew sin, could break the Sabbath and the Jew's ceremonial laws over and over and still remain sinless? In the Gospels we read,

"Now it happened on the second Sabbath after the first that He went through the grain fields. And His disciples plucked the heads of grain and ate them, rubbing them in their hands. And some of the Pharisees said to them, 'Why are you doing what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath?' But Jesus answering them said, 'Have you not even read this, what David did when he was hungry, he and those who were with him: how he went into the house of God, took and ate the showbread, and also gave some to those with him, which is not lawful for any but the priests to eat?' And He said to them, 'The Son of Man is also Lord of the Sabbath.'" (Luke 6:1-5, NKJV).

How could the Lord of the Sabbath break the Sabbath? It was impossible for Him and it is equally impossible for all who have entered into His rest and ceased from their own labors and efforts to be righteous. We need to understand the depths of what Jesus meant when he told those religious Jews, "The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath." "For he who has entered His rest has himself also ceased from his works as God did from His."

David, the great law breaker and raider of the sacrificial bread, wrote:

"LORD, my heart is not haughty, Nor my eyes lofty. Neither do I concern myself with great matters, Nor with things too profound for me. Surely I have calmed and quieted my soul, Like a weaned child with his mother; Like a weaned child is my soul within me. O Israel, hope in the LORD From this time forth and forever." (Psalms 131:1-3, NKJV).

You know that you have a haughty heart, lofty eyes, or concerned yourself with great matters and things too profound for you when you are not abiding in the rest of a weaned child leaning on the breast of our Father. Our faith, hope and rest must be in the Lord from this time and forever.

There is a great story in the gospels of a woman who found God's rest and it bears repeating.

"Now as they were traveling along, He [Jesus] entered a certain village; and a woman named Martha welcomed Him into her home. And she had a sister called Mary, who moreover was listening to the Lord's word, seated at His feet. But Martha was distracted with all her preparations; and she came up to Him, and said, "Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to do all the serving alone? Then tell her to help me." But the Lord answered and said to her, "Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things; but only a few things are necessary, really only one, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her." (Luke 10:38-42, NASB).

Today's churches and ministries are about serving and doing, seeing what they can cook-up for Jesus in their religious kitchens. But those who have learned to enter their rest at Jesus' feet have chosen "the good part" and will never have it taken from them. Only in abiding in Him can we bring forth fruit that will remain. Only by abiding in His rest can we work the works of God.

Labor therefore to enter into His rest!

Sanctifying the Lord

There is a solemn warning given to the church in the New Testament that especially needs to be taken to heart. In the book of Hebrews the author is referring to the Israelites who fell in the wilderness and never saw the Promised Land. Here we read,

Therefore, a promise being left to enter into His rest, let us fear lest any of you should seem to come short of it. For also we have had the gospel preached, as well as them. But the Word preached did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in those who heard it. For we who have believed do enter into the rest, as He said, "I have sworn in My wrath that they should not enter into My rest;" although the works were finished from the foundation of the world. (Hebrews 4:1-3 MKJV)

Here we read of an elect people who fail to apprehend that for which they had been apprehended. Though they were called to great things, because of their unbelief they failed to enter in to the realization of them. The author exhorts us to "fear lest any of you should seem to come short of it." You mean that WE could actually be in danger of missing what we have been called out of the world for and die, just like Israel did, without ever realizing God's Promised Land? How could this be? Paul wrote a similar warning to the Corinthians,

And, brothers, I do not want you to be ignorant that all our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea. And all were baptized to Moses in the cloud and in the sea, and all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink; for they drank of the spiritual Rock that followed them, and that Rock was Christ. But with many of them God was not well pleased, for they were scattered in the wilderness. And these things were our examples, that we should not be lusters after evil, as they also lusted. . . And all these things happened to them as examples; and it is written for our warning on whom the ends of the world have come. (1 Corinthians 10:1-11 MKJV)

Yes, this solemn warning is for us! We who have partaken of Christ, who have been baptized into Him and separated from the world (Egypt) and have walked under the cloud of the Father's protective covering and have communed together, we too can fail to cross the Jordon and enter the Zion of God. The author of Hebrews exhorts us, "be diligent to enter that rest, so that no one will fall, through following the same example of disobedience" (Hebrews 4:11 NASB).

