Every Christmas I like to share this song that was written and performed by some friends, Larry and Dana Berry, and Larry Hakala. The music was recorded in my home studio and the video was produced by our friend in Christ, Roger Legg. Enjoy!
Every Christmas I like to share this song that was written and performed by some friends, Larry and Dana Berry, and Larry Hakala. The music was recorded in my home studio and the video was produced by our friend in Christ, Roger Legg. Enjoy!
My generation came after the end of world war 2 and during the end of the US involvement in the Korean Conflict. After Korea there was generally a time of peace and prosperity in America. We had emerged from this period as a major world power. Later when the government began sending our young men to fight in Vietnam, many in our generation did not see our involvement there as justified. By the late 60’s antiwar protests began along with the equal rights movement.
As a teenager I was impacted by the hippie movement that spread from California to my area in the Midwest. Peace, Love and Freedom were major themes of that time in the hearts and minds of many of us. Songs were written and played on the radio about “A New World Coming.” The Beatles sang on the first world-wide satellite broadcast, “All You Need Is Love.” The time was ripe to question the value of killing one another with the ever increasing effectiveness of modern technology. This was not the first time in history when people became sick of war, but this movement definitely gained greater momentum than those before it.
Sixty years later the dream of a new world full of peace, joy and love has been all but forgotten. Conflict persists among nations, races, cultures, religions, neighborhoods and families. War did not seem to make sense in the 60’s and it still does not make sense today. How can the human race continue to fight in its inherent inclination for self interest but not see that this tendency actually leads to its own self destruction?
Can peace loving people do anything to change this situation?
Well, in my opinion the first thing we must do is to reject the despair that creeps in as we consider these issues. Our God is a god of hope, not despair. (Romans 15:13) In the preceding chapters we have looked at the amazing and important connections between the Hebrew bible, which Christians call the Old Testament, and our New Testament. The Old Testament tells the story of the children of Abraham, who settled in a land to be called Israel. It also tells of the future of the entire world, and how the nations who did not descend from Abraham in a physical sense will later be connected to this same family. This will come about by the life, the ministry, the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, a native of that land.
You may have heard of the greeting used by Jewish people even today. I was told as a boy that “shalom” meant both “hello” and “goodbye” in Hebrew. It is used in a similar way that we say “hello” and “goodbye” today, but the word in Hebrew is literally “peace.” “Shalom” is a way of pronouncing a blessing of health, happiness, safety, prosperity and peace to a friend in both meeting and parting. It is about much more than just the absence of war. It harkens back to the time before sin entered into the world, before paradise was lost. In the garden, Adam and Eve were at peace with God, with one another and with nature. There was no death, no disease, no war.
Outside of the garden, it was only a matter of time until war broke out. Their first born son killed his own brother, and violence continued to increase from that point forward. In the New Testament letter from James, he asks this question:
4:1 What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? 2 You want something but don’t get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight. You do not have, because you do not ask God. 3 When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.
The peace that God promises is one that includes health, happiness, safety and prosperity, but it is a peace that first must begin in the heart. The real source of war is in our struggles for things other than God Himself. Only He can satisfy our most basic needs. Our separation from Him and our resistance to Him will always result in discontent. The Beatles were right when they said all you need is love. Sadly, this knowledge did not save them from the conflict that broke them up. Jesus Christ came to repair the breach between God and humanity. He accomplished this by absorbing all of our sins and putting an end to them on the Cross. Those who trust in His sacrifice for us and trust Him with our lives can take part in that promised peace. Being reconciled to God they also gain the capacity to love in a way that is beyond normal, selfish human love.
The enemy who started the trouble long ago was defeated by Christ on the Cross. Unfortunately he does not seem to realize this and sometimes we do not realize it as well. He continues to mislead people into doubting God and His love for us. He manages to pit us against one another instead of facing our own inner failures. When we do see our own failures he tries to press us into despair instead of trusting in God to heal us and empower us toward victory.
God has provided for us a full suit of armor that we absolutely must utilize in Christ’s victory. We must be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might! We must stand in the Truth, covered with His righteousness, walking in the Good News of peace with God, protected by the shield of faith and the helmet of salvation, holding in hand the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God. Finally it is prayer in the Spirit for one another that holds us together and strong! (Ephesians 6:10-19)
In this current age, many seek to gain peace through compromise. This could be due to a sense of insecurity. With God on our side and within us we are secure. We have nothing to prove and no one to please but Him. His love is one that keeps us in the midst of misunderstanding and disagreement. He loved us when we were His enemies, and He challenges us to love our enemies! How can this be? It is impossible for us, but all things are possible with God!
Jesus gave us a peace that the world could never give. Now He wants to make of us peacemakers, who will be identified as the very children of God! The Peace on earth that was announced at the birth of Jesus begins in us, but it does not end there! In these writings I hope to inspire to you a great vision and a great hope based on the Word of God! Will you participate in it?
3 He will judge between many peoples
and will settle disputes for strong nations far and wide.
They will beat their swords into plowshares
and their spears into pruning hooks.
Nation will not take up sword against nation,
nor will they train for war anymore.
4 Every man will sit under his own vine
and under his own fig tree,
and no one will make them afraid,
for the LORD Almighty has spoken.
A vision of this time that lays ahead of us can and should embolden us in His purpose for us. We are designed by God to be the makers of peace and the light of the world. (Matthew 5:9, 14) Will we answer the call? Will we give ourselves to it?
Paul wrote about this mission in his letter to the Philippians chapter 2, verses 12-16.
12 So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling; 13 for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure. 14 Do all things without grumbling or disputing; 15 that you may prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world, 16 holding fast the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may have cause to glory because I did not run in vain nor toil in vain.
There are usually a number of reasons for any given book to be written. One of my reasons, I must admit, is that I love sharing the Gospel with others! In fact I am as energized when I write about it as when I first heard it! God has done and continues to do wonderful things through His creation. What a terrific future He has planned for us all!
Yet there is another even more important reason for my writing. Earlier on I mentioned the principle of the paradigm shift. There is a great and needed paradigm shift taking place among the people of God today. For many centuries our focus has been mostly on our needs. We need forgiveness from our sins, and Christ has provided that for us in the Cross. Please don’t misunderstand, we should never diminish that in any way! Much of the New Testament was written to demonstrate the wonderful love and grace of God that is revealed in Christ! Yet, the message that Jesus brought concerning the Kingdom of God is often either ignored or misunderstood. I thank God and am greatly encouraged that more believers are thinking about life in the Kingdom of God today. We are in the beginnings of a great paradigm shift in the church of Jesus Christ that will have a powerful impact on the rest of the world! It is time to focus on what God Himself is after!
