THE POWER of an INDESTRUCTIBLE LIFE
BY: JAN A. ANTONSSON
APRIL 18, 2015
The Glory Road Blog, A Kingdom Highway
“And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people and God himself will be with them and be their God.” (Rev. 21:3, NIV).
Our on-line group has been discussing the Meditations of Fr. Richard Rohr, who is delving deep into the mystery of the gospel as proclaimed by the Apostle Paul. Since the Lord has given me to write about the folly of self effort (religion) in pleasing God, Rohr’s conclusions are blessing me greatly because the gospel is for all of us, for all mankind, all religious groups, all nations, all creeds, all cultures, all people, all the time. My dear friend Harry Fox is currently in “God’s waiting room,” expecting passage to the Promised Land very soon. His body has failed him, causing him to be confined to bed in a nursing home. Yet, our weekly phone visits never fail to encourage and uplift me because he is so thoroughly drenched in the gospel that it pours out at every opportunity.
This past Saturday, Harry was talking about the city of God, described in Revelation 21, about which, John wrote, “The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp…On no day will its gates ever be shut for there will be no night there.” (Rev. 21:24, NIV) Harry was rejoicing that the gates will never be closed, meaning all can come in; no one will be locked out. There’s an old hymn called “Looking for a city” which is a metaphor for our journey home. Lenny and I referred to the road home as “The Glory Road.” We’re all traveling on it and we’ll all end up in the same place, no matter what our beginning point was. The road is a dangerous place at times, because there are pitfalls and cactus patches along the way, most notably the seductive idea of thinking we can make it by our own works.
Brother Rohr’s topic on April 12th was Grace and Law, about which he says, “Basically it is the creative tension between religion as requirements and religion as transformation.” Because Paul was the Apostle of Grace, Rohr pointed out that Paul was “religiously dangerous, but it did not take churches long to domesticate him,” concluding, “Religious requirements become the source of deeper anxiety.” End Quote. Religion’s requirements rarely lead to transformation, which can only come from personal encounters with God.
My thanks to John Gavazzoni for the thought that the need to live by Law began in the Garden of Eden, served up by the serpent’s lies that if they ate of the tree of the knowledge of Good and Evil, they would be like God (Gen. 3:1-7). We all know what happened out of that fiasco. We were tossed out of the garden where we had walked and talked with God as a friend, seemingly abandoned to survive in spite of the thorns, thistles, and cactus patches we encountered in the world outside. We’ve been walking the tight rope ever since between sin and righteousness, law and grace, condemnation and forgiveness. This, of course is the source of the “religious anxiety” which Br. Rohr mentioned in his timely Meditation.
Thanks to God’s timing, millions of people now believe that God will save everyone. Has it made the world a better place? Not noticeably, but as we know from scripture and personal experience, God works unceasingly and continuously on the hidden or invisible level (Matt. 13:35; Lk.12:2; Eph. 3:9; Col. 2:7). According to Paul, God gave us “a righteousness from God, apart from law…to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ, to all who believe.” (Rom. 3:21-22, NIV) Of all the invisible things God does, Faith is one of the most important and the most mysterious. You can’t see Faith; you can’t touch it or taste it or smell it, but you most certainly can feel His faith operating in your life. Religion tempts us to believe that we can drum it up ourselves, but that is another lie from the serpent, leading to the aforementioned religious anxiety.
Faith, Paul declared, is a GIFT from God. A gift that is free with no strings attached. Abraham was an idol worshipper when God called him to leave hearth and home and go to a land of promise. Abraham didn’t question it or doubt the promise that God would make of him a great nation, blessing those who blessed him and cursing those who cursed him, and that through his seed, would all nations be blessed (Gen. 12:1-3). What makes his story so remarkable is that Abraham was 75 years old when he packed up all his worldly goods and left to follow God (Gen. 12:4). That seems like a huge miracle to me because I just turned 74 and I’m blessed to get to Wal-mart and back. No way do I have the energy to go to a foreign land, by camel no less, or even by plane. Of course, people lived longer back then, not having computers to frustrate and make them want to tear out their hair and run screaming into the night, but still, it’s clear to me that God not only gifted Abraham with faith, but the energy to fulfill the commandment.
