2. Abel: A Better Offering

Hebrews 11:4–By faith, a better offering Abel offered to God than Cain, through which he gained the testimony that he was righteous, God testifying about his gifts, and through faith, though he is dead, he still speaks.

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Photo credit: ancient-hebrew.org

Two sons were born to our first parents: Cain the firstborn, and Abel the second. We are told that they gave offerings to the Lord of which the Lord liked Abel’s better than Cain, but we are not told why God liked Abel’s offering better than Cain’s. I do believe the limited detail of Genesis 4 does offer a clue as to why God regarded Abel’s offering.

Genesis 4:3 It happened at the end of days, that Cain brought to God from the fruit of the ground his offering, but Abel brought to God from the first born of his flocks and their fat portions.

Some principles from this text is that Abel’s offering was better because he gave God the best of the best, because he believed God was the best of the best. Cain offered from the fruit of the ground, a common gift, an earthy gift. But Abel sought to give the best of what he had, and the best part of that thing.

This particular offering communicated something about God. What did Abel communicate about God through his offering that Cain did NOT communicate in his? Simply this: God is the best of the best, and deserves the best of the best.

A gift that a man gives God is a visible description of the invisible God. And when a man gives a gift that worthy of God, then God is able to attest to all witnesses that his gift is a right gift. If he had regarded Cain’s offering, he would have accepted a low rank of a common soldier from the gift of a man who did not master the corruption that was within him, but He regarded Abel’s offering and thereby he attested to all witnesses that Abel was righteous.

What does this look like today? Many treat God as a common household trophy: a glorious symbol of somebody to depend on when you need to reference the supernatural, but never more important than yourself, or your family, or everything in your own life. Such a view of God, such a treatment of God like drivel is like unto Cain’s offering.

However, there are others who see that the very best of their lives is the only thing that is close to worthy of God. To give it to themselves or to another would be simply ludicrous, because God is the One who deserves it. And while God has given us all things to enjoy, it is not the truest good for us to enjoy the best, because we are merely images of God, rather than the one who is truly good.

This offering of what is truly Good to God, is the better offering: and it is only possible by faith. Faith recognizes:

God alone is worthy of our greatest gifts, and the life of faith is lived
 where God truly is the most important person in the relationship.

This is what the blood of Abel still speaks, and also what moves Cain to jealousy today. Those who live spiritually mediocre lives envy the favor of God upon the ones who are regarded by Him as righteous. And all the while the answer is found in what God says to Cain, “If you do what is good, will not your face be lifted up, but if not, sin seeks to have you, but you must master it.

O the glory of having God Himself attest to your righteousness– that you actually serve Him rightly. Such a testimony is only the acquisition of faith which sees God for who he really is before it actually lays eyes on Him.

Application:

  1. Today, take stock of the most important things in your life: requirements, and enjoyments, and find a way to give God the best of each simply because He is worthy of it. Example: If TV is your greatest enjoyment, converse with God about a way you can use your TV time to please him: whether by spending time doing something else, or by watching a particular TV show He lead you to, or by moving something else up in the value chain.
  2. Repent of the areas where you have given God the crumbs instead of the main course. Areas where your love of God grows cold in comparison to what it once was. Example: You go to church, and while you’re there, you are thinking about what else you could be doing right now.
  3. Spend time earnestly trying to figure out what is actually pleasing to him: Is He pleased when you sing? Is he pleased when you work with your hands? Is he pleased when you are still and silent? Is he pleased when you read the Bible? What do you do that makes you feel his pleasure?
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1. Us: The World and the Word

Hebrews 11:3~ “By faith we understand that the ages of time were created by the proclamation of God, so that, from what was not visible, things that are seen came to be.” (Translation mine)

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Faith accounts for the unseen reality which is the basis for the seen reality. Faith does not just think there is something to the Unseen, it simply understands that the Unseen is real. We have already discussed this, and now let us look at the nature of faith.

Principle: It sees the Visible in terms of the Invisible. How are we supposed to make sense of the world of time in which we live purely by observation of the visible world? Even if those who claimed to have done so actually could, they would negate so many concepts that are unseen yet obviously real: such as meaning, love, happiness, even words. There is an invisible dimension behind everything, and faith sees it.