After I first read that Jesus instructed His followers to seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, I began to see this theme everywhere in the bible. The apostle John wrote that Jesus was the Word made into flesh, human from, which existed in the beginning and created all things. (John 1:1-14). So we know He was active in Genesis and all the way through to Malachi in the Old Testament. What was He saying then? How do all these writings relate to what we so appreciate in the New Testament? The paradigm shift that I am referring to involves our understanding how the purposes of God as revealed in the Old Testament connect with the many fulfillments noted in the New Testament. Going further, we will see how the Old Testament prophecies can also enlighten our understanding of the New Testament prophecies that are yet to be fulfilled!
So far in the Old Testament we have learned that:
God created humanity to be a reflection of Him, to multiply, and to rule the earth.
But our ancient parents disobeyed, and brought a curse upon themselves and the whole earth.
So God began to work through individuals like Enoch, Noah and Abraham in the process of restoring His original blessing.
He called out Abraham and chose him to raise a family that will worship Him and eventually bless all the families of the earth.
Abraham believed God. He even obeyed God’s command to offer up his only son. When his son was spared we received a picture of God instead providing His only Son as a sacrifice for all mankind.
When Abraham’s descendants found themselves in Egypt as slaves, The LORD sent Moses to deliver them. Moses would foreshadow Jesus, who would save the world from the slavery of their own sin.
Then came the shepherd David who had a heart after God, He would eventually shepherd all the 12 tribes who descended from Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. God promised to raise up from David’s descendants an even greater king over Israel, even Jesus, the Messiah, or Anointed One.
Eventually, Prophets like Isaiah and Daniel would begin to describe how just God would bless all the families of the earth through the children of Abraham. Through Christ He would establish the Kingdom of God on the earth. It is my conviction that these events are crucial to our understanding of the new testament. Together these writings can bring about a paradigm shift like the one that took Israel from focusing on themselves and on to the view that God had plans for all people of the earth. Today He is shifting our focus from getting people into our churches so they can later go to heaven. He is calling us to Kingdom citizenship and to bringing others into a life of righteousness, peace and joy right here on this earth. As we look for His future appearing, we are advancing with Him and declaring His Lordship over all today! God gets what He desires and has planned from the beginning. In turn we receive a purpose for our existence and the satisfaction of being part of His plan!
Before the coming of the promised Messiah, Israel would be divided into 2 kingdoms. Both would be defeated and ravaged by other nations. The survivors of the southern kingdom would be taken back to Babylon. During this time they would struggle to maintain their identity and would learn to treasure the Word of God that had come down to them from the beginning of their existence as a people. This was the period where the faith of the prophet Daniel was tested and that his relationship with His God was vindicated. He was the only one of the king’s counselors who could tell him what he had dreamed and could give him the meaning of the dream as well. The interpretation of this dream is very important to us today. It will no doubt inform us in our understanding of Jesus, and His mission in the Gospels.
31 “You looked, O king, and there before you stood a large statue — an enormous, dazzling statue, awesome in appearance. 32 The head of the statue was made of pure gold, its chest and arms of silver, its belly and thighs of bronze, 33 its legs of iron, its feet partly of iron and partly of baked clay. 34 While you were watching, a rock was cut out, but not by human hands. It struck the statue on its feet of iron and clay and smashed them. 35 Then the iron, the clay, the bronze, the silver and the gold were broken to pieces at the same time and became like chaff on a threshing floor in the summer. The wind swept them away without leaving a trace. But the rock that struck the statue became a huge mountain and filled the whole earth.
36 “This was the dream, and now we will interpret it to the king.
37 You, O king, are the king of kings. The God of heaven has given you dominion and power and might and glory; 38 in your hands he has placed mankind and the beasts of the field and the birds of the air. Wherever they live, he has made you ruler over them all. You are that head of gold.
39 “After you, another kingdom will rise, inferior to yours. Next, a third kingdom, one of bronze, will rule over the whole earth. 40 Finally, there will be a fourth kingdom, strong as iron — for iron breaks and smashes everything — and as iron breaks things to pieces, so it will crush and break all the others.
41 Just as you saw that the feet and toes were partly of baked clay and partly of iron, so this will be a divided kingdom; yet it will have some of the strength of iron in it, even as you saw iron mixed with clay. 42 As the toes were partly iron and partly clay, so this kingdom will be partly strong and partly brittle. 43 And just as you saw the iron mixed with baked clay, so the people will be a mixture and will not remain united, any more than iron mixes with clay.
This is an amazing account of the history that took place from Daniel’s time up until the time of Christ. Babylon was represented by the head of Gold. The chest and arms of silver depicted the Medio-Persian empire which invaded Babylon. The conquests of Alexander the Great came to spread the Greek culture over an even larger area. In the dream his domain was seen as the belly and thighs of bronze. Finally, the Roman Empire is described in the statue as the legs of iron with feet of iron and clay. We know from the bible and from world history that as Rome had risen in power it became consolidated under one man, namely Caesar Augustus, around the time Jesus Christ was born.
44 “In the time of those kings, the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be destroyed, nor will it be left to another people. It will crush all those kingdoms and bring them to an end, but it will itself endure forever. 45 This is the meaning of the vision of the rock cut out of a mountain, but not by human hands — a rock that broke the iron, the bronze, the clay, the silver and the gold to pieces. “The great God has shown the king what will take place in the future. The dream is true and the interpretation is trustworthy.”
Now let us jump forward about 400 years to these words recorded in the Gospel according to Mark:
Now after John had been taken into custody, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, 15 and saying, ” The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”
So what are we to make of all this? It seems obvious to me and evidently it was obvious to many in that time, that Jesus was expecting to see fulfilled what was written in the prophetic book of Daniel concerning the Kingdom of God. Certainly the timing was right. They were in the period of the forth kingdom. My question is this: Was He wrong? Did God fail to fulfill the expectation of Jesus? Were both John and Jesus wrong about the timing of this event? Let’s move ahead in the New Testament to find out!