We understand that the generation that was first called out of Egypt did not enter the land because of their unbelief. However, what is so often overlooked is the fact that Moses and Aaron were among those who failed to enter God's rest. They also died in the wilderness because of their unbelief. God told Moses and Aaron why they could not lead the assembly into the land, which He had given them, "Because you did not believe in me, to sanctify me in the eyes of the people" (see Numbers 20:12). Here we see that believing in the Lord and sanctifying the Lord are the same thing. What does it mean to sanctify the Lord? To answer this question, we must go back to Kadesh, where a crisis was brewing in the wilderness of

When the congregation of Israel arrived at Kadesh, there was no water (See Numbers 20:1-29). As usual, the people assembled against Moses and Aaron. "Would that we had died when our brethren died before the LORD!" They bewailed. "Why have you brought the assembly of the LORD into this wilderness, that we should die here, both we and our cattle? And why have you made us come up out of Egypt, to bring us to this evil place? It is no place for grain, or figs, or vines, or pomegranates; and there is no water to drink." In short, "This is not the land you promised!" Imagine a lynch mob two and a half million strong protesting on your doorstep.

Upon hearing their complaint, Moses and Aaron withdrew themselves and fell on their faces before the Lord. The Lord told Moses to take the rod, assemble the congregation and speak to the rock before their eyes that it might "yield its water." Moses and Aaron did as God said and gathered the assembly together before the rock. Then Moses did something totally out of character. In the past when he had a rebellion on his hands he interceded for the people and even made himself humble and vulnerable before them, depending totally on God to deal with the situation. He never put himself in the place of God and never chided the people from his flesh. But now look at these words coming forth out of his mouth, "Hear now, you rebels; shall WE bring forth water for you out of this rock?" Then Moses struck the rock twice with his rod and water came gushing forth abundantly. Thank God! All is well once again. Right?

Now at this point many of you might think you know where we are going with this. How many times have we heard this passage sermonized and it went something like this, "Moses blew it. He struck the rock. He struck Jesus! He was commanded to speak to the rock and he struck it! That was what made God unhappy with him to the point that he too had to die in the wilderness." This tidy little definition fails to explain the full scope and meaning of Moses' act of unbelief.

Though the thirst of the people and their livestock was momentarily satisfied, God was not satisfied. He said to Moses and Aaron, "Because you did not believe in me, to sanctify me in the eyes of the people of Israel, therefore you shall not bring this assembly into the land which I have given them" (Vs.12). Moses and Aaron were now included among those, of whom God said, "So I swore in My wrath, 'They shall not enter My rest.'" Later, on Mount Hor, the Lord fulfilled His promise to Aaron. He said to Moses and Aaron,

Aaron shall be gathered to his people; for he shall not enter the land which I have given to the people of Israel, because you rebelled against my command at the waters of Mer'ibah. Take Aaron and Elea'zar his son, and bring them up to Mount Hor; and strip Aaron of his garments, and put them upon Elea'zar his son; and Aaron shall be gathered to his people, and shall die there. (Numbers 20:24-26).

So, Moses stripped Aaron of his garments and put them upon his son Elea'zar. Aaron died there on the top of the mountain, never having entered the promised rest.

Because he rebelled against God's command by refusing to sanctify the Lord before the eyes of the people, Moses also failed to enter God's rest. He was only allowed to see it afar off from the top of Mount Abarim.

Just before Israel entered the land, the Lord said to Moses: "Go up into this Mount Abarim, and see the land which I have given to the children of Israel. And when you have seen it, you also shall be gathered to your people, as Aaron your brother was gathered. For in the Wilderness of Zin, during the strife of the congregation, you rebelled against My command to hallow Me at the waters before their eyes." (These are the waters of Meribah, at Kadesh in the Wilderness of Zin) (Numbers 27:12-14 NKJV).

Moses and Aaron fail to sanctify or hallow the Lord before the eyes of the people. How does one go about sanctifying or fail to sanctify the Lord?

In Ezekiel 36 we read of how Israel had profaned God in the eyes of the nations. The nations assumed it was because of God's weakness that Israel was defeated and taken away captive. The reproach was proportionally related to the fact that this people, called to show forth the praises of Him who called them out of darkness, had become darkened and was living far below the dignity and power of their calling. In this they failed to sanctify the Lord, hallow Him before the nations.

