ALL THINGS NEW
BY: JAN A. ANTONSSON
JANUARY 17, 2014
The Glory Road Blog, A Kingdom Highway
“And he who sat upon the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new.” Also he said, “Write this, for these words are trustworthy and true” (Rev. 21:5).
When God promises something, we can take it to the bank, eventually. It’s that last word there that hangs me out to dry at times as I ponder how this promise translates into living in time now. The hope all of us have is that in the Resurrection, we’ll be new, inhabit our glorified bodies, and become in reality what we are in spirit now: sons of God, fully furnished unto all good works, and able to share with those walking in darkness, the great light of our lives, who is Christ.
Those of us who have struggled to be good, to be perfect as our Heavenly Father is perfect, understand in principal anyway, that only God is good; and only He is perfect. It seems to me, having pondered this phenomena for decades, that all religion is based upon man’s idea of how to achieve this lofty goal.
When I say all religion, I include Christian, Jew, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, every one of them. Since I’ve written nine million, five hundred and sixty thousand, three hundred and ten words on the folly of depending on self effort during the time The Glory Road has been published, suffice it to say, that I’ve been there, done that, all to no avail.
After addressing them as saints, Paul wrote the Corinthians, who needless to say, didn’t really qualify to be saints under any religious criteria today, yet to these folks with checkered morality, he assured them that he was not regarding them from a worldly point of view. Having said that, he concluded, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come” (II Cor. 5:17). And lest they think this process had anything to do with their efforts, he assured them, “All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation” (II Cor. 5:18-19).
These are among my favorite verses in the Bible, because a) Hallelujah and Praise the Lord, nothing depends on my efforts which can fail, but only on God’s, which cannot, and b) this was accomplished by God through Christ’s death on the cross. How this was accomplished is one of the mysteries of the Gospel. God graciously gives us the faith to believe it did happen and does happen, without our knowing precisely the mechanics of how it happened.
For me, it is enough to praise the Father for being on that cross in Christ, and to know that I was the one who needed to be reconciled in the process, not God. I occasionally hear from readers who are still on the spit, turning and burning in hell NOW because they think they have failed God somehow and for that, they fear they will be punished eternally. That’s my definition of hell right now, right here on this earth. That’s Gehenna in the flesh, the trash heap of all human fears.
The truth found everywhere in Scripture, but not preached from many pulpits, is that God will ultimately reclaim and restore all things and all people to Himself. This truth is found in an unlikely Old Testament story.
When King David was wringing his hands over his son Absalom’s sin of rebellion, having banished him from his presence, Joab, one of his advisor’s, who was apparently afraid to go to the throne room himself, sent a “wise woman” to go to the king and make a plea for him to be reconciled with his son. Her words transcend time and religious doctrine and are part of the Good News for us today for those who have eyes to see and ears to hear.
She fell on her face before her King, and when he asked her to speak, she replied, “Why then have you devised a thing like this (banishing his son) against the people of God? When the king says this, does he not convict himself, for the king has not brought back his banished son? Like water spilled on the ground, which cannot be recovered, so we must die. But God does not take away life; instead, he devises ways so that a banished person may not remain estranged from him” (II Sam. 14:13-14).
We need no explanation of the way God devised: “I myself am the way,” replied Jesus, “and the truth and the life. No one approaches the Father except through me” (John 14:6).
One wondrous thing about Jesus is that His words are truth and light, when the Spirit opens them up for us to see. A friend introduced me to a series of Daily Reflections, sponsored by Notre Dame’s School of Divinity. I’ve enjoyed the daily e-mails I receive, because it takes me back to basics. The writers, men and women alike, are following along the ministry of Jesus. Today’s reflection is based on Mark 2:1-12. I am enjoying the New Revised Standard, Catholic Version which they quote, which is written the way we talk today. In that same chapter, when I got to Jesus’ comments about the wineskin, the Spirit gave me an epiphany on Lenny’s passing.
Jesus said, “And no one pours new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the wine will burst the skins, and both the wine and the wineskins will be ruined. No, he pours new wine into new wineskins” (Mk. 2:22, NIV).
Those of you who have been reading my blog know that I’ve been distressed and perplexed about why Lenny passed, why God called him home before the job he was sent here to Neosho to do, was accomplished. Lenny himself believed with every fiber of his being that he would not die, but would be changed “in the twinkling of an eye” (I Cor. 15:52), to inhabit his glorified body so he could finish the work he had been sent to do. I believed it with him, perhaps not to the depth he did, but certainly, that was my hope based on the power and might of Almighty God. I stood up in the face of scorn and disbelief among the doctors at the hospital where Lenny struggled to live, and testified boldly (and some would say recklessly) that God was going to heal him.
No, I don’t feel as though I failed, or that God did either, for that matter, because, I have well learned the hard lesson that in spite of our will and our faith, it is always God’s will and Christ’s faith which accomplishes whatever He wills to be done in us and through us. The day will come when some will be changed without dying, but that day was not July 15, 2013, the day Lenny crossed Jordan.
As I read the verse about the new wineskin, I “saw” Lenny in that hospital bed in the ICU, hooked up to tubes and machines which breathed for him and kept his heart beating, all to no avail. I saw in that way the Lord has of gently leading you to an answer that you know in your heart, but cannot say out loud, that Lenny’s body was an old wineskin, one that was well used, patched here and there, cared for tenderly, but which finally was at the breaking point where any more new wine put in there would burst it and flow out, which is exactly what happened.
The new wine of the spirit which God had given Lenny to deliver to the Baptist men’s Sunday School class here in Neosho, could no longer be held by his old wineskin. It is never lost, but only spread abroad when the old wineskin bursts. What a hopeful, helpful thought that is!
After his death, I was distraught because he didn’t get to go back in power. A friend wrote me to say that Lenny is now with the source of all power and can accomplish his mission from the spirit realm. That comforted me, but still I asked, “Why Lord? Why did you take him now?” No answer has come to me until I read Mark 2:22 this morning. I saw it; I felt it; I understood it, at least, intellectually.
It still hurts and brings me to tears. I don’t like it; I wish it were not so, but I bow before the sovereignty of God, who has given us another new year, with new promises, based on the old ones which have served us so well, and my prayer is that our Father will take all of us forward. Those who have gone before us are now a part of that swelling number of the “cloud of witnesses” (Heb. 12:1), who press us to lay aside the mistakes, the sins, and the doubts which have beset us and press on to run with patience, the race which lies before us. With Your help, Father, we will do that, resting in Your power and might and glory to help us share whatever measure of New Wine You have given us to share. In Christ, we thank You. Amen.