Great numbers believed John or at least hoped that he was speaking for God. Many came out to hear him and to be baptized by him. Soon after, Jesus began working miracles and calling the nation to believe, repent and follow Him. He explained that the miracles were a sign that the kingdom had come (Luke 10:9). At the same time He rejected all attempts to take the kingdom by physical violence. In fact He demonstrated a power that was the least expected. His power was in the spiritual realm, not in the physical. His authority was of the highest of all, the very One Who brought the material universe into existence! He would command evil spirit to leave their victims. He would command diseases even to flee. His mission was not to destroy lives but to save them!
At the root of all the corrupt kingdoms of this world there is but one source: sin. All who desired to be free to live in this new kingdom could simply come to Jesus for deliverance. Each heart would be transformed from a selfish, sinful heart to one that loves both God and humanity. The kingdom, or reign of God is established IN THEM! (Luke 17:21, Philippians 2:13). Everything Jesus taught was concerning this kingdom. He urged His followers to see the immense value of living free and sharing the good news of this freedom in the kingdom! It was more valuable than all earthly treasures. By seeking first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, we gain heavenly treasures while still here on earth, and our earthly needs will be supplied! Matthew (6:33).
It was important then and it is yet today important to seek Christ whole-heartedly and without hesitation or reservation. These conditions make room for the full power of the Holy Spirit to transform our hearts, our behavior and the world around us! We are here to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world! This is how the Rock that was cut out of the mountain crushes all evil kingdoms — from within! The Lord Jesus Christ is that Rock (Romans 9:33, 1 Corinthians 3:11, 10:4, Ephesians 2:19-22, 1 Peter 2:4-8) For two thousand years this Rock has been crushing the evil that lives within us. This kingdom was demonstrated first in some simple believers who knew Him as absolute Lord over all. They faced the most powerful rulers of the world and defeated them with their faith! Yes, many of them were murdered for simply not denying His Lordship. Their murderers have been long gone and their power has dissipated, but these heroes of faith stand victoriously with Christ to this day!
The Kingdom of Christ has continued to expand from a small number of believers in an obscure part of the world, to the untold billions who know Him today. The full impact of His work in their hearts is yet to be seen, but it is as sure to come as the dawn of a new day!
In previous chapters we have looked at many of the foundations that were laid in the ancient scriptures of the Hebrews, known to Christians as the Old Testament. Jesus declared that the completed bible of His day was unbreakable. Paul His apostle said these writings were “breathed by God” and were profitable, having many things to teach us. (Matthew 5:17-18, John 10:35, 2 Timothy 3:16, Romans 15:4). When one trusts in Christ and receives the Holy Spirit, it is not too difficult to begin to see and understand how powerful these words can become to us. While to some they seem like dead letters on a page, to us they reveal the very heart and will of God for the world!
Scholars from the very first centuries have understood the connections between the old and new testaments. Many of them knew that Jesus actually came and fulfilled many of the promises of the old testament by dying for our sins and overcoming death for our victory. Hundreds of years ago, many of them also saw that God had further plans for His creation. Since then, for various reasons, Christian pastors and teachers have become focused more on the very important issue of personal forgiveness. Today however, more people are becoming concerned about the world around them, and wonder what God intends not only for His people, but also for this very planet that He created. They are finding that the new testament prophecies cannot be fully understood without the context from which they were written, and the backdrop of the old testament.
For as long as I can remember people have started at the last book of the bible, The Revelation, and have tried to predict what will come upon the world in the near future. This approach can stir up much excitement and interest. However, the entire bible has much to say about the future of humanity. Knowing more of the whole bible can give us a better understanding of what this one highly symbolical and figurative book is about. Our approach then is to slow down, and to patiently allow God’s great plan and purpose of the ages to unfold before our eyes! God’s method is “precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little:” (Isa 28:10 KJV). We would do well to accept His methods!
If you agree with the content of our last chapter, and desire to fight off the gloom and despair that tries to defeat us, I encourage you to take the promises of the Old Testament seriously. It is in the opening verses of the bible that we learn about why we are here. God created the earth and everything in it. Then at last He created humans to rule over it and to care for it. Have you ever struggled with the fact that we have lost that dominion?
In a 1971 song by the rock band, The Doors, Jim Morrison expressed this sentiment:
Riders on the storm,
Riders on the storm,
Into this house we’re born,
Into this world we’re throne,
Like a dog without a bone,
An actor out on lone,
Riders on the storm.
Could it be that his concept of a helpless, meaningless existence led to the reckless lifestyle that led to his death at 27, shortly after recording this song?
Without a connection with our Creator our existence can seem meaningless. We can easily waste the short time we have seeking pleasure or possessions in an attempt to fill the void that can only be satisfied by Him. Even we as Christians can secumb to feelings of despair and hopelessness — if we give more of our attention to the ideas of unbelieving politicians and entertainers than to the living Word of God!
No, God created us and this universe for His glory, goodness and love. We are not prisoners of our own lusts and slaves to our own instincts. What was lost in the fall was restored to us in Christ! The writer to the Hebrews reminds us this with these words and with a quote from the 8th Psalm of King David:
Hebrews 2:5-12 NASB (Earth Subject to Man)
5 For He did not subject to angels the world to come, concerning which we are speaking. 6 But one has testified somewhere, saying,
“WHAT IS MAN, THAT YOU REMEMBER HIM? OR THE SON OF MAN, THAT YOU ARE CONCERNED ABOUT HIM? 7 “YOU HAVE MADE HIM FOR A LITTLE WHILE LOWER THAN THE ANGELS;YOU HAVE CROWNED HIM WITH GLORY AND HONOR,AND HAVE APPOINTED HIM OVER THE WORKS OF YOUR HANDS; 8 YOU HAVE PUT ALL THINGS IN SUBJECTION UNDER HIS FEET.”
For in subjecting all things to him, He left nothing that is not subject to him. But now we do not yet see all things subjected to him.
9 But we do see Him who was made for a little while lower than the angels, namely, Jesus, because of the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, so that by the grace of God He might taste death for everyone.