The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia states,

"True, it was because of Israel's sins, but the ethical is not wanting in these passages. The people are to be separated from their sins and given a new heart (Eze 36:25-26 Eze 36:33). But the word "sanctify" is not used for this. It is applied to Yahweh, and it means the assertion of Yahweh's power in Israel's triumph and the conquest of her foes (Eze 20:41; Eze 28:25; Eze 36:23; Eze 38:16; Eze 39:27). The sanctification of Yahweh is thus the assertion of His being and power as God, just as the sanctification of a person or object is the assertion of Yahweh's right and claim in the same . . . The story of the waters of Meribah illustrates the same meaning. Moses' failure to sanctify Yahweh is his failure to declare Yahweh's glory and power in the miracle of the waters (Num 20:12-13; Num 27:14).

First we must understand that God's holiness is not related to principles, ethics or doctrines of morality. God's holiness is much more. It is who He is. It IS His essential being, His supremacy, His sovereignty and glory. To sanctify or hallow God is to distinguish Him by acknowledging His supremacy and sovereignty, not with mere intellectual ascent but by humbly living in deference to and reliance upon His power. When we speak of lives lived in deference to His power; we mean more than platitudes about His lordship. We mean yielding to His sovereign working by first denying our own strength and self-glorification, allowing God to act on our behalf and in doing so, setting Him apart and glorifying Him in the eyes of others.

We can learn by comparing Moses' "shall we bring forth water..." with God's words, "speak to the rock ...that it may yield its water." Everything in the Christian life boils down to this. Will we spend our lives searching for means and methods that WE might bring forth water from the Rock? Will we pursue revival manifestations, or that Revival that is Christ Himself? Will we in faith cease from our works and ingenuity and allow the Rock to yield its water? Will we live by the life of God, allowing Him to distinguish Himself by His power and might? Will we allow Him to triumph over our foes, or will we attempt to make a covenant with death?

Isaiah contrasted Israel's dependence upon their covenant with the Assyrians with a life founded, in trust, on the precious Cornerstone, the Sure Foundation.

Because you have said, We have made a covenant with death, and with Sheol (the place of the dead) we have an agreement--when the overflowing scourge passes through, it will not come to us, for we have made lies our refuge, and in falsehood we have taken shelter. Therefore thus says the Lord God, Behold, I am laying in Zion for a foundation a Stone, a tested Stone, a precious Cornerstone of sure foundation; he who believes (trusts in, relies on, and adheres to that Stone) will not be ashamed or give way or hasten away [in sudden panic]. (Isaiah 28:15-16 AMP)

Though not a translation, The Message Bible captures the meaning of this passage in language that addresses the trust issues in our lives today. "You say, 'We've taken out good life insurance. We've hedged all our bets, covered all our bases. No disaster can touch us. We've thought of everything. We're advised by the experts. We're set.'" (Isaiah 28:15 MSG). The test was and still is whether we will live by our life resources or His. Will we trust in, rely on, and adhere to that Stone that offends all natural sensibility? Those who do will never run away in panic. God's word to those who trust in any other covenant to protect them is, "In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and confidence shall be your strength" (see Isaiah 30:1). This indeed is an offense to every natural self-saving drive in man.

Lives that Sanctify the Lord

God had not called Israel to a holiness that could be reached apart from His power and glory. He had called them to hallow Him, sanctify Him and distinguish Him from and above all the gods of the heathen nations. Israel was God's possession by virtue of a great separating work in Egypt that He used to set them apart from all other nations. As a people set apart they were to sanctify Him by showing forth the virtues of Him who called them out of darkness. It was imperative that Moses sanctify God before the eyes of this sanctified nation. God was deeply concerned about this.

Moses' behavior fell far short of this purpose. Moses' posture was not unlike that of the magicians of Egypt. God did not intend this to be Moses' Traveling Magic Show. God wanted the people to know that He alone was their provider in all their needs from His riches in glory, not some holy man who had great spiritual powers. In short, Moses' ministerial prowess stood in the way. He was accustomed to playing a big role, which served God's purposes for a time. But now God was asking Him to step back and set Him apart before the eyes of the people--to distinguish Him from the prophet, the rod, the priest and all other instruments that He had previously used. The Rock was to have the preeminence on this day. Because of this act of unbelief, this act of self-assertion, "must we bring forth water" and more grievously what it represented to those who watched, neither Moses nor Aaron would enter God's rest. These things serve as examples and admonitions for us today! How shall we then live?

Peter exhorts us, "But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts . . ." (1Peter 3:15 KJV).