The Bible teaches us how to see the Seen world in terms of the Unseen.

Faith recognizes the designer in the design, the creator in the creation, and his word behind the thing. It is easy to think of Words giving us access to understanding things: a bridge between us and the world around us. This is not untrue, but words can also give access to the Person behind the Words behind the thing referred to with the word that is formed in your mind and heart. As words give access to the Seen reality, so words also give us access to the Unseen reality. Just as Paul wrote in Romans 10:13 “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the proclamation of Christ.”

This is also why faith can be trained by learning the Words of God, which we have in the Bible. The Gospel of Christ is the power of God bringing us to Salvation, because the very Gospel of Christ is woven into the fabric of the way God made the world. Paul wrote also to the Romans 1:20 that, “since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.”

Faith gives a person the ability to see the world through God’s eyes.

Application:

  1. Read the Scriptures, listen to them on audio, and let the word of God, the SAME word that created the whole world, be your access to seeing the Unseen realm, and also the world around you.
  2. Learn to see the world from the Word of God’s point of view. It’s like how Neo saw the Matrix. God’s Word in the Bible is the same Word for understanding all of the Seen world. By this I do not mean the “Bible Code” or DaVinci anything. I simply mean that a person’s words are a result of who they are, and God has revealed who He is in the words that He used to create the visible world.
Matrix as it is
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0. Lessons on Faith: Intro to Hebrews 11

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I do believe many Bible-studiers have written devotionals on faith already. What’s one more?

The purpose of Hebrews chapter 11 is not to celebrate heroes of the Bible, but to inform and encourage believers concerning faith. Since I have heard so much malformation on the subject of faith, I thought it best to share the joyous and sobering results of my Bible Study in this space. These lessons can serve as a daily devotional to any seeking to fully grasp, grapple with, and be gripped by the greater unseen world unto which faith is the door. May you see Him Who is Unseen, here in the words that follow:

The Unseen Reality (a rather philosophical part of the intro)

Anyone familiar with the Bible when asked the question “What is faith?” will probably quote or cite Hebrews 11:1, here in New King James.

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.
–Hebrews 11:1 (NKJV)

For me, these words have gotten crusted over with interpretations and explanations. What does this really mean? With eagerness I return to the original languages and bring forth another translation, which I believe helps get to the fire behind the words.

Faith is the reality hoped for, and the proof of unseen things.–Hebrews 11:1 (translation mine)

This helps me see some important things about faith right away: that there is a reality that is hoped for, and there are unseen things being proven.

First, a reality that is hoped for. it’s not like a hoped for reality like “I hope that it will be a reality that it will rain later.” It is the reality which is the basis for our hope! It is already real and going to happen. This part of the definition itself affirms a reality in which the believer sets his hope.

Second, unseen things are being proven. Faith is the proof that there is an unseen dimension to all of life. Some scientist friends of mine may take issue to this, but history has recorded many things about unseen forces at work in the world. This part of the definition is affirming the tangible reality that corresponds things which cannot be seen.

These two halves of the definition of faith make faith a tangible and mysterious thing. It may be foolhardy to think I could offer a simplified definition of faith that is adequate but not simplistic. Here it goes:

Faith is the proof of the unseen reality in which we hope.

I want to vouch to all of those reading this that there is indeed an Unseen Reality. There are unseen beings and places and things in this reality. It is governed by rules and people just like the Seen reality in which we all live. It is as real as the physical world, and as we will learn in the verses to come, it also governs the Seen reality in which we live.

Faith is the two-way door from one reality into the other. It is where both realities meet: Because of this, Faith is not just the notion of an unseen reality, nor is it a practice in the Physical world with the acknowledgement that there is a spiritual reality. Neither of these sides of the roof classify as faith. Faith is where the two realities meet and bleed into one another.

Because of this, a person’s whole being must be engaged in the exploration of faith: Any ways of dividing up a person you can try: Body, Mind, Soul, spirit, heart, will, emotions, etc. All of these must be as you the one person presently engaged in this exercise of being. Faith is as deeply personal as the foundation of a person’s being: the reality in which a person exists.

