That Not of Yourselves 2

“That not of yourselves” in the area of a journey of faith erases self-works or salvation through merit or performance.  It excludes self-righteousness, boasting, or worldly standing.  It makes a journey of faith universally accessible to every Spirit-born Christian (Jn. 10:27-29).

Because by definition a God-composed life-script contains the element “that not of yourselves,” no one has to possess an advanced degree in theology to be able to walk through a journey of faith following Jesus.

In the perfect plans of God, Mary Magdelene can be privileged to be the first person to discover the empty tomb of Joseph of Arimathaea on Resurrection morning.

The security of knowing that Spirit-born Christians are eternally saved enables us to confidently listen in the Spirit, begin to obey God in small things to build trust, and to venture out into our first steps in a walk of faith.

If our salvation is in the slightest doubt, based upon our performance, then no one would summon the courage to risk entering into an uncertain biblical quality journey of faith in the first place.  No one would assume the eternal peril of losing our salvation inherent in the inevitability of challenges to our faith contained within a God-composed adventure of faith.

If continued salvation is based upon our merit and performance, then no one would exercise the freedom to honestly question God’s leadership as the spiritual journey gets steeper, tighter, and more costly (Jer. 12:1).

But if we start out knowing upfront that God has already taken into account our weaknesses, which can have no effect upon the security of our salvation, then we are liberated to go out into an adventure of faith relying and leaning totally upon God.

If our salvation is insecure and partially dependent upon the quality of our performance and merit, this places people in the murky gray-area of human judgment and self-evaluation in the exclusively divine area of spiritual salvation.  Paul judged not himself (1 Cor. 4:3).  Salvation by grace through faith opens the door through the cross and the resurrection, free of vain imaginings and doubtful judgments as we listen to Jesus, study the Bible, walk in the Spirit, and discover God’s higher ways.

This is one of the secondary themes of this book.  As Abraham walks from Haran to Canaan, God is displacing whatever horizontally conventional plans Abraham had according to the norms of the cities of Haran and Ur, with God’s unimaginatively higher destiny that God had planned for Abraham.

A journey of faith involves risk of failure.  But God would not ask us to place our eternal salvation at risk by entering into a journey of faith following Him, if by doing so that journey of faith could in any way jeopardize that salvation.  Placing our salvation at risk by entering into a journey of faith would call into question the character of God at the most fundamental level.  God invites us to pick up our cross and to follow Him precisely because the Spirit-born Christian now possesses eternal salvation.

This is part of the loving outreach of God through the Bible to us.  A risk-filled adventure of faith leading to the discovery of “all truth,” and the great biblical salvation doctrines of the grace and mercies of God, are integrally linked together.

Every positive character in the Bible follows a God-composed life-script they could not possibly imagine or self-generate on their own.  This bears constant repeating because this is a feature of the Bible that withstands the corrosive cynicism of radical skeptical unbelief in our modern culture.

My contention in this book is that a biblical, God-composed journey of faith through the second half of the cross is so outside of and contrary to horizontal, worldly conventional thinking that it can only originate from a supernatural Author God.

If Jesus therefore is “for us” within a God-composed journey of faith through all of the circumstances and events of life, divinely tailored for us according to a formula that will mold and craft us into a blessing to ourselves and to others, then who or what can be against us?

The second half of the cross, in the narrative stories of faith recorded in the Bible, is as orthodox as orthodoxy can get for the highest reasons.  Immanuel…”God with us”…cannot get any more orthodox than as portrayed in the biblical stories of God personally and intimately enlisting people into their callings of destiny.  The biblical narrative stories of faith point out the right road of eternal life in harmony with God, with us, and with others, which repeatedly and consistently begins each journey of faith at the foot of the cross.

Again, if our salvation is a probation conditionally based upon our performance, then we could not confidently surrender all to Jesus and follow Him up into the highest mountaintops or down into the darkest valleys.

Without knowing beforehand that I am saved for all eternity, I cannot confidently take the risk to follow Jesus to places I do not necessarily want to go, or in directions I do not initially fully understand.  Without being eternally secure in my salvation, I cannot in confidence hand over the control of my life to Jesus to lead me into the sometimes challenging, difficult, and character-stretching life-lessons…that inform the writing of this book.