Considering what we have just learned, how do we sanctify God in our hearts and before the eyes of other people? We must repent of the "must we bring forth water" mentality. We must cease from our own labors. Paul wrote, "For we are the circumcision, which worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh" (Philipians 3:3 KJV). We have no sufficiency except God's sufficiency. We see in Paul's life what it means to sanctify the Lord. If to sanctify the Lord is to hallow Him by living fully by His life and resources, if it is to live solely by the water flowing from the Rock, Christ Jesus, then Paul had few peers. Consider his words, "Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think any thing as of ourselves; but our sufficiency is of God (2 Corinthians 3:5 KJV)....And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work" (2 Corinthians 9:8 NKJV).

"Yet not I"

Paul sanctified the Lord in his heart by asserting God's glory and power in every area of his life, giving all the credit to the Lord. "I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ lives in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me" (Galatians 2:20).

Paul made repeated references to the grace of God doing the work. He acknowledged that all that he was and did was a direct result of God's grace. "But by the grace of God I am what I am: and his grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me" (1 Corinthians 15:10).

The Amplified Bible translates Philippians 2:13 as follows.

[Not in your own strength] for it is God Who is all the while effectually at work in you [energizing and creating in you the power and desire], both to will and to work for His good pleasure and satisfaction and delight. (Philippians 2:13 AMP)

Here we see that we are called to live and work by the life of another. "Yet not I but Christ." This is what it means to sanctify the Lord Jesus in our hearts. It is to acknowledge that what we are and all that we will ever be is dependent upon God's grace.

Until we cease from our labors and sanctify the Lord in our hearts and lives, allowing Him to energize and create in us the power and desire, we cannot enter His rest. Only the effectual working of God's Spirit within us satisfies Him. Until we can say, from the heart, "yet not I but Christ . . . yet not I, but the grace of God," we will continue to glory in our flesh, boasting, "must we...must we...must we bring forth."

Even the lily of the field, which does not toil or spin, is a witness and testimony of God's care and provision. Even Solomon was not arrayed like one of these. But how much greater a testimony of His power, victory and glory, before all who have eyes to see, are those that are transformed by the working of His mighty power, out of whose innermost beings flow rivers of living waters. These sanctify the Lord! These enter His rest! Every area of their lives fully attests, "yet not I but Christ." To sanctify the Lord Jesus in our hearts is to allow the full proof of His victory and lordship in our lives by His mighty Spirit. It is not of works but is all of grace, "yet not I, but the grace of God . . . yet not I but Christ." Until we learn what it means to "live by the faith of Jesus Christ" instead of our own veracity, we cannot enter God's rest.

Eternity Present

By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to the place which he would receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he dwelt in the land of promise as in a foreign country, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise; for he waited for the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God. (Hebrews 11:8-10 NKJV)

Here in this passage we read of a real man of faith. We say real because he had his gaze fixed on another world and "waited for the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God." Unlike so many Christians today, he was not busy about building "great things for God," but rather looked for a city built by God. Remember, this "faith chapter" starts out with the statement of fact that says, "Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen." If we cannot see this important difference between the temporal and the eternal, we are truly as blind.

In the New Testament we read of two Pharisees, descendants of righteous Abraham, who had a divine encounter with the living Son of God and had their worlds turned upside-down. One was Nicodemus and the other was Saul of Tarsus. Each one was invaded by a Man whose life and perspective was totally foreign to them, even though they each claimed to represent God to His people and prided themselves by living godly lives.

First let's look at the collision that Saul had with the risen Christ.

And Saul, still breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked letters from him to Damascus to the synagogues; so that if he found any of the Way, whether they were men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem. But in going, it happened as he drew near to Damascus, even suddenly a light from the heaven shone around him. And he fell to the earth and heard a voice saying to him, Saul, Saul, why do you persecute Me? And he said, Who are you, lord? And the Lord said, I am Jesus whom you persecute. It is hard for you to kick against the goads. And trembling and astonished, he said, Lord, what will You have me to do? And the Lord said to him, Arise and go into the city, and you shall be told what you must do. (Acts 9:1-6 MKJV)

"Who are you, Lord?" Have you ever noticed that Jesus seemed to appear in a form that the mind of religious man cannot accept? Have you ever noticed that when He speaks, His words are either confusing or totally unacceptable to the religious mind? He seems to be other worldly from start to finish as though He takes great pleasure in disrupting our present "reality." We like to have everything nice and tidy in neat little bundles and He comes along and blows on it and scatters our chaff to the wind.