The Way of Approval (The more straightforward part of the intro)

In Hebrews 11:2 we read:

“By this [faith] the elders were testified as approved.” Hebrews 11:2 (translation and parentheses mine).

This means that faith is how we can look back on those who came before as to whether or not they have been approved by God, (as we will talk about later). In the court case of whether not a man is approved by God, Faith is the deciding proof in the following cases which we will be examining. The nature of faith, then, will be our aim to uncover so that we too may be judged as approved as they were. Because:

Faith is the proof that God has approved a person.

These will be the lessons as divided up by number, character, themes, and verses.

  1. Us–The World and the Word (vs 3)
  2. Abel– A Better Offering (vs 4)
  3. Enoch–A Pleasing Walk with God (vs 5-6)
  4. Noah–Obedience is a Two-Edged Sword (7)
  5. Abraham I–The Way of Exile (8-16)
  6. Abraham II–The Death of the Promise (17-19)
  7. Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph– Keeping Our Eyes on the Promise (20-22)
  8. Moses–Identifying with God (vs. 24-27)
  9. Israel–Obedience under Judgement (28-31)
  10. The Servants of God–The Visible Reality (32-40)

Each section will deal with the Biblical theme, what it shows about faith, and how it involves us.

Fire and Stone

Is the earth rock solid?
Scientists know
There is fluid flame
In deep places below.

The rock is so good
It does not move
The world stands fast
Until rock breaks

The fire is so good
It only moves
The World expands
And shatters the rock

But lo the mystery:
Fire takes good stone
And forges it anew
As one solid piece

And from that solid piece
New life grows
And foundations are laid
For the time it is given

What is stone does not last
Unless fire melt it
What is fire cannot settle
What ignites if fire touches it

God is good: true and living
His word settles the future.
His word is ever breathing
Right now in your hearing.

Trust in God’s Economy: Part 3–The World

Such a special discussion of intimacy with God must acknowledge its effect on the world. Much more is at stake in a relationship of this type than a person’s spiritual satisfaction.

Babylon (Genesis 1-11)

The “real world” as many adults posit it to many young people is one messed up pile of diarrhea. It’s been that way since Adam’s sin manifested in the Tower of Babel. All of humanity gathered together for one purpose: 

“Come, let us build for ourselves a city, and a tower whose top will reach into heaven, and let us make for ourselves a name, otherwise we will be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth.”

The world has historically been united before, and “world peace” once meant something godless long ago. And God scattered every nation across the world with different languages. Humanity had risen up as the spawn of Adam’s fallen humanity, and they were determined that they did not need God. No intimacy, no seeking to know God, only a seeking to be known by a name they themselves made. This is the way of the world, so I don’t pray for world peace anymore, at least not without God.

They wanted a great name for themselves, but God showed one man the path to making his name great: intimacy with God. Friendship with God.

Abraham: Genesis 12-25

What was the promise? part of it Genesis 12:2– “I will make you a great you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, and so you shall be a blessing.” The Principle here is this: Trustworthiness with God is the path to one’s name being great for the purpose of blessing the world. Without this friendship, it is not going to happen. But if it does happen, there is no telling how amazing the promises of God will unfold in a person’s life.

The best part of this relationship of intimacy with God is God himself. And with such a closeness with Him, the world will be touched by the blessing of this relationship leading to salvation for all who will accept it.

Isaac and IsraelGenesis 24-35, Old Testament

One of the benefits of Abraham’s journey with God, is that his son carried the spiritual heritage even further! The last act of Abraham was finding a bride for Isaac, and Isaac’s death came only after his son Jacob had wrestled with God and been given his new name Israel, after beholding a face of God.

The pattern was set by his father, and the family became Israel, the nation which would be priests to God. They would show the world the way back to a relationship with the Father, but they did a poor job of it until Jesus came, as the glory of Israel.

The Church: Romans 1:5, and 16:26

And one such son of Israel of the tribe of Benjamin shared the goal of his ministry in the beginning and the end of his letter to the Romans. 

