Tuesday, November 9, 2010

God's Unfailing Love

This is from a good friend, Jan Antonsson, who has a website, The Glory Road...and what she writes IS glorious...She gave me permission to enter this writing on my blog

Given for the Saints of the World on Oct. 3, 2010
"Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever" (I Pet. 1:23).
Would you care to escape the bonds of tradition and orthodoxy and soar into the heavenlies with me while we contemplate the next move of God? This has been the topic of the on-line discussion forum recently. "Where do we go from here?" seems to be on a lot of people's minds these days. Some have felt led to withdraw from the world in search of a closer relationship with our Father; others have been drawn even deeper into the ministry of reaching the lost. No one speaks for God, of course, but we all are eager to know what comes next for us.
During a recent conversation with Harry Robert Fox, a man who has spent his life bringing the Gospel to the lost, including service as a missionary in Japan, the question came up about why, in spite of 150 years of effort by the American churches to convert the Japanese people to Christianity, so few Japanese have accepted the offer.
Harry concludes it is because of their core belief in the Shinto religion, which teaches them that the soil of Japan was created by their gods and they themselves sprang from the sexual union between their male god and female god. They believe their divinity makes them the superior beings on Earth. Because of that, they have no concept of sin, no fear of hell, and thus feel no need of a Savior. Yet, Harry says they have a shame based culture, the shame resulting from failure to live by the strict code of responsibility to their country. For that, which they consider an external problem, they turn to their Shinto religion for the occasional outward cleansing which they believe restores them to wholeness.
As I pondered this, it occurred to me that Christian missionaries, together with Christian teachers and preachers have primarily practiced the orthodox method of scaring people to Christ by preaching hell fire and damnation. This approach did not work in Japan. Though fear of hell often causes people elsewhere to go forward at the invitation hymn, the long term faithfulness of a person scared to Jesus is in question. Backsliding and a return to the world are common place occurrences.
We have heard from many who were traumatized by the experience, driven to repent by fear of hell after they die, but sadly, they were not given any information about the life saving and life giving love and grace of God which gives us the power and energy to live our lives on this earth. Only the Spirit can reveal these treasures, but they never encountered Him. Their Christian experience was mostly dismal self effort and flesh trying to control flesh.
God is often presented as a fire breathing dictator who has rigid rules about how to please Him, regulations which no one can really keep. This fear based religious experience just did not work on the Japanese, who are more invested in their identity as children of the divine, than in their behavior.
I got really excited in my spirit contemplating what would happen if God changed the program and began to lead pastors and missionaries to tell the lost that their destiny is to become children of God; Christ came to redeem and restore them as heirs to the divine promise, which is God Himself. Love rather than fear is a better tool for reaching the lost, I believe. Who wouldn't respond to an invitation from our this amazing Father of ours LOVES us unconditionally, EMPOWERS us to live an overcoming life, PROTECTS us from harm, HEALS us from our diseases, and the only one QUALIFIED to be called our BFF (Best Friend Forever)?
Jesus Christ is the most attractive person who ever lived, as attested to by the thousands who followed Him around from town to town no matter how far from home they had to walk. He healed the sick, opened the eyes of the blind, restored hearing to the deaf, delivered people afflicted with the demonic, whatever you think that may have been, and offered a new way to walk with God. Rather than serving Him out of fear, Jesus invited His listeners to call Him Abba (Daddy, in Hebrew). He invited men and women into the family of God.
Instead of being an "other" from us, Christ came to dwell within us by the Spirit. He poured Himself out on His waiting disciples on the Day of Pentecost and they, in turn, carried the Good News of the Kingdom throughout the known world, aided by Roman roads and the Greek language spoken throughout the Roman Empire.
Prophesied by most of the prophets, as well as Christ, in gory detail in Matt. 24, and Luke 21, the Great and Terrible Day of the Lord occurred in AD 70, when with God's authority, the Roman General Titus raged against Jerusalem with a fury that left few alive. The Christians there had heard Christ's warning about the end of the age (Matt. 24:1-34), and they fled Jerusalem at the first sign of trouble. Josephus reported that there were no Christians killed in the atrocities committed by the Romans during that dreadful time.
Christians who project this horrific time out into the future have overlooked Jesus' words: "Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away till all these things take place" (Matt. 24:34). Unless there are some extremely old Jews living somewhere undiscovered on the planet, these events have already happened. And Jesus said that these events would usher in the age to come, which is NOW.
Unfortunately, some overzealous pastors and preachers use these events to frighten people to come to Christ today. There's a whole lot of shaking going on in the world today, which many Christians fear mean that Armageddon is right around the corner. Were you able to send a CNN reporter back in time to interview the Jews who faced death by famine, plague, and Roman crucifixion during Titus' reign of terror, I'm sure they would tell you with wide eyed horror, that The Great and Terrible Day of the Lord had come! Remember that Jesus wept over Jerusalem lamenting that He longed to take them under His wings like a hen with her chickens, but they would not.
The First Century Jews had no concept of God as Father until Christ came along and told them so. They crucified Him for what they perceived as His arrogance, because to them, God was an other from them, someone to be in awe of, to worship, to obey, but rather difficult to love, I always thought while reading the Old Testament accounts of how He reacted when they disobeyed, which they did on a regular and recurring basis.
Christ came to show us our identity which is IN HIM. The Jews rejected Him, bringing down the wrath of God on Jerusalem in AD 70, when, by the hand of Titus, God closed down the Jewish religion as it had been practiced since He gave the plans for the tabernacle and the Law to Moses on Sinai. When they finally breached the walls of the city, the Romans were in a blood frenzy. They burned the temple to the ground so that there were no stones left standing on another, just as Jesus prophesied (Matt. 24:2).
The Age of the Law came crashing down because there was no longer any place to offer animal sacrifices demanded by the Law, nor any records left to prove the lineage necessary to maintain the priesthood. The only thing left standing today is part of the foundation wall, located below the temple mount. It used to be called the Wailing Wall, where faithful Jews went to pray, but it is now referred to as the Western Wall. Orthodox Jews still go there to pray, rocking back and forth as they read and pray the Torah.