We see this in Jesus' discourse with the Pharisee, Nicodemus, a religious man with all his right doctrines and theological ducks in a row. Nicodemus dared to approach this Man Who dwells and thinks in eternity, to his own undoing.

There was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. This man came to Jesus by night and said to Him, "Rabbi, we know that You are a teacher come from God; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him." Jesus answered and said to him, "Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God." Nicodemus said to Him, "How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother's womb and be born?" Jesus answered, "Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, "You must be born again.' The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit." Nicodemus answered and said to Him, "How can these things be?" Jesus answered and said to him, "Are you the teacher of Israel, and do not know these things? Most assuredly, I say to you, We speak what We know and testify what We have seen, and you do not receive Our witness. If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how will you believe if I tell you heavenly things? (John 3:1-12 NKJV)

Nicodemus comes to Jesus and acknowledges that He is from God. He heard of the miracles and gave Jesus credit, and in so doing, he thought that he has really gone the extra mile with Christ. Then we watch Jesus commence to cut his legs right out from under him. "You must be born of the water and of the Spirit. . . You must be born again!" How many of us think that it is enough to be born of a woman (born of water), and then garner unto ourselves the right belief system and we will have fulfilled all that God requires of us. Billions of men and women have approached God this way. Muslims, Jews, Buddhists, and yes, even Christians do this. But is this what the Christ requires of those who would know His Father, the One True God?

"You must be born again! You must be born of the Spirit." What is that supposed to mean? After Jimmy Carter during his campaign for president started confessing that he was born again, we soon started to hear this phrase parroted all over the American culture. Madison Avenue picked up on it and soon the industrialists' new lines of products were "born again." A pop singer sang of having a new boy friend and thus was "born again." We soon had "born again" cars, "born again" restaurants and "born again" hamburgers being eaten by pop stars singing about their new earthly relationships as if their new affair was straight from heaven.

What does "born again" mean from a heavenly perspective? Does it mean that we go to a meeting, listen to a holy man speak and at his invitation slip up one little finger (or even go down to an altar) and zap, we are now born again? Let us look at what else Jesus had to say about being born again. "Unless you are born of the Spirit," unless you are born of the Spirit world you have not yet gotten to first base. That which is born of the flesh is flesh. That which is born of the Spirit is spirit. There is a division between the two. The first is of the world and worldly. The latter is of another world and manifests THAT world seeking nothing from this one. He sees the kingdom of God. His whole vision is filled with that kingdom and the prince of this world cannot turn his head. There is no going back.

Some of you are probably thinking, "Wait a minute, we cannot be so heavenly minded that we are no earthly good! We must keep things in balance here." You have joined Nicodemus in saying, "How can these things be? Let's be reasonable, here. How about all these good things I have to offer God? How about my musical ability, my wealth, my administrative ability, my success in the sports world? How about my degree in theology? Surely God can use that!" To this, Jesus answers, "That which is of the flesh is still flesh." If Nicodemus' righteousness had no place in God's kingdom, how much more it is true of ours? Pastor, "are you a teacher of the law and you do not understand these things?"

Jesus went on to tell this leader of the Jews, "We speak what we know and testify what we have seen." Jesus speaks by the Spirit from a heavenly perspective and represents His Father's kingdom and will. Religious and carnal man can only speak for the flesh and the things of THIS world. He speaks of the things he has learned in the best of the world's seminaries. He speaks of what he has read in his volumes of commentaries that adorn the walls of his study. Or worse yet, he goes to a training seminar and speaks the things he learned about "church growth." His interest is in building up HIS religious kingdom, getting more and more people under his influence and control. But how many of today's Christians and their leaders speak what they have heard the Spirit say to them and speak only after spending time before the Father, enveloped in His love? How many speak what they KNOW with a knowing that only comes in kingdom reality, communing with God in the Spirit? Jesus said, "I only speak what I hear my Father saying and I only do what I see my Father doing." THIS is what it means to be born again.

Jesus blew this Pharisee away when He said, "The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit." To this, Nicodemus' mind was resonating, "No, no, how can this be?" By implication, Nicodemus was saying, "Jesus, the implications of this are too much! If people who are led by the Spirit are like the wind, how can we control them and continue to channel their energies and money into our programs? If people start listening to God for themselves and obey His voice, they will become as unpredictable as You are! They won't show up on time at our meetings, because they will be doing ministries outside our walls that will get in the way. They might start meeting in homes and neglect the temple all together as they go from house to house in one accord and love on one another around a common meal. Our synagogues will become totally irrelevant and fall into disrepair. We will lose our grip on their lives!"