10 For it was fitting for Him, for whom are all things, and through whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to perfect the author of their salvation through sufferings. 11 For both He who sanctifies and those who are sanctified are all from one Father; for which reason He is not ashamed to call them brethren…”
Yes, Christ is the Second Adam, Who fully is the image of the invisible God. (1 Corinthians 15:47-49, Colossians 1:15, Hebrews 1:1-3). In Adam we all die, but IN CHRIST, we are all made alive! In Him we can be restored to our rightful place of dominion over the earth, to rule and reign with Him. (1 Corinthians 15:22, 2 Timothy 2:12, Revelation 20:6) First we must understand that the way up is down. That is, we must follow the example of Christ in His humility and servanthood. Only as He sanctifies, sets us apart unto His pure motives and character can we be trusted with this authority. (Philippians 2:1-13). We are not called to reign in oppression, but to reign in life and blessing! (Romans 5:17)
Certainly much of this is in the future, but we can see already in the Early Church, believers possessing power over demons and diseases. Knowing who we are and our purpose in Christ is the first step toward living the full and abundant life! Believe it!
It is time that we quit embracing our failures and begin to take hold of our victory in Christ! Lord I believe but help me overcome my unbelief! As you consider these promises, I sincerely hope that many of you begin to sense that you were created for more than mere survival, mere existence. You have not been thrown into this universe, you have a destiny to fulfill in Christ! We can barely comprehend that now, but He is calling us all forward, upward and onward into that destiny in Him!
Have you ever had a moment when you became overwhelmed with a greater awareness of the pure Love of God? It seems clear to me that more than a few hymn writers have experienced this, like Frederick Lehma who penned “The Love of God.” You might remember the chorus:
“O love of God, how rich and pure!
How measureless and strong!
It shall forevermore endure
the saint’s and angel’s song.”
He recalled an experience in his youth while growing up in Iowa:
“One glad morning about eleven o’clock while walking up the country lane, skirted by a wild crab-apple grove on the right and an osage fence, with an old white-elm gate in a gap at the left, suddenly Heaven let a cornucopia of glory descend on the eleven-year-old lad. The wild crab-apple grove assumed a heavenly glow and the osage fence an unearthly luster.” This was more than an appreciation of the beauty of creation, for he became so captivated by the presence of God that he was filed with overwhelming joy and praise to Him. The love of God that engulfed him that day is expressed in this beautiful hymn.
Many such stories have been recorded where individuals were struck in a point in time with this sense of the wonderful, all-embracing love of God. We have come across them in songs, poems and personal testimonies. When we hear of the experiences of others, we can even share their joy as they remember and try to describe them. In years past, a portion of time was set aside in many church services for people to tell their personal stories of God’s goodness. How encouraging and uplifting were these times! Fortunately, in our time, many gatherings of small groups can still easily offer opportunities to share these kinds of testimonies.
From the biblical record and from my acquaintances I have learned that these experiences among believers is not all that uncommon. No two stories are identical but each one communicates that the personal presence of God is real to us. The earliest leaders in the church were known to remind their fellow believers of those precious moments in God’s presence. The believers were also urged to continue in His love by prayer, worship, fellowship and meditation on the scriptures. Paul specifically prayed that their awareness of the love of God would continually increase. In view of the wonderful and eternal purpose that God has for His church, Paul wrote these words:
“14 For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name, 16 that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God.”
He also states these facts relating to believers in Christ:
“Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand; and we exult in hope of the glory of God. 3 And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; 4 and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; 5 and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.”
At this time there might be some reading this that struggle with doubts and fears. Maybe the love of God seems distant, so distant that you can barely remember the time when He poured His love out upon you and within you. If so, I urge you to believe these words and to reach out to Him for a fresh outpouring of His love through a fresh infilling of His Holy Spirit. All He asks of you is that you humble yourself before Him, confess your sins and failures unto Him and believe Him for healing. Ask another believer to pray for you and with as well. Draw near unto Him and He will draw near unto you. (James 4:6-9).
Foundational to Christian belief is that we cannot live righteously on our own. Foundational also is the fact that we can through trusting in Him live full, godly and righteous lives in Him! Everything He has taught us about life is summed up in one word: love. We are to love God with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength, and to love our neighbor as ourselves. (Mark 12:28-31, Luke 10:25-28, Romans 13:9-19, Galatians 5:14). We can only do this because He has put His love into our hearts. This is the New Covenant, where God is working within us to will and to do His good desires. (Ezekiel 36:25-27, Hebrews 8:8-12, Philippians 2:12-13).
For the past several years, peace seems to be getting further and further from us. Strife in general has increased to the point that people cannot even drive on the highway without being overcome with “road rage.” The tension between political and religious views during my lifetime has reached an all time high. I don’t know about you but I find all this very discouraging. Evil is real and cannot be ignored. How do we deal with it in light of the love and grace of God that we know? How do we avoid getting caught up in all the hatred and strife that we see all around us?
This has forced me to remember the importance of real, divine love. John and his brother James were given a nick-name by Jesus. They actually wanted to call fire down from heaven upon their opponents as did the prophet Elijah. Jesus called them the “Sons of Thunder” because of their brashness. He had to remind them that He had come not to destroy lives but to save them! (Luke 9:56). How often do we even forget that He taught to love our enemies, to pray for them and to even do good to them?
The amazing thing about this story is how John would later change. After Herod executed his brother James, one might expect him to become even more revengeful. In fact he would suffer many forms of injustice in his life time. The main difference would come after the ascension of Jesus when John was filled with the Holy Spirit. (Acts 1:8) The love of God was poured out in his heart by the Spirit of God! Now he would be known as the apostle of love.
He later wrote:
“7 Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.” (1 John 4:7-8 NIV)
The love that Jesus and His apostles spoke of is not the same love that most people mean today when they speak of love. The ancient Greek language actually had 6 different words for love. In the bible “phileo” is used in reference to friendship, but “agape” is used in the context of God’s pure and unselfish love. In our modern times the Greek word “eros” would best describe the love that people experience when they “fall in” and “fall out” of love for one another. It is an emotion for sure, but it is fleeting and usually more sensual than phileo.
Some people are realizing that agape, this deeper, more unselfish love can be tough. This is the kind of love most found in the bible. God corrects those He loves. God offered His only Son as a sacrifice for sin because He loves the world. This is that love that He has poured out upon us. This is the love that through Him has filled our hearts! Do you believe in the power of God to fill you with love, divine love for everyone? Remember those who sang that old, old song, “Give me that old time religion, it makes me love everybody, it’s good enough for me?” They believed it!
When we allow the love of God that is in our hearts to work, we are challenged to “speak the truth in love.” Yes, there are a great number of voices in the earth eager to “speak the truth” with the wrong motivation. Maybe the goal is to humiliate the opponent. Maybe it is to simply win in the court of public opinion. Sadly, I fear that even in the Christian media there can be a financial motive. The more clever we can be, the greater the audience, the more influence one can gain, and along with it a more comfortable life. But at what cost? The result is often more division and strife in the world. We all lose.