Without being confident in my eternal salvation, how can I honestly and openly share my natural doubts and frustrations with God in prayer?   When I am figuratively in Pharaoh’s prison like Joseph, or have a King Saul chasing after my life like David, or am in the process of getting up to carry on after being nearly stoned to death like Paul, how can I take my honest, questioning complaint to God if my salvation is unsecure and constantly in doubt?  How can I cry out to God in desperate need of help if by doing so I am acknowledging my shortcoming in keeping up my end of the “bargain” in a merit-based salvation program dependent upon self-generated works, at the edge of “losing” my salvation?

That Not of Yourselves 1

“For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God—Not of works, lest any man should boast.”                                                         (Eph. 2:8-9)

A biblical journey of faith through the second half of the cross as described in this book…is integral with and dependent upon the doctrine of salvation by grace through faith.

It is the security of eternal salvation that allows the new believer in Christ the initial encouragement and confidence to step-out into the risk of following Jesus Christ into the as-yet not fully revealed circumstances of our individual callings (Rom. 8:1-2).

No matter our station in life, our talents, or our cultural or geographical location, God has a unique and individual plan for each and every believer in Christ.  Like the value of the security that is put forward in a financial business transaction, the value of the blood shed by Jesus on the cross and the seal of the Holy Spirit given to the born-again believer, is God’s security put forward that backs His appeal to trust Him fully as we follow His lead.

God’s appeal to the believer to “live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world” (Tit. 2:12), to live a surrendered life (Rom. 12:1-2), to walk worthy of our calling (Eph. 4:1), to live a life of purity (1 Jn. 3:3), and to “be steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord” (1 Cor. 15:58), are all based upon the eternally unchanging value of the security of our  salvation promised by God Himself.

The great biblical doctrines of grace (Jn. 10:27-29; Tit. 2:11-12; 2 Cor. 5:14-18; Rom. 1:17; 3:22; 4:24-25; 5:2; 5:17; 5:21; 6:14; 8:1) that support the promise of eternal security allows Christians to launch out into a God-led journey of faith, free to make mistakes and to learn hard lessons through life experiences without placing our salvation in jeopardy.

A journey of faith is a bold and daring adventure out into this broken and often tempestuous world, with Jesus Christ leading the way.

The teaching that a saved person can lose their salvation limits what people are willing to venture.  It confines the Christian experience to the relatively safe parameters of mere church attendance and church activities alone.

The teaching that a saved person can become lost contributes to a lower standard of Christian living because a vibrant and life-transforming journey of faith following God according to the pattern of the biblical narrative stories of faith…is replaced instead by standardized, risk-averse, and programmed activities based narrowly upon church needs.

Jeremiah 31:31-34 tells us that every new covenant believer from the least to the greatest shall all know God personally.  This requires personal interaction based upon some measure of a mutually shared journey of faith, secured by the promise of salvation through the blood of Jesus and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit within the believer.

This is the solid rock of God’s word that allows Christians to adventure out into their individual journeys of faith, following the leading of Jesus Christ through the voice of the Holy Spirit.  

Salvation is a divine work completely of God.  It fully accomplishes for mankind what mankind cannot accomplish even partially for itself.  If salvation were a mix of God and self, if merit and demerit on man’s part contributed to salvation, then it would be partially conditioned upon man’s spotty, uncertain performance.

Salvation based upon our merit would rely upon a capacity for continuously perfect righteousness that we do not possess (Rom. 5:8-9). Salvation would then be limited, reversible, ineffective, and falling short of its divine intention to once and for all time set the captives free from bondage to sin.

Salvation is by God alone because this is the only way it can be absolutely perfect and complete as the sole cure for sin.

Divine grace is likewise one-hundred percent pure grace, or it is not grace at all.  Salvation as the “gift of God” can truly only be a gift if it requires absolutely nothing in exchange from us.  This is because some hybrid of grace plus works leads to an uncertain outcome (Rom. 4:16).

Salvation cannot be a process dependent upon man’s continued performance and progress, because salvation would then be forever in doubt.  Salvation is a divine act producing an eternal outcome because it is a work of God and therefore perfect in its entirety.

In the same way that salvation is divinely perfect, a God-composed journey of faith life-script is perfect in all of its details.  The positive narrative stories of faith recorded in the Bible do not present a picture of perfect people.    But the life-plans themselves are perfect, because they are created by God (1 Cor. 1:8-9).