Jesus adds this insult to all this affront to this man's status quo, "You do not receive our witness. If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how shall you believe if I tell you heavenly things?" In modern vernacular, "Nick, baby, you don't have a clue of what I am talking about and you will never have a clue until you fall on your face and cry out to Me in heart cleansing repentance, leaving all your titles, positions, righteous robes and Jewish pedigree behind, counting it as so much dung." A few years later, Jesus confronted Paul on the road to Damascus and the result in his life was this very thing.

So what is the cost to become "born again" to be one led of the Spirit like the wind, to obey that upward heavenly call that rips you out of this present non-reality into the reality of God?

And in a vision he has seen a man named Ananias coming in and putting his hand on him, so that he might receive his sight." Then Ananias answered, "Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much harm he has done to Your saints in Jerusalem. And here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call on Your name." But the Lord said to him, "Go, for he is a chosen vessel of Mine to bear My name before Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel. For I will show him how many things he must suffer for My name's sake." (Acts 9:12-16 NKJV)

We in the western church long to be like Billy Graham and have opportunity to preach Jesus to kings, presidents, and fill coliseums with admiring throngs. But are we willing to embrace the cross of Christ and suffer "many things for HIS name's sake"? Will we follow Jesus to the cross? Are we willing to suffer the loss of everything that this world has to offer and live lives that are focused on a kingdom that is NOT of this world? Or are we like those seven women spoken of by the prophet Isaiah?

And in that day seven women shall take hold of one man, saying, we will eat our own bread and wear our own clothing; only let us be called by your name, to take away our shame. (Isaiah 4:1 MKJV)

Seven women, seven lampstands, seven churches, we want the best of both worlds. We want the independence of being lords over our own lives. We want a successful career, we want to live comfortable lives, we want to be well thought of by all men, we want to build ourselves a kingdom and leave a legacy with our name on it. So, Jesus, just give us your name that we might appear righteous to our fellow man. We want to appear like a rich philanthropist who really cares about the little people, as long as we can maintain control over our lives. We just want to be known as a "Christ-ian." We want people to see that we always do "the Christian thing." Just give us your name to cover us in our spiritual nakedness.

So there stands Nicodemus with his world torn to shreds, laying at his feet. Now comes the coup de grace. "No one has ascended to heaven but He who came down from heaven, that is, the Son of Man who is in heaven." What? Are you saying that YOU not only have come down from heaven, but are still in heaven? What are you, mad? I was doing good to even believe in heaven and hold my own against the Sadducees who do not believe in the resurrection. Now you are telling me that you are not only here from heaven, but you are still there while you stand there before me here on this earth!

In the mind of this religious leader, Jesus was either demonized and a nut case or He was from another world. The works that He did, the miracles, spoke of that other world, so Nicodemus could not just brush Him off as a false Messiah. Jesus rocked this man's world view and He will rock yours if you try to follow Him by the Spirit's leading and power. Soon the things of this world will grow strangely dim as it has been with us, and your "pastor" will accuse you of not being of a right mind and of being "so heavenly minded that you are no earthly good." We wish all who name the name of Jesus were.

Paul wrote to the church at Ephesus,

Even when we were dead (slain) by [our own] shortcomings and trespasses, He made us alive together in fellowship and in union with Christ; [He gave us the very life of Christ Himself, the same new life with which He quickened Him, for] it is by grace (His favor and mercy which you did not deserve) that you are saved (delivered from judgment and made partakers of Christ's salvation). And He raised us up together with Him and made us sit down together [giving us joint seating with Him] in the heavenly sphere [by virtue of our being] in Christ Jesus (the Messiah, the Anointed One). (Ephesians 2:5-6 AMP)

Notice the time warp here? This is the normal Christian life. Just as it was with Jesus as He talked with Nicodemus, so it is with all who are Christ's. We are here on this earth, but we are also there with Him in heavenly places. If the above passage says anything, it says that in reality we are spirit beings having a bodily experience. God has commanded it so. Our sins could not even terminate this destiny. For even when we were dead in our sins, He made us alive together in fellowship and in union with Christ in the same new life of Christ. We have believed by His grace. We have been saved by His grace and we walk out our very lives by His grace.