At times love is gentle, and at other times it must be tough and even face rejection. The important thing is a clear conscience toward God that is void of offense toward humanity. If God so loves the world, then that must be our desire. Jesus said that the children of God are to be peacemakers. This requires a costly love, and a willingness to take risks. It comes from a perspective that is higher than my own. It is God’s perspective. It is a love that is rich and rewarding. It can and will be rejected. It can cause me personal pain, but love and service are a reward in themselves.
This is a love that dwells in the Kingdom of God and seeks to advance the righteousness, peace and joy of the Holy Spirit in the earth. It is a love that drives out the fears that bind us, and liberates us to live courageously for Christ. May God continue to reveal His love and express His love through us today!
In the mid nineteen seventies, I was experiencing a wonderful renewal of my faith. In fact, it was so wonderful that none of the painful circumstances of that time discouraged me. I was also greatly blessed by believing members of my family and the people of the little country church that surrounded me with love and enthusiasm for our Lord! We were mostly at the bottom of the economic ladder but on top of the world with the joy of the Lord! I felt as though nothing could stop this movement of the Holy Spirit, and had already seen great miracles in the lives of those who loved Jesus.
Little consideration was given in my mind at the time of another force that was also actively at work but against us. Subtle efforts were often made by our adversary to discourage us, and sometimes humiliate us. Even some of our fellow Christians attempted to dampen our joy with prophecies of doom and gloom. We have seen many healings and miracles, but we have also seen those we love fail in health and even die at a young age. We have seen individuals rise to heights of faith and victory but later to fall into sin, bitterness, addiction and poverty. However the presence of Christ has never left us and the vision of a brighter future has kept us alive in our faith.
If I let my thoughts drift very long from the powerful word of God that He Himself has instilled in my heart, I begin to feel as if I can hear the enemy laughing and mocking me for believing the things that I have expressed here. Recently I was reminded of the weakness of short-term thinking. In our modern world we want everything now. All of my life I have been told that the coming of Christ is very near, and only then will we see things change. For now our part is simply to wait for that day to come. What do you suppose the devil thinks about that concept? I suspect he is pleased with our inactivity and complacency. It amounts to a sort of truce between us and him that he is not obligated to honor. I am not saying that those who hold this view stop praying and serving Christ. But I do expect that their expectation is lower than the Lord would have it to be.
Think of it! Jesus declared that we could have mountain moving faith! He even said that all things were possible if we could only believe! Could it be that the limit of what God can and will do is only in our minds?
In the past few years we have seen many signs that our society is in serious trouble. Christian values are constantly under attack, which in turn affects all families. The believing community is the salt of the earth and the light of the world. When we become hopeless and disillusioned, how can we inspire hope in others? Lately I am realizing that my fight is not so much with the world but with my own despair. Defeatist attitudes among Christians do not help either. There are far too many who have given up on fulfilling the purpose of God for their lives to light up the world. Their hope is only in an escape from it. There are also those who would rather join the world in the current downward spiral and indulge in the many pleasures (and pain) it has to offer. Both These are paths that offer the least resistance to our human nature.
Jesus called His disciples to courage and sacrifice. He challenged both religious and secular leaders to face the immanent rule of God over all. He proved that none of us have what it takes to overcome sin and death but also that we can do just that by holding on to Him.
Over time a deep pessimism has crept into our hearts, our churches and especially our biblical understanding. As much as I try to dance around this issue, I am forced after all to face it head on. Yes there are dire predictions in the scripture about the fate of humanity. Yes, Jesus Himself said there would be great trouble such as the world had never known. We already know that the past 2,000 years have been filled with godlessness, apostasy, plagues wiping out large portions of the population and wars killing even more. Today technology has provided the means to wipe out every living thing on the planet. It is a major miracle that we are all still here now. But that is my point. The world and its history belongs to God. It is the miracle of faith in Him that preserves our hope.
This hope involves eternity with Him in another dimension of course. But it also involves this material creation which He created for His pleasure and His glory. We neglect the ancient passages of scripture to our detriment. The great New Testament story and those who preserved that story for us were deeply indebted to those who had gone before. Their faith could be strong because they witnessed the fulfillment of many Old Testament prophecies with their very own eyes. They also knew there was more to come. At this point I would like to plead with those of you who have come this far in our journey through the history of our faith. I am confident that if you can continue walking with us through this sweeping panoramic view of God’s eternal purpose, that this undying hope can stir your hearts to a fresh vision of His work in this very hour and in this very existence!
If like me, you desire to fully live in the moment as did the early Christians, you must first believe that this is even possible. These followers of Christ only had their Hebrew bible and the stories of their heroes of faith to look back upon. We have both the experiences of those who lived before Christ appeared and those who came afterward. If they could embrace the faith and miracle-working power of the older days, we might find we can embrace the lessons of both eras. Certainly those ancient believers can make us a bit uncomfortable as they were much less “civilized” than we think we are today. In some cases they seem even barbaric to us. Yet that very discomfort might be just what we need today in modern Christianity.
My hat goes off to the many pastors and teachers today who pray and exhort other believers to help fulfill the Great Commission of Matthew 28:18-20. I am all for that! It is in fact, my belief that a greater understanding of what God has done and plans to do through us now can help empower us to find our place in that great mission! However when we only have short term thinking and look for quick fixes we can get easily discouraged and disillusioned. What God began with Adam and Eve He continued in the lives of untold millions after them. Four thousand years of preparation led up to the “fullness of time” when Jesus came preaching the Good News of the Kingdom of God. God is patient and not running out of time to work out His plan. (2 Peter 3:9). My hope is to live to see the greatest turning to God that has ever happened in history. Yet, I can live and work in the expectancy of it today. Because of the Word of God that cannot fail, I can already see it, even if it is several lifetimes away!
May God shake us free from our complacency and apathy! What ever it takes! There is an adventure, a quest that is already underway for you and I to join! Underneath the decay and decline of society we see all around us, there is an undercurrent of faith and hope bubbling up. It is the Holy Spirit stirring hearts to believe in the impossible for the glory of God. The Gospel of the Kingdom is going out into all the world even now. It is the Good News of Jesus Christ and His reign over all, that begins in the hearts of you and I!
