Saturday, October 6, 2007

Cast Out With Love

From a conversation with Paul Curtsinger

God loved Adam. He created him, and then spent many days walking with him "in the cool of the evening", teaching him, showing him His creation, and just being his friend. He freely gave Adam dominion over the whole earth that He had created, keeping only one small thing on earth from the first man: the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. When Adam followed his wife’s suggestion and ate of the forbidden fruit, he did more than disobey God. He betrayed his best friend, the One who had freely given him all things and trusted him with the care of the earth.

Until my conversation with Brother Paul, I had always read the story of God casting Adam out of the garden of Eden from Adam’s point of view. But Paul brought to my attention how God must have felt when He cast Adam out of the garden. God cast him out, and then God set cherubs at the gate, and a flaming sword that turned in every direction to keep Adam away from his former home, forever. It must have broken God’s heart to watch Adam and Eve sorrowfully walking away. God loved Adam.

When, after gaining the knowledge of good and evil, Adam realized that he was naked and hid from God, God’s love for Adam remained constant. He grieved over Adam’s sin; nevertheless, He made clothes for Adam to wear so that he would not feel ashamed. And when He cast him out of the garden, He said something that is often overlooked when the story is read. He said that He was casting Adam and Eve out of the garden because doing so was what was best for them (Gen. 3:22-23).

Once Adam was defiled with forbidden knowledge, God wanted to protect Adam from the tree of life, "lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live forever." Had Adam eaten of the tree of life after he ate the forbidden fruit, he might have remained forever in the fallen state he was in. God sent Adam away from the tree of life because he loved Adam, to prevent Adam from becoming irreversibly stained. God sent Adam away from the tree of life so that He could save him.

That The Spirit Might Be Saved

Shepherds of the "flock of God" on earth bear a degree of responsibility such as God bore concerning Adam. It isn’t safe for disobedient members of the body of Christ to be allowed at the fountain from which the body drinks when they gather. In extreme cases, it is best for disobedient believers to be put out of the Assembly, to be prevented – protected, really – from drinking of the water of life while condemnation is in their hearts. The Law of Moses showed that drinking holy water from God’s temple could kill if there was condemnation in the heart of the person who drank (Num. 5:11-31). When Paul heard that an immoral young man was being allowed to continue to worship with the saints in Corinth, Paul wrote the Assembly and demanded that they repent and cast out the transgressor, and that he be handed over to Satan "that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus" (1Cor. 5:5). Paul knew that it was extremely dangerous for that sinner to eat the manna of heaven and drink the waters of life with the saints, and that he would have a better chance of pleasing God if he were removed from the presence of God’s people. Did Paul hate the young man? Of course not. He was giving him his best chance to meet God in peace.

There was no government in Corinth, and so, there was no standard of holiness enforced. Consequently, there were many guilty spirits in the congregation who drank regularly of the water of life. The results were just as anyone would have predicted who knew the Law of God. "Because of this," Paul wrote, "many are feeble and sick among you, and quite a few have fallen asleep." And he added this admonition: "Let a man examine himself; only then is he to eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For he who eats and drinks, not discerning the body, eats and drinks damnation to himself."

God loves us, even when He has to be severe in His dealings with us. He will go with us until the end, doing whatever gives us our best hope of eternal life. The ungodly cannot see the burning love that was there when Adam was cast out of the garden, and they may not see the love that will cast them out, either, when there is God’s brand of government among His people.

"I Still Love You the Same"
Elijah J. Clark
- April 19, 2007 -

Verse I
Years unremembered before I knew you –
Oh! The times we shared,
As if all I did was create you anew.
But here we are; did you ever care?
Since you left Me, time has rolled by...
Or, my friend, has it at all?
Come to me, lest you die.
Will you hear My gentle call?

I still love you the same,
As the day we first met.
I never did anything to turn you away,
But forgave you of your debt.
And then you owed Me your life, your feelings,
Yet I’m still calling your name.
To tell you from the depths of My heart,
That I still love you the same.

Verse II
You thought you had moved on, to bigger, better things.
You thought you had played the highest card-
You thought My pain couldn’t change.
But the moment I knew what you had done,
The moment you laughed at me,
I saw the end of your sin, your shame,
A light recreating my victory,
Because I still loved you.

Verse III
So this light is burning in My soul
It protects Me from the hatred you chose,
That sin and the cold.
The holiness – the fire – it burns;
Into the sky it reaches. It keeps My feelings warm,
So that when you come back to me,
Like wax I’ll cover, reshape you;
I’ll command you – breathe!

Without God

Without God

"At that time, you were without Christ,being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise,having no hope, and without God in the world." Ephesians 2:12

If you worship God because you know you should worship God, you are worshiping God in vain. If you pray because you know you should pray, you are praying in vain. If you serve God because you know He is worthy to be served, your service is no more acceptable to God than that of a Buddhist priest, who also knows that God is worthy to be served. The whole world, the same world that John said "lies in wickedness", knows that God should be served, that everyone should pray, and that all people should worship God. That understanding is the foundation of every religion of man on earth, and being motivated in the service of God by that understanding is the very thing that makes all of man’s religions worthless for obtaining salvation.

Understand this, and fear God! The worship of God is by invitation only. No man can "do God service" whom God does not first call. And the only prayer that ever reaches God’s ear is the prayer inspired by His Spirit to be prayed. No one can love God whom God does not first love. To think otherwise is to think more of yourself than the truth calls for. The flesh hates the truth about itself, but it is incapable of righteousness without God. "God is a spirit," Jesus told us, "and those who worship Him, MUST worship Him in spirit and in truth." But how can this be? Man does not have God’s Spirit; nor does he have God’s truth. How can he possibly worship God acceptably if he must worship Him with things that he does not have? It is obvious that God must give man something before man is able to worship God acceptably. Is it too much for us to confess that, left to our own devises and power, we cannot worship God as He MUST be worshiped?

