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Portals of Progress (Part 1)

         The Lord sometimes sets a door before us through which we must pass. It often arrives as a result of much prayer and searching. Upon arrival, we sometimes do not recognize the door as the answer we seek because it doesn’t necessarily appear as an opportunity, but something to avoid.

         Walking through such a portal begins a journey into the unknown.

         It portends a Door of Discipleship—an Avenue of Advancement—a Portal of Progress.

         Going through such a door will cause one to surrender one’s supposed security. It will demand the leaving of one’s safe and guarded sanctuary composed of the known, where all is seemingly predictable and routine, and head into uncharted territory.

         This moment will demand great faith. Though one must receive clear confirmation that such a move is God’s will and though one may feel a great tug in the spirit and the Lord’s leading, the much greater tug must actually be a push, in that even though we feel something drawing us forward, it is never enough to force us or carry us along.

         We must act. We must choose. We must compel ourselves. We must obey. We must step through.

         I wrote a post two years ago entitled He Steadfastly Set His Face To Go To Jerusalem. The Lord knew all along the cross was His fate. It was a portal through which He had to pass. None of His loved ones agreed with His choice, though the choice was made eons before.

         We know that God had already integrated the cross into His master plan before He began creating anything.

         Regarding the fate of humanity, long before He created Adam, God planned His own crucifixion.

         …Knowing that you were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers, but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ. For He was foreknown before the foundation of the world, but has appeared in these last times for the sake of you who through Him are believers in God, who raised Him from the dead and gave Him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God. [1Peter 1:18-21]   

         The Lord knew in advance of His creation that a sacrifice would be called for. He knew as soon as He began planning to create free-willed beings like Himself that such beings must be allowed to choose, even to the point of choosing against Him, or they would have no such thing as a free will. In this—choosing against God—choice allows for the opposite of what God intends.

         We know what Adam and Eve eventually did. We know that at some point they both violated the command against choosing evil. But we also know that prior to their spiritual fall, Adam and Eve spent an undetermined age in perfect purity and union with the Lord, a time in which they continually chose correctly. It was their time of obedience, and thus, innocence.

         The Word of God says that Adam and Eve were made in His image. God had created two people who were like He was, with the ability to choose as He did, and thus with a completely free will. He had granted them the ability to make their own choices.

         They were thus not robots. Robots, no matter the level of sophistication, are programmed. They are built and programmed by a higher intelligence. Human beings, as the creators of robots, continue to make them as “intelligent” as possible. But regardless of appearances, robots will forever be the result of programming—robots cannot possess free will.

         Even so, people who think deeply about such things have long speculated about the possibility of robots eventually gaining the upper hand and becoming so intelligent and pervasive they will somehow take over. After a century or so of such speculation, of predicting the future, and of science-fiction writers coming up with all manner of end results regarding the subject, we can now fully appreciate just how far-thinking many of them were. Most people back then never believed our present was possible and had very little to do with its arrival.

         And this is the problem with humanity. People in general have a strong tendency to remain with the tried and true and traditional, to remain in their zones of comfort, to lasso life to their liking and drive it into a small and crude corral. In this they can control their lives, as rudimentary and small as they are.

         Now, in their defense, there are certainly good traditional things to establish and limits one knows will cause great problems if transgressed. There is a reason the ancient Greek writer Hesiod penned the tale of Pandora’s Box (actually a jar), in which all the evils of the world were contained. As long as the large jar remained unopened all would be okay. For those who have not heard of the story, it’s not hard to figure out the ending.

         This is why some people insist on a low level of progress or none at all. They fear the bad consequences of wrong choices. They see the terrible results of sin in the world and some human beings becoming total idiots as a result of stupid choices. They know well that stupid is as stupid does and would rather do nothing regarding progress for fear of doing something wrong.

         They’ve also seen much “progress” that was not progress at all, but the opposite. Thus, they’re content with less instead of risking an advance toward better things and possibly upsetting their small gains. Fear of failure has shanghaied their necessary discipleship, progress, and advancement.

         In their effort to stay a million miles away from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, they also stay a million miles away from the Tree of Life.

         © 2014 by RJ Dawson. All Rights Reserved. [To Be Continued.]