We need to stop thinking of the life-stories of Abraham, Joseph, Moses, David, Hannah, Esther, Elijah, Daniel, Peter, James, and Paul as if their human frailties rendered partially ineffective the creative genius of God.

God is working with fallen creatures prone to make mistakes and fall short of absolute perfection.  But this reality does not take away from the imaginative capacity of God to compose life-scripts that individually match each of us perfectly, thoughtfully incorporating and channeling even our failures into lesson-plans yielding beneficial character transformation that will last an eternity (Rom. 8:29-30).

A journey of faith is also therefore “that not of yourselves.”  This is one element in the Bible that stands out from and above humanistic creative imagination.  “That not of yourselves” applied to our lives in harmony with the biblical examples of the positive characters in the Bible runs outside of human contemplation or contrivance.  Like salvation, stepping into a journey of faith following Jesus Christ is putting into action the scripture “the just shall live by faith.”

Some Reasons for the Second Half of the Cross 4

Going Back to the Cross

The postmodern view of religious relativism, which says that everyone’s beliefs and religious experiences are equally valid, is merely a clever variation of the age-old “ye shall be as gods” deception from the Garden of Eden.  Any religious experience or churchianity that maintains self on the throne of our lives is ineffective, counter-productive, and doomed to produce misdirected mediocrity.

Going “back” to the Bible to review the cross contained within the lives of the people of faith recorded for us in the Old and New Testaments, is not a backwards move.  It is the most progressive step forward we can take.

The one and only Person in all of existence who is the most interested in “diversity” is the Person who created all of our individual personalities, character traits, and abilities to begin with…Jesus Christ.

Surrendering our all to Jesus Christ ironically is the one single approach that will produce in practical application the very thing that the postmodern philosophy of individualism cannot and does not have the spiritual power to actualize.

Jesus Christ is waiting for us to begin our journey of faith with Him.  Jesus is waiting for us at the cross.

This is why a biblical journey of faith, made possible through the second half of the cross, is so important.  This is why the Bible is our divinely sanctioned pattern and guide for right Christian experience.

We are not supposed to re-make God into a lifeless philosophical creation who will allow us to continue to sit atop the thrones of our lives.  We are supposed to fall upon the living Stone that is Jesus Christ so that God can re-make us into the people He lovingly created and intended us to be.

This is why self-realization and religious relativism are such gross and abominable frauds.  They displace the one and only agent, Jesus Christ, who can actually fill the large God-shaped void we find within ourselves.

Lucifer’s temptation that “ye shall be as gods” was so subtly deceptive, because it was not that far off the actual truth.  Lucifer stole and corrupted God’s brilliant plan for purposeful and meaningful fellowship with mankind, precisely because we were created with the capacity for this very thing (Rev. 20:6).

After the fall in the Garden, God has simply taken the added ingredients of sorrow and suffering resulting from sin, and broadened and deepened the experience of a walk of faith to include the element of the “knowledge of good and evil” into the mix.

That is why we need the elevated insight of God to sort it all out for us through the situations and circumstances of a God-composed walk of faith.

Jesus Christ willingly suffered the abhorrent and ignominious death of the cross, so that we could have the opportunity to learn through experience the very thing that Lucifer could not possibly deliver through his deceptively empty temptation in the Garden.

Jesus Christ, through the singular events of the cross and the resurrection, opened up a new and living way, and demonstrated the exemplary quality of character that is needed for the right use of power.  “Ye shall be as gods” only rightly materializes within Spirit-born Christians when it is blended with a non-self-seeking lack of personal ambition, well-meaning thoughtfulness towards others, Christ-like humility, and genuine righteousness.

The high quality of character training that accompanies the right use of power comes only through the tutelage of God.  This is what we read about in the adventures of faith portrayed in the lives of Abraham, Joseph, Moses, David, Esther, Ruth, Daniel, Elijah, Peter, and Paul in the Bible.

If the pinpoint accuracy of the temptation of Lucifer hit its mark, God is also a good marksman in accurately devising the journey of faith to nullify and overturn the damage of sin and unbelief in our world.

If the temptation to be our own independent gods hits at the center of our vulnerability as “in-God’s-image” created beings with an in-built drive for excellence, the God-composed journey of faith satisfies this need at the center of our being with a challenging set of life events and circumstances designed to restore faith and trust in our relationship with God, which are the cornerstones of any meaningful friendship.