Once, Jesus’ disciples were stunned and frightened because of the narrowness of the gospel Jesus preached. Then they asked him who could ever be saved if what he was preaching was true. Jesus replied,"With man it is impossible. But with God, nothing shall be impossible." Jesus knew that man was hopeless unless God helped him. Paul told his Gentile converts that they once were hopeless because at that time, they were "without God". My friends, without God – God Himself, not some abstract idea about Him – we are sinning, no matter what we think we are doing. We have no choice but sin, if we are without God.

What is the difference between our worship and that of Old Testament worshipers if we worship God because we know it is time to worship him? Under the Old Testament, God’s people were instructed by the Law as to the proper times to worship God. Consequently, there were multitudes who went to worship God, not because they had any fellowship with their Creator, but because they knew it was time to go. This kind of worship is worship in the flesh, and it is useless for the redemption of the soul. Now, the Law that instructs God’s people is the holy Spirit within them, letting them know when and what to do in their service to God. I know that God said, "My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge," but the knowledge of God that saves us is not a knowledge of the proper day or hour to worship God; nor is it the knowledge of the proper styles of dress for worship; nor is it even a knowledge of the Bible. The knowledge that saves is the knowledge of God! The knowledge of God teaches us that the only acceptable service to God is that service rendered from a heart sanctified and led by the Spirit of God.

Man cannot initiate contact with God. Every prayer, every religious deed, every longing that arises from man’s nature is in vain. There is nothing "of man" in the kingdom of God. God must condescend to initiate the contact, He must give us something to respond to in order for our prayer or service to be in the right direction. God must call us to worship; otherwise, we worship God in vain. God must call us to prayer; otherwise, we are praying according to the flesh, not the Spirit. God must call us to His service; otherwise, we will find ourselves doing evil while we think we are doing good, just as Paul did before God reached down to him. There is nothing in us that knows how to worship, pray, or serve God acceptably. "Every good and perfect gift comes down from the Father", and only what comes down to us from Him is acceptable in His sight.

Jesus told his disciples, "Without me, you can do nothing." Of course, Jesus knew that they could go fishing without him, or work at their tax tables without him, or perform any natural task in the flesh without him. But he was talking about serving God. He was telling his disciples that there was nothing in them that God would accept without it being prompted by the Spirit – which Spirit they did not yet have! And Jesus was not speaking only to his disciples; he was speaking to us all. Without him, none of us can do anything right in the sight of God. But with Him, can there be anything impossible?

You cannot understand these things and be proud. This knowledge, which comes from God, will create humility, and faith in the true God; it will inspire prayer that is acceptable; it will move you to cry out for God’s presence, so that you will not sin. This knowledge will fill you with the fear of God, lest He choose not to dwell among us and leave us to our own thoughts and ways. Our hearts, without God, are "desperately wicked," (Jer. 17:9) and hopelessly ignorant. Paul said that in our flesh, that is, our nature, "dwells no good thing." David sang, "Every man at his best state is altogether vanity." Men with the knowledge of God know that without Him, they are completely and hopelessly without power to live righteous lives! We must have God to lead us in our daily conduct and choices, our worship, our praying, and our service to Him, for if we do not have God in our midst, we are wasting our time even being alive. Without God living in us and guiding us, we are breathing in vain. We are like blind men groping in the dark, imagining that there is something for us to find.

Please join me in crying out to God for His presence to be among us, and for His power, which alone can keep us from sin, and for His mercy to forgive our vain imaginations and efforts, and to give us something to which we can respond. For without that, there is absolutely nothing right that we can possibly do.

If you understand this, you will be always at the ready, just in the hope that God will lead you to do something. His word is precious, His feelings are perfect, His will is holy, and if at any time He condescends to share His mind with us, who are we that we should hesitate or fear? We are rich if God has thought upon us. That is the knowledge which, not having, will destroy God’s people now, as it did Israel long ago.

No Hell?

"I say unto you, my friends, be not afraid of them that kill the body,
and after that have no more they can do.
But I will forewarn you whom you shall fear.
Fear Him, who after He has killed, has power to cast into hell.
Yea, I say, fear Him
Jesus, in Lk. 12:4-5

The verse above poses a particularly difficult challenge to the notion, held by many, that there is no hell. If there is no hell, if the wicked simply disappear and no longer exist, then what is it that Jesus is warning us that God can do to the wicked after they die? If the wicked have no life after they die, then God can do no more to the wicked than men can do to them. If there is no hell awaiting the wicked, then all that anybody in heaven or earth do to them is kill them, and that is contrary to what Jesus taught.

The Jehovah Witness sect, among others, teach that hell is simply the grave, and that the wicked, once dead, just vanish into non-existence. The official Jehovah’s Witness web site states that "Since the dead have no conscious existence, hell cannot be a fiery place of torment where the wicked suffer after death. . . . The Bible hell, then, is the common grave of mankind where good people as well as bad ones go." But if that were true, if hell is the just the grave, then men, contrary to what Jesus said, do have the power to cast dead people into hell. Why, they do it all the time, and they are paid for their labor by families of the deceased. It is called "burying people".

The grave is not what hell is. Jesus warned his friends that God has power to cast dead people into a place that is beyond the power of men to cast them. And when God casts the wicked into hell, He is not burying the wicked dead; He is damning them.