“Through Jesus we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith among all the [Nations] for His name’s sake.” ~Romans 1:5 

This is God’s design: to let the blessing of a relationship with Him come forth in all that the church does to bless the world. This is the only way there will be any blessing from the church. Without the aroma, the presence, the facial expressions, the words, the actions, the character of God himself evident in all our actions, the world will not be able to see Him. Such a reflection of God is not born in academia, or in the realm of moralism, or political maneuvers, or even social programs. The glory of God is seen face to face with Him, and face to face with each other.

And so I close with Jesus’ own question in Luke 18:8  “When the Son of Man comes will he find faith on the earth?”

Trust in God’s Economy: Part 2–The Man

So then what will it take to have this kind of intimacy with God? Abraham will be our subject of study, as he was for the Apostle Paul in Romans 4. I will examine them in my favorite fashion of Levels of Intimacy with God.

  1. Genesis 12: the Answering the Calling of God: God calls an individual to leave his home and his family behind so that he can become something else, something more than he could have been on his own. If there is obedience to this calling then “You’re off!” The reward for his obedience was the first level of Intimacy with God: God appeared to him. (vs. 7)
  2. Genesis 13: is the Casting off of Compromises: God called Abraham to leave everything behind, but still Lot went with him. It got to the point where they had to separate. If Abraham had stayed allied with Lot, he would not have been able to enjoy the blessing of God to the fullest. In our lives, compromises look like any decision we have made that falls short of God’s character of design for our lives. The reward for Abraham after he proved himself trustworthy in this was God said, “After Lot was separated from him, ‘Now lift your eyes in every direction . . . this land I will give to you and your descendants.’ The borders and the full extent of the promise was shown to him
    Recently, I thought it appropriate to mention another dimension of this idea of God trusting us. I recently read in Proverbs 3:32 about the upright, “He takes the upright into His confidence.” If any are unconvinced of God’s trust, the wisest of men shows us that it is available.
  3. Genesis 14-15: is the Denial of Worldly Reward. Abraham rescued the King of Sodom, and gave a Tithe to Melchizedek, and denied any compensation from the King of Sodom. The reward: God said he’d protect and provide for him. Furthermore, He reveals something about his character.  This is where God’s blessing and personal revelation REALLY gets special. God promises to carry his own word through to completion to His own detriment. Abraham who cut the animals in two pieces, could not keep the birds away, but God moved between the two pieces of the animals showing He would bear the weight of the breach of the Covenant. This God is so trustworthy, but he only entrusts such revelation to those who will prove this level of trustworthiness for this intimacy.
  4. Genesis 16-21: the Casting out of the Bondwoman, the easy, less-than-perfect life we have created for ourselves. Abram needed to send away Hagar because her son was to have no inheritance with the child of the promise. In our lives, this looks like getting rid of every fruitless and meaningless pursuit to which we have devoted ourselves and invested our lives, so that God can know that it is Him we want. By this point in the story, God gives Abraham a new name, and a son.
             Also, at this point, it is worth noting that Abraham was given personal insight into his plans and even giving him a voice in affecting them. When God was going to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah in Genesis 18, he said, “Shall I hide from Abraham what I am going to do?”
  5. Genesis 22 Fifth, the Sacrifice of the Promise. The final test of any believer (Trust-er) It was faith in God that enabled Abraham to sacrifice Isaac, not because he didn’t love Isaac, but because he did, and it says in Hebrews that he “trusted” that God could raise the dead. This faith is truly saving faith, but it did not presume on God, but waited for His call to give it up. His reward: insight into His secret plan to redeem the whole world, and a secure place in making it happen. Jesus said, “Abraham rejoiced to see my day. He saw it and was glad.” (John 8:56)

I have written of these things in brief, but they are worth deep seeking out in His Word. Abraham is the prototype for saving faith, and the more he trusted God, the more God entrusted Himself to him. This level of trust isn’t merely a calculating judgment for means-to-ends purposes. This is a personal revealing of one’s self and a bringing alongside of his friend. This is genuine friendship with God in the truest sense. This is how all nations can be blessed. More on that in the next article.

Encouragement: Pursue this intimacy with God. Abram messed up at the beginning and end of his walk with God and in the middle, but what remained was his trust in God. If you want insight on how to grow in Trust with God, I believe it is largely cultivated in the Fourth Stage of a believer’s life: Wilderness, so you can see my writings on the subject for more thought-food.