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Crucified With Christ

         The following is my response to an excellent comment made by a reader and follower of this blog, which can be found after my previous article, The Cost of Grace. I have reprinted it here, as my response has become a post:

         “One of my most frequently-used counseling themes is Galatians 2:20, being crucified with Christ, in combination with Galatians 5:16-end of chapter. If we walk in the spirit, we will not fulfill the lusts of the flesh. It’s such a powerful passage, and we are without excuse if we really believe that walking in the Spirit will be a walk in the park.

         “I’m thinking of doing Galatians next, after I finish Matthew, but I’m almost afraid to dig into it. I KNOW I’ll be convicted and humbled!”

         Thanks for the comment! Right you are.

         As a possible microcosm of the entire NT, Galatians is like that. As another way to express being crucified with Christ, it is the idea that we learn the right way to do things—HIS way—and then proceed to do the right thing, no matter the cost.

         The Lord Jesus is unique among all teachers of all time in that He not only taught the truth and proper behavior, but demonstrated it as well regardless of cost.

         One may wonder, “Why must there be such a cost?” The answer to that is complex but boils down to the idea of what may be termed a global multi-perspective mindset in which there exists multiple belief systems and methods of “right” living that are often so engrained most people will never depart from them, even after being presented with the real Gospel.

         Hence, the Lord comes along teaching and demonstrating truth and it instantly reveals all the false renditions of truth for what they are. This makes people who hold traditional false viewpoints uncomfortable, convicted, and edgy, but not necessarily so much to do anything about it until a certain mob mentality forms which they can blend into and then strike back.

         When such things are institutionalized and culturalized, it’s attending groupthink attacks the purveyors of truth, often small groups and mere individuals, and perceives them as malcontents and deviants. No one was and is perceived this way more than the Lord Jesus, who is Truth incarnate and also the greatest Prophet who ever lived.

         Being crucified with Christ means in part that a real Christian will willingly suffer attack and persecution just as the Lord did by adopting, believing in, and standing up for His truth against all the various forms of untruth on the planet, but primarily by standing up for Him, loving Him, and being loyal to Him.

         “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me. I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness comes through the Law, then Christ died needlessly.” [Galatians 2:20-21] [1]

         If this can be said about the Law of Moses by a believer and practitioner of the Law of Moses (the apostle Paul), then it can and must certainly be said of all religions and belief systems which oppose the teachings of Jesus, and most especially false forms of Christianity.

         Also, it must be noted that it is impossible to be a real Christian without receiving the actual living presence of the Lord Jesus. This is not some spacey mystical nonsense or religious quackery, as so many unreal Christians prescribe to, but the Lord Himself dwelling within one’s earthly tabernacle in actual spiritual form. Without His presence there will be an impossible row to hoe and it is sad that so many faux believers believe they can live the life commanded by God without God, but instead through religious principles and practices which make one nothing more than a bigger fake than before one’s “conversion.”

         And as always, there is great comfort in numbers. But part of the testing that takes place for real believers will be spending time alone to both defend the truth and stand for it without the benefit of an emboldening surrounding group. Most want no part of such a test and therefore have no way of passing it. The Lord, Paul, and all the early believers were thought to be fools in the eyes of the world. They spent time alone with no apparent defense often betrayed and rejected.

         This does and must go with the territory. If we are to truly stand with the Lord and live according to His Word, He must remove all false props except that which appears as a counter-intuitive prop—the cross.

         © 2014 by RJ Dawson. All Rights Reserved.


[1] Unless otherwise noted all Scriptures are taken from the New American Standard Bible, © 1960, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

RELATED CONTENT:

Galatians Relations (Part 1)

Galatians Relations (Part 2)

The Cost of Grace

         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; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure. [Philippians 2:12-13]

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         Grace is free. Salvation will cost you everything.

         There remains much confusion among Christians about what exactly happened when the Lord Jesus went to the cross.

         Most Christians have never gone to the cross, would never go to the cross, do not see the need for going to the cross, and sadly, will never relate to the experience.

         There is this ill-begotten attitude that the Lord did it all to the point that they must do nothing. There is this completely false idea that a Christian can simply skate through life absolutely, completely, wholeheartedly, and fully assured that he is saved regardless of anything he may do or not do, as if salvation is simply a matter of a one-time mental assent or clueless “Yeah, put me down for that,” while they go about their already unrepentant lives thoroughly grounded in this world.