A journey of faith based upon the second half of the cross inserts God back into the Equation of Life.  A journey of faith through this broken world is God’s better answer to Lucifer’s clever attack upon the vulnerable character of non-divine beings created with free-will.

The concept of the second half of the cross brings the sometimes spectacular participation of God in the lives of the people of faith in the Bible, down within reach of our own present-day lives.

Jesus Christ as the way, the truth, and the life reconnects the open circuit of real purpose and meaning in life, through the myriad of individualized life-plans and schemes imagined within the mind of God, because these life-plans and schemes were first contemplated at the time God created each one of us.

The cross is the universal leveling reality through experience (1 Cor. 4:9), common to all believers in every age and generation, which today enables us to relate to and understand the Bible on equal footing with the great men and women of faith, as we study the second half of the cross in the lives of the people of faith described in this book.

Most Christians understand in a general way the cross and the surrendering of our lives to Christ.  But do we clearly see and understand this in the narrative stories of the people of faith in the Old and New Testaments of the Bible?

If we can see the cross throughout the Bible, we then have a solid scriptural foundation to go forward into our own personal journey of faith built upon the Rock that is Christ.  If we can capture this vision in scripture, if we can see the cross in the life-scripts of faith in the Bible, we can surrender and yield ourselves to Jesus Christ according to the rock-solid foundation of the Word of God.

The story of Abraham makes no sense whatsoever through a purely humanistic lens.  Why would Abraham go to Canaan unless he is hearing and responding to the actual voice of God calling Abraham into this new reality of a journey of faith?  Without the element of the supernatural participation of the living God, this opening narrative of Abraham picking up and moving to Canaan is just a bland story of a person migrating from one city into another geographical region.

The story of Joseph completely falls apart without the active participation of a brilliantly creative God who has all of the personal, political, and social factors within His command, and has the power to supernaturally enter into and intervene in detailed events and circumstances within the four-dimensional medium of space and time.

Even though the cross of Christ is a continuous thread running throughout the Bible from beginning to end, the wide range of varied storylines of the positive characters in the Bible demonstrates God’s creative ability to take each of our innate capacities and life circumstances, and craft them into something uniquely beautiful.

Jesus Christ looks at us like a sculptor looks at a rough-hewn block of marble.  The virtuosic figure in stone is not found in the finished statue, but in the pieces of marble that must be meticulously chipped-off the rough-hewn block to arrive at the final masterpiece.

Only God knows what needs to be chipped away from our fallen natures to arrive at the masterpiece that God first envisioned when He created each one of us.  This is another way of describing the second half of the cross process that is contained within a biblical journey of faith following Jesus Christ.  This is the uniquely original and living portion of our relationship to God as Christians, that we can recognize throughout the Bible, and that we must pursue with all of our hearts and minds.

Some Reasons for the Second Half of the Cross 3

Pushing Power Downward

The tragic irony in all of this, on a truly galactic scale, is that God does not mind sharing power.  God is not only willing, but anxious to impart spiritual power to human beings (Lk. 9:1-2).

It is God who created us with the capacity for abstract thought, logical reasoning, and moral judgment.  A walk of faith through a life-script of varied situations and circumstances, carefully designed and orchestrated by God, is a guided apprenticeship in the right use of personal freedom and power.  The examples of the people of faith in the Bible are a demonstration of God’s enlightened management approach of pushing power downward into the lives of His faithful servants.

The management approach of pushing power downward, as a method of training, is an extraordinary trait to find within the character of God.

The God who created our universe is an unequaled perfectionist.  In our human experience, one of the most difficult things for a perfectionist to do is to delegate.  Yet God works in partnership with Noah, Abraham, Joseph, Moses, Deborah, Gideon, David, Esther, Daniel, Peter, Paul, and others through unique and unusual story-lines in the Bible…in order to give them the opportunity to experience the right use of power under direct apprenticeship to God.

God composes creatively different life-scripts, calls people by His Spirit, and orchestrates adventures of faith so that people can grow and stretch into the potentially Christ-like people that God intended us to be when He created us.  The fact that God enlists people into all sorts of varied enterprises in the Bible, which He could undoubtedly do infinitely better solely by Himself, tells us there is a profound purpose behind God joining… with us…along a walk of faith through life.