Here, I have provided spiritual guiding principles, but let the evil one evoke no condemnation in you. If it’s fear that makes you run from God, it is a lie of Satan. Still, this type of pursuit of God is not for everyone. Jesus knew this when he said, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.” Matthew 5:8

Trust in God’s Economy: Part 1–The Word

One of the most special subjects, tender to my heart, is God’s decision to trust us. I realized the other day that God’s ability to trust me with anything has been the cornerstone to the formation of my conscience. There was a time when I was a little boy, I lied to my parents about cleaning my room, and I had promised God that I would tell them before I went to bed. I had gone to bed, but could not bear the simple thought of breaking a promise to God: not because I was scared God would do something to me, but just because it was fundamentally wrong. I said, “I made a promise to God, and I am NOT going to break that promise.”

But some people say, God trusting us? God shouldn’t trust us, we’re totally treacherous.” Yes, but if you read the Old Testament, God tested how much he could trust his blessing to his people, and use them by various ways to show that they were fully devoted to him: Abraham being the prototype. For example, why else would God have asked Abraham to make the sacrifice that He himself would one day make? (Genesis 22)

Plus, consider that every time God speaks to an individual, or gives a person a commandment, it is an act of trust: prove your worth to me, and my worth to you by your ability to follow this simple task. If a person obeys God’s voice, then they are proven to be trustworthy. And the Word of God will always do more than just test a man’s actions; “The Word of the Lord is living and active sharper than any two edged sword piercing to the division of soul and spirit and joints and marrow, and it discerns the thoughts of the mind and the intentions of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12)

Ultimately God’s Word reveals something about a person whenever it comes. If a person hears his word and obeys it, he is worthy of trust with more of His Word. But if he hears his word and does not do it, he has proven himself to be fruitless, defective, and useless to the Master.

This is plain to see in Parables of Jesus, but it still seems to deal on the level of “professional trustworthiness” if you will: Can Jesus trust me with greater tasks in his business? This of course, is a true Dimension to God’s trustworthiness. After all “He who is faithful with little, will be faithful with much.” But there’s another very, very sweet and for me a tearful realization that there is something more special kind of trust to have with God.

For the devious are an abomination to the Lord; But He is intimate with the upright.~Proverbs 3:23

Intimacy: a closeness of sharing one’s very self: this is a privilege for the upright. Trust in God’s economy is for those who walk without “deviation” who are whole-hearted, trustworthy, simply devoted–in a word– faithful. This trust in God’s economy is a currency often neglected in the Church. This is not just “I know God.” or “I have a relationship with Jesus.” kind of intimacy. This is a privilege of getting to “see God.” that is a blessing for the pure in heart (Matthew 5:8). Not all self-proclaimed Christians can claim this privilege. It takes a degree of sacrifice that nominal Christianity cannot afford. It takes, to use a Biblical type, Abram’s leaving his home and his family at the call of God, it takes Abram’s separation from Lot, it takes a denial of worldly reward, it takes a disowning of one’s own failed creations, it takes the total surrender of every preciously irreplaceable gift of God– it is the desire to know Him no matter how hard, or how good the cost. This progression brings about the reward of which the Prophet wrote in Jeremiah:

Thus says the Lord, “Let not a wise man boast of his wisdom, and let not the mighty man boast of his might, let not a rich man boast of his riches; but let him who boasts boast of this, that he understands and knows Me, that I am the Lord who exercises lovingkindness, justice and righteousness on earth; for I delight in these things,” declares the Lord.” ~Jeremiah 9:23-24

Such a special gift of intimacy with God, of which one may humbly boast, comes by showing one’s trustworthiness, not just in obedience, but also in devoted affectionate love to the One who is truly worthy of it. Indeed, the warning is there for those who choose not to pursue this:

“Behold, the days are coming,” declares the Lord, “that I will punish all who are circumcised and yet uncircumcised—Egypt and Judah, and Edom and the sons of Ammon, and Moab and all those inhabiting the desert who clip the hair on their temples; for all the nations are uncircumcised, and all the house of Israel are uncircumcised of heart.” ~Jeremiah 9:25-26

My encouragement: pursue intimacy with God at any cost. No matter what you have done, if your heart within you is moved to pursue this closeness with God, it is His drawing you, and He will by no means cast you out.