In spite of the murder and mayhem during and after the siege of AD 70, Paul said that "All Israel will be saved" (Rom. 11:26). My NIV Study Bible producers deemed it prudent to make a footnote that said this means only believing Jews, but Paul didn't feel the need to say that because he knew God's heart, which he carefully laid out in Romans, chapters nine through eleven.
The Jews' only claim to God's promises and provision was their lineage from Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and their feeble and futile attempts to keep the Law. That sounds a lot like the Japanese when you think of it, who like the Jews, identify themselves as children of divine origin maintaining their integrity with ritual cleansing here and there.
The Japanese have the right idea, but the wrong god! Amazingly, we Christians really ARE of divine origin; God IS our Father and Christ IS our elder brother. Why don't we tell that to people we're trying to convert I wonder?
As Christians, our true identity is "In Christ," a phrase which occurs some 69 times in the New Testament. Why is it then, that Christianity has reverted to the Old Covenant and has insisted on relegating our relationship with God to our behavior and obedience to the doctrines of men?
As I said to Harry Fox, the truth that our IDENTITY in Christ is our Passport to God rather than our behavior, is the most exciting, energizing concept to apprehend me in a long, long time.
What if, instead of ranting about sin and hell, we brought the truly Good News to people who are floundering in this life? Most people in the world are not worried about hell and in fact, look at the hypocrisy practiced among some Christian leaders as proof that it's all a word game with no power in it. Nevertheless, like all the rest of us, they need help to cope with the vicissitudes of life.
God is wonderful! His steadfast love is from everlasting to everlasting, and while we're at it, He is not just the God of the righteous, but the God of the whole world (Jn. 3:17; I Jn. 2:2). He is the one, Paul insisted, "who consigned all men to disobedience that He may have mercy upon all!" (Rom. 11:32). He is the one who created Adam from the dust of the earth and breathed the breath (spirit) of life into his nostrils, giving him life and identity as a son of God (Gen. 2:7).
Jesus is Lord of all men (Acts 10:36; Rom. 10:12), because God's Spirit is in all men. Zechariah prophesied that God stretched out the heavens, put the bases of the earth in place, "AND formed the spirit of man inside him" (Zec. 12:1). "And the dust goes back to the earth as it was, and the spirit goes back to God who gave it" (Ec. 12:7). Isaiah declared that God created the heavens and the earth, and "gives breath to the people on it and spirit to those who walk in it" (Isa. 45:5). God's spirit dwells in all men, whether they know Him YET or not.
The divine seed is within every man, waiting for the breath (Spirit) of God to activate it, much like a human egg, which must be impregnated by the sperm before it can over time become a baby. Spiritual birth is sometimes a lengthy process. Paul, who brought the impregnating Word to thousands of seeking hearts, felt the labor pangs as he waited: "My little children, with whom I am again in travail until Christ be formed in you!" (Gal. 4:19).
To know Him, we must be born again, Jesus told Nicodemus (John 3:3), but haven't you ever wondered why religion has made this a result of man's works, rather than God's? In fact, John stated emphatically, "But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God; who were born, NOT of blood NOR of the will of the flesh NOR of the will of man, but of God" (John 1:12-13). Clearly, our sonship has nothing to do with man's efforts or actions. It is a God job from first to last!
The New Creation (birth) is a gift of God's will, His imperishable seed, which when germinated (activated), births within us the Christ. We are birthed from above by God's light, which "has shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ" (II Cor. 4:6). This says to me that the "last Adam," who Paul said was made "a quickening spirit" is the One who calls men to Himself with this promise: "Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven" (I Cor. 15:45-49). That verse always "raptures" me to the Throne of God!
Perhaps the New Move of God will be more one-on-one encounters with the Light rather than corporate endeavors. I appreciate so much men and women like Harry and Jeri Fox who have served as missionaries in far away places under very difficult circumstances. They go because God calls them to go and because they are burdened for the lost. They work under far from ideal conditions, do without so much that most of us feel we must have, live far away from family and friends, enduring privation and hardship, because God called them to share Christ with those who haven't met Him. I could never tell them how to do their work because I've never been in their shoes
I feel sure however, that they and the churches which support them, pray constantly for God's Light and unfailing Love to be displayed to the lost, with or without words. What they fervently desire is more souls to receive Christ. Whatever the next move of God is, I believe the efforts of man will take a back seat to the unstoppable power and ability of Almighty God, who created us from Himself, and who will not sleep nor slumber until He has filled every man, woman and child who has ever lived or ever will live, with His own Life and Spirit, revealed to us in Christ Jesus our Lord. "The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is thy faithfulness" (Lam. 3:22-23). Will you join me in saying, AMEN! Selah!
Jan Antonsson