The writing of the Bible is a clear example of this concept of God pushing power downward.  The Bible has nearly 40 different authors, writing over a span of 1,500 years.  These writers were prophets, kings, shepherds, fishermen, a physician, and other common people with varied backgrounds.  They wrote from different geographical locations, about different challenges and circumstances, and through the lens of different cultural settings.

The fact that these men produced a consistent and cohesive message has enormously persuasive apologetic value in arguing for the divine inspiration of the Bible.  But it also demonstrates God’s willingness and ability to spiritually joint-venture with people to produce something as lofty as Holy Scripture.

Jesus says in Matthew 5:18 that the scriptures are so precise that not one jot or one tittle (Hebrew punctuation marks) shall pass from the Law until all be fulfilled.  Jesus says in John 10:35 that the scriptures cannot be broken.

That God can and would enlist human participation in the writing of the inspired word of God called the Bible, which mirrors accurately in written words the actual living expression of the Word of God embodied in Jesus of Nazareth, tells us plainly of God’s intention and ability to push power downward effectively into the hearts and minds of faithful men and women of God.

The fact that God created us with this “in-His-image” capacity is the clearest evidence of His loving desire to interact with us on the elevated plane of being able to responsibly, thoughtfully, and rightly use power.

At the outer limits of divine perfection…self-centeredness goes away.

One stereotype in the business world is of the manager who keeps information to themselves.  In any organization knowledge is power.  But the servant-leader approach informs, trains, and empowers others.  The servant-leader creates business reports and sends out memos with the aim to share information.

The servant-leader approach is a management philosophy of proactive thoughtfulness intended to liberate subordinates from complete dependence upon the all-informed and all-knowing manager.

The servant-leader, who manages to get people involved in the goals of the enterprise through personal participation in decision-making through shared leadership based upon trust, when done wisely…usually creates highly motivated, enthusiastic, and committed workers.

The servant-leader approach is the exact opposite of the autocrat who keeps all of the information and knowledge, and therefore the power…to themselves.

Lucifer wants to live out his dream of being god at the expense of others.  Lucifer’s approach is egocentric and requires the sacrifice of others to achieve his goals.  By contrast God wants to fulfill His will and way by enabling others to actualize their created potential through free-will participation, a personal relationship, and wise and prudent delegation of authority.  God’s approach is based upon unselfish divine love that will sacrifice Himself on the cross for the benefit and well-being of others.

The Bible set into words, and the journeys-of-faith callings portrayed therein, are the epitome of perfect unselfishness pushing power downward.  The incarnation of Jesus Christ is this expression in living form.  The gift of the Holy Spirit leading and guiding us into all truth from within our born-again spirits…through His abiding presence…is at the height of well-intentioned thoughtfulness in the deepest moral sense.

A God-composed biblical journey of faith is an individual one-on-one training mission.  God’s program is to set-up the circumstances unique to each one of our lives, whereby we can learn through first-hand experience to reach the point in wisdom that we knowingly and willingly choose the right, the noble, and the commendable course of conduct as a natural response of our improving Christ-like characters.

God wants us to grow into mature sons and daughters of light, who can react in partnership with His Spirit to every situation in this fallen world environment with the quality of character that will produce joy and peace for ourselves, for others, and for God, now and for all eternity.

Lucifer’s classically deceptive temptation in the Garden, that people apart from God could become “as gods, knowing good and evil” (Gen. 3:5), was of the most destructive and diabolical nature.

Lucifer had nothing to offer that was genuine on its own merits.  Lucifer saw the good thing that God had intended for mankind, seized the opportunity, and actually stole God’s idea, corrupting it for his own purposes.

By preemptively stealing God’s creative idea of a journey of faith, before God could establish a solid relationship with Adam and Eve, Lucifer effectively short-circuited the beneficial intentions of God’s program.  By replacing God with “self” in the spiritual equation, Lucifer created a counterfeit “journey of self” to match his own fallen attitude of self-worship, that is completely out-of-sync with the original plan of God for mankind.

This is why the temptation in the Garden was a deception and a lie, rather than a commendably viable alternative approach to life.  Lucifer stole and corrupted God’s idea of a joint-venture walk of faith with Him, making it into an autonomous and solitary “walk of self,” because Lucifer does not have a better plan of his own other than rebellious revolt fueled by pride-filled ambition.