17 For they (evil men) eat the bread of wickedness, and drink the wine of violence.
18 But the path of the just is as the shining light, that shines more and more unto the perfect day.
Chapter 10, The Promised King
In the previous chapters of this book I shared some of my personal experiences and some of what I have learned from them. Also I have attempted to show that God has always had a plan from the beginning that supports His desire to bless His creation and humanity. The reason I mention this again is that often we can get caught up in our individual daily lives. It is easy to forget that we have been given a greater and higher purpose by God than what is often thought. The Christian faith can become sort of a habit of living with customs like Sunday church attendance, Easter and Christmas celebrations, and giving support to missionaries. Then each Christian denomination can have somewhat different habits, practices and beliefs as well. This is not to say that habits, traditions and beliefs are inherently wrong. Whether one is a believer in God or an atheist, we all have basic routines and assumptions about life.
The point I am making here and hope to continue to make is that all of our daily routines and goals can have greater meaning in the context of God’s marvelous plan. While Jesus did promise us, His followers eternal life, He also said He came that we might have abundant life even now! In fact the eternal perspective we gain from our relationship with Him can have tremendous impact on the here and now. Story after story in the bible will demonstrate this fact: that which is invisible and eternal can truly shake up and transform our physical reality!
How sad it is when repentance is viewed as a signed contract for fire insurance and salvation is only for the purpose of keeping us out of hell. Somehow, God is often shown to work around our misconceptions about Him and the Christian faith, and I am thankful for that fact. At the same time I am also thankful that He is willing and able to give us a greater vision of His plan and the reason we are here. So I have been sharing a very condensed overview of the Old Testament because I feel that many important aspects of God’s eternal purpose are presented there. It is true that the New Testament is more directly applicable for us today, but the fact remains that they are linked. The New Testament simply cannot be fully understood without knowing what came before and was written about in the Old. I strongly believe that the oversimplified “lite” version of the Gospel we often hear today is a result of our neglect of the Old Testament. What we need today is the powerful, life-changing and world changing Gospel of the Kingdom!
When John the Baptist and Jesus came preaching “The kingdom of God is at hand,” this message did not come out of a vacuum. As civilization expanded the people of God became increasingly aware of the need for God’s righteous ways to be applied not only in the nation of Israel but also in the affairs of all nations. Their prophets had many things to say concerning the nations of the earth, and His plans for them. From men like Isaiah and Daniel, they learned of the wondrous future God had planned for all of us. This no doubt led to their interest in the messages of both John and Jesus.
Moses had led the descendants of Israel by the Word which came directly to Him from God. His law was their governor and protector. His judges and prophets were the interpreters of His law and the Spirit gave them guidance. Many times God even ruled them directly by demonstrations of His power. Eventually there came a time when they desired a king like the other nations around them. He first gave them Saul to teach them about the disadvantages of this decision. Then He gracefully gave them a king who was more desirous of His Heart. So David, the shepherd boy who killed Goliath the giant became the king over all of Israel.
David was by no means a perfect man or a perfect king. He was, however, a great example of one who loved God and desired to please Him. This we learn from the written record of his life and the Psalms he wrote for worship in the congregation. It was in these psalms of praise and worship that David declared God in heaven to be the true King! (Psalms 10:16, 24:7-10, 29:10) In His desire to honor his God he planned to build a temple to replace the tent as permanent dwelling place for God’s dwelling among His people. At first, David’s prophet and adviser Nathan thought this was as great idea. Later that night, however, the Word of God came to Nathan, saying:
4 “Go and tell my servant David, ‘This is what the LORD says: You are not the one to build me a house to dwell in. 5 I have not dwelt in a house from the day I brought Israel up out of Egypt to this day. I have moved from one tent site to another, from one dwelling place to another. 6 Wherever I have moved with all the Israelites, did I ever say to any of their leaders whom I commanded to shepherd my people, “Why have you not built me a house of cedar?” ‘
7 “Now then, tell my servant David, ‘This is what the LORD Almighty says: I took you from the pasture and from following the flock, to be ruler over my people Israel. 8 I have been with you wherever you have gone, and I have cut off all your enemies from before you. Now I will make your name like the names of the greatest men of the earth. 9 And I will provide a place for my people Israel and will plant them so that they can have a home of their own and no longer be disturbed. Wicked people will not oppress them anymore, as they did at the beginning 10 and have done ever since the time I appointed leaders over my people Israel. I will also subdue all your enemies.
“‘I declare to you that the LORD will build a house for you: 11 When your days are over and you go to be with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring to succeed you, one of your own sons, and I will establish his kingdom. 12 He is the one who will build a house for me, and I will establish his throne forever. 13 I will be his father, and he will be my son. I will never take my love away from him, as I took it away from your predecessor. 14 I will set him over my house and my kingdom forever; his throne will be established forever.'” (1 Chronicles 17:4-14 NIV)
Here is an early and clear prophecy of the reign of God over the earth through a descendant of David. In the first sense it was fulfilled in David’s son Solomon. David would go on to plan and prepare for the building of the temple, but Solomon, who had never fought in war would oversee the building of the first temple for the LORD. After Solomon, David’s dynasty, his “house” would continue until David’s devotion to God was abandoned and the kingdom crumbled.
Yet the hope for a future “Son of David” did not disappear. God spoke of this future Messiah (anointed One) in other ancient writings.
A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse (David’s father); from his roots a Branch will bear fruit. 2 The Spirit of the LORD will rest on him — the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of power, the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD — 3 and he will delight in the fear of the LORD.
He will not judge by what he sees with his eyes, or decide by what he hears with his ears; 4 but with righteousness he will judge the needy, with justice he will give decisions for the poor of the earth. He will strike the earth with the rod of his mouth; with the breath of his lips he will slay the wicked. 5 Righteousness will be his belt and faithfulness the sash around his waist.
6 The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them. 7 The cow will feed with the bear, their young will lie down together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox. 8 The infant will play near the hole of the cobra, and the young child put his hand into the viper’s nest. 9 They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain, for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea.
In this and in many other places, Isaiah and others foresaw a world that more closely resembles the Garden of Eden, or Paradise. (Revelation 2:7). This should be no surprise to us, for a wise person once wrote that God “has set eternity in their heart.” (Ecclesiastes 3:11) From around the world, and in ages past, philosophers and thinkers have yearned for something they hoped was once real — that could be real again. There is a longing in all of our hearts for what the heavenly hosts declared to some shepherds near Bethlehem while praising God. They announced:
14 Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men. (Luke 2:14 KJV)
How this will fully come about (if you believe these prophecies have any real meaning at all), remains to be seen. And yet we have from scripture a clear indication on when it started to unfold.