The Boy and the Stick

It’s hard to imagine a boy so happy with a 1-inch thick crooked dead tree-dropping, but for this boy, it was a key to unlock the world! It was a gun to fight off pirates, a boomerang to throw at game. It was a sword to rescue damsels. It was for drawing pictures in the dirt. He didn’t have anything else in the world, but with this stick, he felt like a king with a scepter in his hands.

One day the boy was walking by a garbage can and saw a stuffed animal someone had discarded. The boy plucked it out and made it his friend. Later that year his parents made more money, and at Christmas he got a pair of roller skates, and for his birthday the next year, he got a cool remote control car. Well, this boy was so happy with his new toys he left his stick by the back door of his house behind the window sill in it’s secret hiding spot.

The boy got older, and his toys got more sophisticated. He eventually he had grown old enough to get a job, so he could buy more expensive toys: A Four-wheeler, a computer, a phone. And by this point you’d think the boy with the stick had everything he wanted. Nope. He was an adult, he had the car he wanted, the friends he wanted, and was dating a girl, but he always wanted more. Only when he had more, would he be happy.

Then one day the unthinkable happened: He was the victim of identity theft. All his money was gone, and he went back to his parents’ house empty handed. They gave him his old room, with his old toys. none of them seemed to matter anymore. He went outside and sat on the back doorstep and suddenly remembered what was to his right as he was looking out into the woods: his secret hiding place. In a moment of nostalgic curiosity he looked and saw it: his old stick he played with as a boy.

It’s hard to imagine an adult so puzzled by the memories flooding back at holding a simple 1-inch-thick crooked dead tree-dropping, but the feelings came back and this time he knew what they were. He walked back into the house with his old stick which by now had rotted through, so it would break easily, and took it to his bedroom. After a little while, he settled into the feeling he had forgotten with every new toy. He remembered.

The key to the world isn’t owning everything, but truly appreciating the one thing that is truly yours.

Now, the world was his once again.

Torah Teachings: In the Wilderness

Matthew 23:34– Jesus said, “I am sending you prophets, wisemen, and scribes. . .” The word “scribes” my friend from Seminary helped me understand as “Torah Teachers.” Why in the New Testament would Jesus send someone to teach the Torah to the Pharisees who knew it backwards and forwards? Because the “LAW” as it is called did more than prescribe behavior, but it describes human nature and God’s responses to Save humanity. This is another dimension of the LAW which Jesus fulfills.

The stories of the Torah reveal the character of God and depravity of Humanity like only one other story does: The life and death of Jesus. So often, the life of Jesus is not taken as seriously, and the message of the cross being foolishness to man becomes a mere piece of  thumb-worn religious jewelry on a pale Christian soul. To revitalize the message of the Gospel, one must return to the roots rich with the nourishing dirt of the Torah, in which the tree of Scripture takes root and sprouts to reveal two truths: God is Savior, and we are rebellious.

One story which brought this home is in Numbers chapters 16 and 17 in English Bibles, but just Numbers 16 in the Hebrew Tanak. Israel has just blown their chance to inherit the promised land, because 10 bad apples spread a bad report that discouraged everyone from believing in God, even though 2 spies, and 2 leaders stood with God. The people were finished. God stood ready to destroy them in Numbers 14, but Moses intercedes, and now the people who refused to trust God will die in the wilderness, and their children will possess the land.

This is not satisfactory for the people. Would it be for you? There is a military coup, where the people try to go up anyway, but God is not with them. They get slaughtered. No surprises here that those with military might would seek to secure their own salvation. This has been human nature since the fall.

Then there is a priestly coup. 250 Levites and Korah, Dathan, and Abiram– sounds like quite a force to be reckoned with. They move to dispose of Moses and Aaron because Moses and Aaron are thought to be the reason why the people are dying in the wilderness and not God, but God defends them, and proves that He is in charge by the earth swallowing up the 3 leaders, and the fire of the LORD consuming the 250 Levites where they stood. Again, no surprises here. The priests do not want to die, they don’t want the people to all fall dead in the wilderness. They refuse to accept God’s judgment, and they rise up and try to take control to preserve themselves. God has condemned them in His wrath “They shall not enter my rest.” Instead of humbly submitting, they revolt. “I don’t want to die!” they cry. Is this not a piece of Human nature we see over and over to this day?