         Some denominations and Christian faux gospels are worse offenders than others. Some denominations do not even pretend to follow the Lord’s teachings on the matter but make salvation contingent upon belonging to the proper club—their club—and strictly adhering to their own church teachings which clash with the Lord’s, and compete with the Lord’s, and end up sending people to hell for believing what is false and doing things that have zero spiritual value.

         One would think, that among all Christian things they may want to get right, it would be salvation.

         But the majority of “Christians” insist on dissing the Lord, refuse to follow His example and teachings, and would never crucify their own flesh and/or leave their fake groups and denounce their false gospels even if their eternal salvation depended on it.

         And it does.

         The Lord thought this entire attitude was beyond curious. One would one rather save face than get saved? Why do so many Christians desire remaining cold, unenlightened, and uncrucified rather than obey the Lord’s commands?

         How can the resultant suffering and rejection real Christians face in this world compare to losing one’s soul for all eternity?

         Makes no sense.

         But then again, it does, if one has accepted a false prophet or a false teaching, and such things abound.

         There are obviously many more false gospels today than there were in the early days of that first Christian community, though false gospels began from the beginning.

         Paul did not pull any punches regarding these evil teachings and made his thoughts quite clear:

         I wish that you would bear with me in a little foolishness; but indeed you are bearing with me. For I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy; for I betrothed you to one husband, so that to Christ I might present you as a pure virgin.

         But I am afraid that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds will be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ.

         For if one comes and preaches another Jesus whom we have not preached, or you receive a different spirit which you have not received, or a different gospel which you have not accepted, you bear this beautifully. [2Corinthians 11:1-4]

         Could it be that bearing a false gospel or a false prophet or the false beliefs of a false denomination is easier than bearing one’s cross? And could it be that it always boils down to this same issue—the offense of the cross?

         In Galatians 5:11 Paul refers to this “offence of the cross” (KJV), though it is translated differently in different versions. The following are a few examples:

1) Shame of the cross (Bible is Basic English)

2) Scandal of the cross (Darby Bible)

3) Stumbling block of the cross (New American Standard Bible)

4) Obstacle of the cross (New Jerusalem Bible)

         It is obvious that there is something revolting about the cross, especially when an individual Christian must apply it to himself. It follows that Christians will do anything and everything to avoid the cross, which makes them easy fodder for false gospels.

         Why do we think it was okay for the Lord to get crucified but not at all okay for us to do likewise?

         Why do we think our own personal crucifixion is somehow not necessary though the Lord’s was?

         Why do we think we can simply reject all those things the Lord taught about crucifying our flesh, and taking up our cross, and denying ourselves for His sake and the gospel?

         Is it not the height of selfishness and pride that the majority of “Christians” applaud the Lord’s trip to Calvary but would never go there themselves?

         And then believe they don’t need to?

         Why can’t such unreal Christians see that such teaching arose from the devil himself?

         Yes, of course, grace is free. It cost the Lord Jesus everything, but for us it’s all free. We can do nothing to add to it by anything we could ever do.

         What a crock.

         Have any of the proponents of this stuff ever heard of the concept of application? How about being yoked together with the Lord? How about the disciples not being above their Master, and partaking of the same offense, shame, scandal, stumbling block, and obstacle the Lord did on our behalf? Should not all real Christians do the same on His behalf?

         And He began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again.

         And He was stating the matter plainly. And Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him.

         But turning around and seeing His disciples, He rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind Me, Satan; for you are not setting your mind on God’s interests, but man’s.”

         And He summoned the crowd with His disciples, and said to them, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it. For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul? For what will a man give in exchange for his soul?

         “For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will also be ashamed of him when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels.” [Mark 8:31-38] [1]

         The fact of the matter is that the real disciples of that time suffered the same things the Lord suffered. They were in fact called to share in His sufferings. They were called to stand up for and preach the ONE AND ONLY REAL GOSPEL. They knew it would cost them but did it anyway. Rather than shun it like so many Christians choose to do, they embraced the cross.

         And though grace is certainly free, it cost them everything.

         © 2014 by RJ Dawson. All Rights Reserved.


[1] Unless otherwise noted all Scriptures are taken from the New American Standard Bible, © 1960, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.