And think of this, when Abraham was 100 years old and Sarah was 90, without the benefit of Viagra, or fertility clinics, Sarah bore a son from her ancient womb and Abraham’s aged loins, as God had promised. No wonder she laughed in her tent, when she overheard the Lord tell Abraham that she would bear him a son the following year. Abraham himself laughed as well (Gen. 17:17; 18:12). The Lord asked Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh and say, ‘Will I really have a child now that I am old?’ Is anything too hard for the Lord? I will return to you at the appointed time next year and Sarah will have a son.” (Gen. 18:13, NIV) Isaac was born one year later.
Of course, the point I’m making, is that without God’s gift of faith, none of us would ever have the desire, the energy, the will power, or the ability to follow the Lord. And yet, didn’t He say that His yoke is easy and His burden is light? So why does it seem so hard to be a child of God? Those of you who have been reading my writings over the years know what I think the answer is, but for those just tuning in, let me re-quote Br. Rohr’s conclusion, “Religious requirements become the source of deeper anxiety.”
Religion’s mandates are mostly what cause us to doubt, to fear, to try harder, and sometimes, to give up when we realize we simply cannot produce the goods required by our organization’s creeds, traditions, dogma, or belief systems. Some religions have codified their requirements in a book; others have stressed it verbally week by week; still others use the Internet or Television to get their plan of salvation out to the masses.
Jeremiah addressed the pitiful plight of the descendants of Abraham, giving them hope that God’s seeming abandonment of them was not the end of the story. “Hear the word of the Lord, O nations; proclaim it in distant coastlands: ‘He who scattered Israel will gather them and will watch over his flock like a shepherd.’ For the Lord will ransom Jacob and redeem them from the hand of those stronger than they...I will turn their mourning into gladness; I will give them comfort and joy instead of sorrow. They will be like a well-watered garden, and they will sorrow no more. The maidens will dance and be glad, young men and old as well.” (Jer. 31:10-11; 13, NIV)
Notice that GOD is the subject of the sentences. It did not depend upon Israel’s efforts to achieve this wonderful result, but only upon God’s promise. He still is the subject of every sentence which has to do with our eternal destiny and daily living, and it is His promise to Abraham which guarantees it for us as well. Paul made clear that the law, which came 430 years after the promise, did NOT annul the promise by which we are all sons of God (Gal. 3:16-18; 26). As Paul expressed it, “Where then, is boasting? It is excluded. On what principle? On that of observing the law? No, but on that of faith. For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from observing the law...since there is only one God, who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through that same faith.” (Rom. 3:27-28; 30, NIV) And where does faith come from? It is a gift of God so that no man can boast (Eph. 2:8-9; Gal 3:11).
Since we know that Christ, our life, our High Priest “has become a priest, not according to a legal requirement concerning bodily descent but by the power of an indestructible life,” we have the freedom to relax and enjoy our journey home (Heb. 7:16, RSV). Nothing depends upon us, but upon God, who called us in Christ before the foundation of the world, and who lives in us that we may truly be called “the children of God.” (I Jn. 3:1) This high priest “is able for all time to serve those who draw near to God through him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.” (Heb. 7:25) This does NOT mean that we sit idly by and do nothing for God or our fellow man. It means that whatever He requires of us, He will do in us and through us.
Father, we thank you that in Christ, we enjoy the power and freedom of Your indestructible life. We ask You to flow through us to all who are suffering from doubt and anxiety, fear and guilt, laboring under the heavy burden of religious bondage. For our freedom in Christ, and because You are our Father, we give you praise and worship, and honor, for thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory forever. Truly the Lord God omnipotent reigneth. Amen.