Then, immediately after all the offering pans are picked up from the 250 smoldering corpses, another coup, this time the whole congregation of the people of Israel! Every layperson in Israel rises up against Moses and Aaron and says, “You have caused the LORD’s people to die!” Once again the glory of God appears.

It is fallen human nature to not accept God’s judgment. Whether it be military or privilege, this is easier to see and understand, but is it really everybody? The Torah teaches how utterly depraved all humans are to the end and how God’s glory will continue to fill the earth so long as He lives (Numbers 14:20-21).

It is my view that this utter depravity of Human nature can only be dealt with in a believer’s life after he is saved by the filling of the Holy Spirit. This, I believe, is why Jesus had to go into the Wilderness, so that in the crucible any dross of humanity left beneath the skin through the waters of baptism may be purified from the inside out. God will keep refining us in the Wilderness (Which, by the way, happens to be the Hebrew name for the Book of Numbers: “In the Wilderness.”) We must be taught to accept God’s judgment on sin in our lives, and not see it as making us a victim, but as refining impure gold, which has chosen it’s impurity over the love of the Lord since birth.

How does one know that he is ready to leave the wilderness? When he can do what Moses and Aaron did in all three of these circumstances: they fell on their face. The falling on their face is a vulnerable, death-like stance of submission one takes before God and man: unwilling to try to save oneself– thrown fully on the mercy of another. Moses and Aaron and Joshua and Caleb were the only ones who fell on their face in Numbers 14, and even Moses and Aaron did not get to enter into the promised land. The stance of falling on your face means, you accept God’s judgment of you even if it means he damn you to Hell. This is truly what we deserve. And this is true too: If we do not fall face-down before God (Numbers 14:5) in whole-hearted submission to His judgment, then our corpses will fall in the wilderness. (Numbers 14:29)

How does this work in light of Christ’s death for all sin? Does this negate the work of the cross? Should not the believer see Christ’s death on the cross as God’s justice fulfilled even for the punishment of sin in his life? Certainly all the required wrath has been poured out on Jesus instead of those of us who now have peace with Him, but we need our own cross to deal with the persistent presence of sin in our fallen hearts. God has given us a cross to carry behind Jesus on the road to Calvary to deal with this part of our sin problem, and only those indwelt by the Spirit will carry their cross just as Jesus did, not for their own salvation, but for Christ’s salvation to be borne to others through our constant dying to self. Such is the mystery of faith: Christ in you, the hope of glory. (Colossians 1:27)

I pray that if you find yourself in the wilderness with God, that you treasure this time. He is preparing you as a pure vessel so that His work may be done through you, and He loves you more than I can say.

To a Mature Man: Closing Remarks

To a Mature Man:

The Ten Stages of the Christian Walk

# Stage Do Acquire Avoid
1 Birth Meet a Christian Exposure to Christ False Religion/ False gods
2 Temple Listen to God’s Word Blessing/ Understanding Traditionalism/ Formalism
3 Baptism Repent and Obey Holy Spirit’s filling License to Sin
4 Wilderness Depend/ Trust/ Devote/ follow him Confirmed power of Spirit Compromise
5 Community Testify/ serve/ seek Mission announced Man’s approval
6 Service Meet physical and spiritual needs Power’s achievement Worldly concern
7 Justice Stand against evil man for God Refute and remain

disentangled

Appeasement/ Cowering
8 Persecution Endure; forgive The Cross’ victory Apostasy
9 Resurrection Stand and give thanks To see His face Deception/ Disobedience
10 Ascension Rule Heaven & Earth A good world Pride

Insights:

  • You may notice that the beginning stages of walk with Jesus are quite individual, but the middle stages are communal. This is not by accident, nor intentionally. I think it is discovered design. It is because the life of a Christian is a life in conjunction with other believers. God will need to have his time alone with you, but you will need to be with the body of Christ if He is to use you to the fullest.
  • It may seem superfluous to write about the last two stages, since beyond the grave, we will have fewer cares and concerns. But I see that when they are all laid out, certain patterns and relationships emerge.