In reality, there is no alternate plan for life in all of existence.  The “walk of self” is merely a lower, fallen, corrupted version of the higher walk-of-faith fellowship…that God created us with the capacity to enjoy.

The current, worldly conventional modern-day version of a “walk of self” displaces the walk of faith that God designed for us as the vehicle whereby we could get to know Him.

By getting the human race to depart from God through his upside-down deception of making rebellion as autonomous individuals appear as if it was commendably liberating, Lucifer effectively erased the apprenticeship training program that God had planned for us.  By going-it-on-our-own apart from the Holy Spirit, we shortchange ourselves from the character lessons that would enable us to happily and responsibly exercise our God-given capacity to learn to use power rightly for the good of ourselves and others.

Lucifer wanted power for its own sake, without being accountable to God or anyone other than himself.  By getting mankind to join his rebellion against God, Lucifer has instilled this same lust for power within the character of fallen mankind.

This explains why there is so much push-back against the gospel message of repentance, spiritual rebirth, and surrendering our will and way to God.  Being broken upon the living Stone that is Christ (Mt. 21:44) means giving up power.

But what is so sadly deceptive about sin, is that in willingly giving up self-sovereignty, the Spirit-led Christian is really only transferring power over to Jesus Christ, who intended all along to give back this self-same power to us, repackaged in a beneficially crafted individual journey of faith.

This ingenious creation of a walk of faith is a divinely guided set of life circumstances, originally designed to enable us to learn to use the power of our individual gifts and abilities properly.

The irony is that it is Jesus Christ who created mankind with the express capacity to be able to use spiritual power rightly and correctly.  Sitting upon the throne of our lives in spiritual rebellion frustrates the loving intention of God to fulfill our created purpose.

Some Reasons for the Second Half of the Cross 2

The Christian Salvation Experience

Lucifer attacks the pivotal Christian salvation experience, as would be expected, with one of his most deceptive and malicious lies.  Lucifer accuses the newly born-again Christian, through family, friends, and people at work or school, of being weak in character and “copping-out” by turning to Jesus Christ as a crutch to lean upon in life.

The world accuses the Christian of not being individually strong enough to go-it-on-their-own, without outside assistance from God.  This attack upon the Christian salvation experience subtly attempts to confuse and obscure the real truth behind going-it-on-our-own.

The real truth is that there cannot be a journey of faith with God…while we are in the condition of being our own autonomous god.

There cannot be two people effectively acting as sea captains aboard the same ship.  There cannot be two people acting as main chefs working in the same kitchen.  There cannot be two kings on the same throne.  There cannot be two leaders of the spiritual expedition of faith in a God-directed life.

By definition, a biblical-quality adventure of faith presupposes man in a subordinate position following God.  If we are sitting atop the throne of our lives, the only god we can follow, in that condition, is ourselves.

A journey of faith similar to any of the people of faith in the Bible, in which we can experience the ultimate God-composed life script leading to the discovery of eternal truth and purpose, necessitates first being in the correct spiritual condition of subordination…conducive to being able to follow God.

We are in our highest natural condition as human beings, not as gods.  Born-again Christians, who have stepped down off the thrones of their hearts to make room at the top for God, can now venture out into genuine walks of faith following Jesus Christ wherever He leads, precisely because they are now operating as human beings and not as a gods.   

The Christian salvation experience, of stepping down off the throne of our lives, and regaining through Christ the correct position of spiritual balance…with God above us in the leadership position…is the crossroads turning point of all of human experience.

Both God and Lucifer know that two kings cannot occupy the same throne.  Lucifer deceptively tells man to remain in his fallen nature as gods on the thrones of our lives.  Lucifer’s appeal is to the individualistic pride of man as independent rebels, sitting in the seat of power, freely exercising our God-given talents on the throne of our lives as gods.

God’s alternate appeal to man through the gospel message of salvation is to come down off the throne of our lives and to enter into a walk of faith in fellowship with Him.

Man’s eternal destiny hinges upon grasping and acting rightly upon this concept.  Get this fundamental issue right, and the redeemed Christian man or woman is poised to go forward into a God-composed life-script of trust and faith following Jesus Christ, utilizing the human gifts and abilities each of us were created with.  Get this fundamental issue wrong, reject the offer of pardon and restoration through Christ, and man is doomed to the hopeless individual pursuit of trying to validate himself as the god he is not, and was never intended to be.