Foundational to all Christian belief is the truth an angel brought to the virgin Mary 2,000 years ago.
30 The angel said to her, ” Do not be afraid, Mary; for you have found favor with God. 31 “And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name Him Jesus. 32 “He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David; 33 and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and His kingdom will have no end.”
After the birth of Jesus, Mary and Joseph, both descendants of David, brought their child to the temple at Jerusalem to present Him before the Lord. There they were approached by an older man named Simeon. Simeon was compelled by the Holy Spirit to hold Him in his arms and speak these words:
29 “Now Lord, You are releasing Your bond-servant to depart in peace,
According to Your word;
30 For my eyes have seen Your salvation,
31 Which You have prepared in the presence of all peoples,
32 A LIGHT OF REVELATION TO THE GENTILES,
And the glory of Your people Israel.”
Simeon had waited all of his life for this moment. He believed that this descendant of Abraham would some day bless all the families of the earth. This calling was to bless the gentiles, or the nations outside of his covenant with God. He even quotes from the Old Testament prophets (Isaiah 42:6-7). Now he is satisfied to die in peace, for He had seen the Lord’s salvation in the person of this infant child! What faith! What confidence in the written Word of God and witness of the Holy Spirit! In his heart and mind the scripture was already fulfilled!
Later, when Jesus began His public ministry, people who were healed by Him, saw His miracles, and His triumphant ride into Jerusalem loudly proclaimed Him to be the promised “Son of David.” (Matthew 9:27, 12:23, 15:22, 21:9).
After the Crucifixion, many abandoned Him. Yet He kept a strong core group who became the leaders of a great movement that began to cover the then known world. Many were martyred for simply refusing to deny that He was Lord of all! The Kingdom of God was real to them and in them! They had experienced true righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit! (Romans 14:17)
What about you? Has the promised King, the Son of David come to reign in your life? Are you learning to look for His future reign in all the earth, in every heart, while you enjoy His wonderful life, love and Kingship over you today?
Chapter nine: The Promised Deliverer
Because of his obedient faith in his creator God, Abraham received the promise that a great nation would come forth from the son of his old age. This might not seem as important to us in our time when many worry about the planet having to support too many people. It was different 4 thousand years ago. Having a family was even more important to Abraham, whose original name meant “exalted father.” Later the name given to him by God would be Abraham, or “father of a multitude.” In ancient days a person’s name often described him. Abraham’s very purpose in life was not simply to prosper in business, but to inherit the Promised Land, and to populate that land with his family. This family would then be God’s instrument through which all families of the world would be blessed!
Ironically, his family did not really flourish at first in the promised land. Many things would transpire before that time. Abraham’s grandson Joseph, was betrayed by the jealousy of his own brothers, and he became a slave in Egypt. In his integrity and faithfulness to God he endured much suffering and abuse, but was rewarded in the end. His God enabled him to interpret the dreams of Pharaoh and to lead Egypt through a great famine. Finally his brothers humbled themselves before him, and they were reconciled.
In this we see another parallel with Jesus, who while on the cross asked for forgiveness for his own people who in their jealousy rejected Him! The natural children of Abraham mostly have failed to recognize Him to this day, with only a minority believing in Him. However, we look forward in great anticipation with the apostle Paul who saw the day when their eyes would be open in great numbers! (Romans 11:25-29). Like Joseph and his brothers who wept and embraced one another, there will also come a time when the natural sons of Abraham will reconcile with the One who rescued them as well!
8 “In that day the LORD will defend the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and the one who is feeble among them in that day will be like David, and the house of David will be like God, like the angel of the LORD before them. 9 “And it will come about in that day that I will set about to destroy all the nations that come against Jerusalem.
10 “And I will pour out on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the Spirit of grace and of supplication, so that they will look on Me whom they have pierced; and they will mourn for Him, as one mourns for an only son, and they will weep bitterly over Him, like the bitter weeping over a first-born.
It appears that this mourning will not be limited to Israel, but to all nations, for we read in Revelations 1:7:
7 Behold, He is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see Him, even those who pierced Him; and all the tribes of the earth will mourn over Him. Even so. Amen.
What a great day that will be when all who have pierced Him with their words and actions of hatred, selfishness, pride and injustice finally grieve over their ways as He reveals Himself to them!
The Great I AM
This wonderful story of Joseph and his brothers had a happy ending. He brought His father and all that were with him to live in Egypt, where there was plenty of food which he had stored up during the seven plentiful years. The seventy families that were brought down with Jacob multiplied there greatly. However, after the death of Joseph another Pharaoh came to power. He feared that they might rise up against him, so he enslaved them and forced them to build great cities. In spite of this they multiplied even more! His next plan was to control their population growth by infanticide. The parents of Moses were wise and courageous enough to hide him and at the same time hopeful enough to risk sending him down the river to freedom. What would become of him? Would the God they trusted in watch over him and use him for something special?
Having been rescued by Pharaoh’s own daughter and raised in the palace, he could have been very content with his life. This situation might have been that easy for some, but not Moses. He saw how his people were being mistreated and he got involved. This led to his accidental killing of an Egyptian which resulted in his flight from Egypt. Then he again found a relatively good life as a shepherd. Could he at last find contentment? No. Like Joseph, Moses would be another example of Christ, the greatest of all deliverers, by leaving a place of comfort and ease for a place of suffering and struggle. This would lead to a greater purpose, the purpose of lifting others to a higher life! All of this prefigures our Savior Jesus Who left the riches of heaven to become the servant of all. (Philippians 2:5-11)
While in the wilderness, Moses would meet the Great I AM, The Eternal One, Who has no beginning or ending. Out of a bush on fire but not consumed by the flames, he received the call to go back to Egypt to deliver his people. God would give many great and powerful signs through Moses to demonstrate His superiority over the gods of Egypt and to liberate the children of Israel from slavery. Moses would be God’s spokesman throughout his lifetime and revealing in great detail how this great family was to become a civilized nation, and an example to the world.