Are we walking in heavenly places? No, we have been made to sit down together in Him. He is the one who said on the cross, "It is finished." If we are in Him, then we find ourselves as Jesus was when He spoke to Nicodemus, "No one has ascended to heaven but He who came down from heaven, that is, the Son of Man who is in heaven." It is in our resting in Christ in the heavenlies that we are in His kingdom here on earth. His prayer becomes a reality, "Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven." It is only as we rest in Him in the Father's kingdom that we can be of any kingdom good here on earth. We can only walk out Christ if we are sitting in Him in the heavens at Father's right hand. If we are busy building our own or the kingdoms of men ---and it is not the Spirit who we are obeying and following, but mere men--it is so much wood, hay and stubble and will all go up in the purifying fires of God.

To be in Christ we must be other-worldly. We will be so heavenly minded that this world and its religious leaders will cast us off as a profane thing.

If then you have been raised with Christ [to a new life, thus sharing His resurrection from the dead], aim at and seek the [rich, eternal treasures] that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. And set your minds and keep them set on what is above (the higher things), not on the things that are on the earth. For [as far as this world is concerned] you have died, and your [new, real] life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, Who is our life, appears, then you also will appear with Him in [the splendor of His] glory. (Colossians 3:1-4 AMP)

Are we to keep looking up? No way! If we are IN Christ we have a heavenly perspective and we can only look down with His eyes of love upon a lost and dying world. Our real focus is on heavenly things! We seek His heavenly treasures, not as some teach (to their own damnation) to seek earthly blessings to heap on our lusts. We are worthless to this world system and its kingdom builders. As far as they are concerned we are dead men and of no earthly good to them. We are in good company, though, for it was the Father who chose Christ to be the Chief Cornerstone, the same Jesus whom the builders rejected. When Jesus appears, we appear with Him in His glory because we are in Him. If we are standing down here and looking up at His second coming it is too late. We have missed the boat. Our lives have not been hidden in Him, but in the things and kingdoms of this world.

Paul wrote of this other worldliness to the Corinthian church.

For if we are beside ourselves, it is for God; or if we are of sound mind, it is for you. For the love of Christ compels us, because we judge thus: that if One died for all, then all died; and He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again. Therefore, from now on, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know Him thus no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation, that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation. Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ's behalf, be reconciled to God. For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. (2 Corinthians 5:13-21 NKJV)

When a country establishes diplomatic relations with another country, they send an ambassador and he opens up an embassy on that country's soil. The building and its grounds might be in a foreign country, but as far as sovereignty is concerned, that piece of real estate belongs to the country represented within its confines. The same is true of the ambassador. He is not his own. He is there to represent the country that sent him. He is not there to build his own kingdom or make himself look great to the dignitaries of that foreign nation, but to make his own country look great and do its wishes.

It is a grave offence to attack another nation's embassy. We are responsible to keep it safe from mob violence and never are we to over-run it with our own armies or police. If this happens, it is equivalent to an act of war and all diplomatic relations are broken off between the two nations. The same is true of an ambassador. If he starts making statements that represent his feelings or desires and not those of his home nation, he is recalled and another is sent. Now with all this in mind, let us look at the above passage once again.

We as members of the kingdom of God are to be "beside ourselves"! We, as heaven's ambassadors, are to represent God, not our own wishes. We are to be of a "right mind," the mind of Christ, so the inhabitants of this foreign land called earth can see the kingdom of God in us, and more importantly, see just who God really is. What manner of lives should we live? Lives that demonstrate Christ because He is the Pattern Son of God. We can do this only as much as we are dead in Christ to our old lives and lusts of the flesh and are alive in Him.

How do we of His kingdom relate to one another? Do we worship and elevate among ourselves to positions of authority and power the profound, the educated, the beautiful, and the powerful? No, not if we are of a heavenly mindset. We no longer know any man after the things of the flesh. Even here we are not to look on the outward things of men, but we are to be as Christ and look upon the heart. As Paul later wrote, "We do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal." How can we properly represent Christ and reconcile all men to God and show such favoritism? Our gaze, our thoughts, and our love must be for those things that are eternal, and our homeland must be the kingdom of God.

For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body, according to the working by which He is able even to subdue all things to Himself. (Philippians 3:20-21 NKJV)

How much more should this be true for those of us who are called to be His ambassadors? Subdue everything in us, oh Lord, and conform us into the perfect image and likeness of Your Glorious Son, "for in Him we live and move and have our being... for we are also His (God's) offspring.


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