Example.

  • Humility–Stage 1 and Stage 10 are both largely concerned with Humility and avoiding Pride in exaltation.
    • Truth–Stage 2 and Stage 9 are both concerned with Heeding God’s word and not being deceived by anything less than him.
      • The Cross–Stage 3 and Stage 8 are the initial death to the world at Baptism, and the world’s fulfillment of that death in Persecution.
    • Battle–Stage 4 and stage 7 are the initial testing before God, and then the fulfillment of that testing before man as one stands against the people who are controlled by the Evil one who was faced already in the wilderness.
  • Love–Stage 5 and 6 are the community living together and fully operating in the power of the Holy Spirit as a witness to the world what community and love really look like.

So is the first Chiasmic pattern recognizable in these stages. In it, the emphasis on Humility, the Cross, and Love are emphasized as the beginning middle and End of the Christian life.

  • Another insight, looking back on the stages: you may notice the ordering of the stages from inner-most circle to outermost circle. Once a believer is baptized, he grows in the innermost circle of relating with God, then he grows outward to the next circle of inter-relating with believers, then the next circle out is relating to the world, and then the outer circle of standing against the forces of evil. Our ministry does indeed spread outward from this central locus of being with God, and extends outward to offense against the enemy.
  • This insight lends itself to another: This, for all believers is the order of ministry, and let it never be forgotten, as some tragically have forgotten, and have lost all power, life, and effectiveness, and courage for their ministries.
  1. Stage 4: Our first ministry is to the Lord
  2. Stage 5: Our second ministry is to the Church
  3. Stage 6: Our third ministry is to the World
  4. Stage 7: Our fourth ministry is to the Powers

Dear Brother, no matter where you go, never forget this principle! Minister to Him first, then give first consideration to the Church, then the world, then go against the powers of the enemy. This will render you fruitful in your ministry, and abundantly so.

  • I also hope that it has become obvious through these writings, how important it is for a believer to be set apart from the world to God. The Holy Spirit is what distinguishes a Christian from a non-believer. In stage 3: Baptism there is a clean break, in stage 4: Wilderness there is no compromise, in stage 5: Community there is a casting off man’s approval, in stage 6: Service there is an avoidance of worldly concerns, and in stage 7: Justice there is a disentanglement that must be kept. The reason for the separation at all of these stages is stage 8: Persecution. It is the most profound and most defined manifestation of the Gospel, and few are they who will endure to the end. This is the Cross the Christian must carry, and the world will seek to pull the believer back into its clutches from the day he says he will follow Jesus. And the world needs the cross every generation, in every place for the reminder of God’s love living in his followers.
  • Another word: some who read these stages may say, “This isn’t Christianity. This is SUPER-Christianity.” I would like to reply to such a person that any Christianity that does not measure itself by the standard of Christ isn’t Christianity at all. Therefore, there is no real Christianity without the Holy Spirit. Any Christianity that is assured in itself apart from the measure of Christ and leads others into the same folly is nominal and misguided at best and at worst blasphemous and diabolical.
  • Finally, there may be some who say, “What do I do if I have fallen into one of these pitfalls along the way? What do I do, if I am stuck?” One word: REPENT! Run straight into the arms of God, and out of the world’s (and thereby the devil’s) clutches. Just as Jesus told Peter who was opposing him when he said,

“Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.”

No matter what pitfall you are in, this is how we get back on the path with Jesus: by putting off the old life, embracing His new life, and following Him to maturity.

Closing

Ephesians 4:11-13

And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ.

It has been my hope, dear brother, to equip you for the work of service, and to build you up with the body of Christ until we all attain unity of faith. The knowledge of the Son of God in these posts, will, I hope, grow you to a mature man, according to the measure of the fullness of Christ’s stature.

May you rise to the occasion of these posts and press onward to the prize of what awaits in the New Heaven and Earth for all who love His appearing. My heart is opened to you, and I trust that God will raise you up so that you will be able to soar with Him on wings of eagles as you trust in Him.

I look forward to walking with you for as much longer as the Lord will have us together. God’s grace and peace go with you, my friend.

Your older brother