So much could be said about the importance of Moses, but here I simply want to point out how his ministry fits into the eternal plan of God through Christ. It was Moses who was instructed by God to oversee the building of a place where God would meet with His people. The tabernacle in the wilderness was built to show how serious God was about renewing that relationship He had with Adam and Eve in the garden. In it He provided a place where they could express repentance for their sins and also receive His grace and be at peace with Him. His blessing would be demonstrated in the glory of the pillar of cloud by day and fire by night and the provisions made for their journey back to the Promised Land.
Sadly, as is often the case, many missed the point. Far too many worshipped outwardly but not from the heart, right up until the time of Jesus. Jesus pointed this out to many religious leaders of His day who thought they really understood Moses:
45 “Do not think that I will accuse you before the Father; the one who accuses you is Moses, in whom you have set your hope. 46 “For if you believed Moses, you would believe Me; for he wrote of Me. 47 “But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe My words?”
So how did Moses write of Jesus? The answer might be found in a concept described by the author of the letter to the Hebrews.
10:1 For the Law, since it has only a shadow of the good things to come and not the very form of things, can never by the same sacrifices year by year, which they offer continually, make perfect those who draw near.
Paul also made a similar observation in Colossians 2:16-17:
16 Therefore let no one act as your judge in regard to food or drink or in respect to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day — 17 things which are a mere shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ.
Around the time of the First Century, biblical scholars were looking into allegorical interpretations of the Scriptures. The New Testament apostles and teachers also began to see amazing parallels between the old and new covenants. Jesus Himself took special time to show that He was written about in the law of Moses, the writings of the prophets and in the poetry of the Psalms and the wisdom literature of the Hebrew canon. (Luke 24:44-45). When individuals become open to see how Jesus was concealed in the stories, the characters, and the rituals of the old testament, a rich and wonderful portrait of Christ becomes available to them. He reveals Himself by the Spirit to the humble of heart.
The law given by Moses, with it’s ethics, with it’s order, with it’s sacrificial system and it’s clear method of separating His people from the world — was a mere shadow of the good things to come in Christ! In depth studies of this marvelous, and mysterious body of literature have proven to encourage many to believe in God’s eternal purpose in Christ and His Church! Not only was He the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world, but also the Light of the world as seen by the candlestick in the tabernacle. Likewise the bread on the table in the tabernacle pointed to Christ who is the Bread of Life.
The entire tabernacle tells the story of how fallen humanity returns to intimacy with God through the work of Jesus on the Cross. Christ is the door of the tabernacle, He is the sacrifice on the brazen offer which represents my repentant heart. He is the sanctuary where we receive His Light from the candlestick, the sustenance from the Showbread, and we can offer up prayers and praise in the golden alter of incense. Finally, by His grace we can enter into the holiest place of all, where His presence, His word and His blood on the alter seal our relationship with God forever! (Hebrews 9:1-15, 10:19-22)
As Moses defeated the mighty Pharaoh and his false gods, Jesus brought down the lies of the devil by proving the love and goodness of God on our behalf, as well as His power over death. (Hebrews 2:14-15). Moses led his people out of bondage in Egypt and on their journey to Canaan. Christ snatches us from our old lives of sin and the corruption of this world. Even now He provides for us all we need on this wilderness journey while being surrounded by hostile forces.
Moses on Mount Sinai gave Israel the law written by the Finger of God, to prove to the world their identity as God’s chosen people. Jesus revealed the true intent of that law in His Sermon on the Mount to prove that by faith we can become citizens of heaven while still living on this earth!
Moses could have been speaking of Jesus when he made this statement:
15 The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your countrymen, you shall listen to him.
Peter and others declared that Moses was in fact foretelling the coming of Jesus even back then. (Acts 3:19-22, John 6:14)
Are you beginning to see how the many pieces of the puzzle begin to fit together in Jesus Christ? But here we are just beginning, there is so much more to come! Christ is not only delivering us from the effects of the fall, He is restoring us to the relationship we had with Him in paradise before the fall! Not only that, but something greater! We already bear the image of God in an earthly manner, but we are to also bear the image of God in a much deeper way. Even now, those who worship Him are being daily transformed!
In the third chapter of his second letter to the Corinthian church, Paul describes a situation where some biblical scholars had failed to see the portrait of Christ hidden in their scriptures, our Old Testament. Their minds and their hearts were blinded, as if separated from seeing Him by a veil. But — when any heart turns to the Lord, that veil is taken away! Of course we know that it can only be the Holy Spirit Who warms our hearts, convicts us of our sin and forgetfulness, and leads us to repentance.
2 Corinthians 3:13-18:
14 But their minds were hardened; for until this very day at the reading of the old covenant the same veil remains unlifted, because it is removed in Christ. 15 But to this day whenever Moses is read, a veil lies over their heart; 16 but whenever a man turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. 17 Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. 18 But we all, with unveiled face beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.
Did you get that? We can be transformed into the image of Christ, who is the express image of the invisible God! (2 Corinthians 4:4, Colossians 1:15, Hebrews 1:3).
28 And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. 29 For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the first-born among many brethren; 30 and whom He predestined, these He also called; and whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.
Remember the original blessing in Genesis One? God had intended all along for humanity to bear His image, to rule the earth on His behalf and to fill the earth with His glory. Disobedience and sin disrupted that plan, but God could not fail in His purpose. The world was being prepared for the promised deliverer by God’s work through many beforehand. Glimpses of Him would be seen in Abraham, Joseph, Moses and others. In fact the entire created universe testifies of Him. (Romans 1:20).
Throughout the ages God has been working with us as a potter works with clay in his hands. Everything that has happened and is happening is leading to a great climax in which the knowledge of the glory of the Lord will cover the earth as the waters cover the sea! (Isaiah 11:9, Habakkuk 2:14) Creation itself will be delivered from the bondage of corruption and into the glorious liberty of the children of God! (Romans 8:20-21)
In all of this you and I have a part to play. We get to be incorporated into the the very Body of Christ, Who is the Seed, the descendant of Abraham through Whom all the families of the earth will be blessed! Where do I get this crazy idea? In the bible of course!
18 I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. 19 The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. 20 For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.
Once we begin to see the big picture, from a great panoramic view of the entire bible, the individual pieces of the puzzle begin to fit into place. Have you ever tried to work a picture puzzle without having the cover of the box that shows the end result? Sometimes we just see individual pieces in God’s plan without having a clue to the way they fit together. If you can bear with me, I believe we can show in this simple study how beautiful the bigger picture really is. More than that, I hope each of us can find what our part in God’s great plan might be, giving us a greater sense of purpose in this life!