One of the exceptional attributes that demonstrates the divinity of God in our world is His ability to take spiritual opposition and craft it into eternally beneficial lessons for the people of faith.  God did not create evil (Jas. 1:13).  But God is so intelligent He can take spiritual darkness and turn it around for His purposes.  The story of Joseph in Egypt is a clear illustration of this principle.

The crucifixion of Christ is the most powerful demonstration of God’s ability to take spiritual opposition, in its most deadly and threatening form, and shape it into a beneficial outcome on a massive scale.

God is so intelligently masterful over events and circumstances that He can even recruit death itself, the universal symbol of defeat and despair resulting from sin, and reshape it into a substitutional atonement from the penalty of sin, purchasing eternal salvation for us through His life, death, and resurrection as the divine Son of God in a human body.

Through the temptation in the Garden of Eden, Lucifer unknowingly handed to God the opportunity to inaugurate for mankind a faith-propelled search for truth involving the knowledge of good and evil…that is so richly illustrated in the life stories of the Bible.

By introducing sin into the world, Lucifer unintentionally brought into existence the major underlying ingredient of spiritual darkness for God to work with, whereby God can compose the fuller and deeper life-script callings of faith previewed for us in the Bible.

It is actually the existence of spiritual darkness in this temporarily broken world that enables us to experience in our own lives the invaluable lessons that expose and clarify the issues that lead to discovering the key to our everlasting peace and happiness (Rom. 8:18).

The Spirit-led Christian of today has the opportunity to understand the fundamental issues of eternal truth recorded in the Bible and developed through first-hand experience, which Adam and Eve would never have been able to comprehend even after thousands of years living in the idyllic environment of the Garden of Eden.

The ingenious creation by God of the vehicle called a walk of faith, through this physical environment of a four-dimensional world of space and time, enables the God-led man or woman to discover first-hand a fundamental eternal lesson.

This lesson is that true fulfillment lies in being unselfishly content in the inspired role of being who and what each of us were created to be, within a trust-filled and loving friendship with God our Father.

A biblical-quality walk of faith restores true reality by allowing God to fill the very large size shoes that only God can fill.

When viewed in this light, the decision to repent and to accept Jesus Christ into our lives is not a sign of character weakness, of supposedly taking the easy way out, of conveniently dumping our problems off on God.

It is instead the most clear-headed, rational, and sensible decision a person in their fallen and spiritually unbalanced condition can make.

A journey of faith in our natural intended role as a human being, with Jesus Christ leading the way, is actually the zenith of all of human experience.  It is at the height of what human beings can achieve.

The decision to accept Christ and to embark on a biblical-quality adventure of faith through life is the pinnacle of our very existence, not a compromise or a cop-out.  The fact that a world mired in spiritual rebellion would scoff, revile, and ridicule the Christian walk of faith following God, should actually be interpreted as an unintended confirmation that laying down our arms as rebels, and taking advantage of God’s current offer of redemptive pardon, is the one true right course of action.

Some Reasons for the Second Half of the Cross 1

“I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.  And be not conformed to this world, but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.”                                                              (Rom. 12:1-2)

The first half of the cross is obviously vitally important.

Eternal salvation and the Christian life begin with repentance and being spiritually reborn (Jn 3:3).

But it is the second half of the cross which sets up the framework for the Christian life after conversion.  It is the second half of the cross which enables the Christian disciple to enter into a genuine adventure of faith following Jesus, to match the lives of faith previewed for us in the Bible.

It is the second half of the cross that opens up the great lessons of truth to be discovered first-hand by the willing disciple, following the promised leading of the Holy Spirit (Jn 16:12-15).

The second half of the cross identifies and exposes the basic human problem.  When we are sitting atop the throne of our lives as our own god, we are in an unnatural condition. When we are living as our own god, we are spiritually out of balance (Eph. 2:1).

God created us with the capacity to be human beings.  God did not create us with the capacity to be gods unto ourselves, outside of a relationship with Him.  In our unsaved condition, when we push God away and usurp the unearned and unqualified position of being a king atop the throne of our heart, we are in spiritual rebellion.  When we are in charge and in control, we have broken away into our own individual spiritual fiefdoms…within the borders of the realm of the king.

This is the basic definition of the spiritual condition called sin.  Only by stepping down off the throne of our lives, and reinstalling Jesus Christ in His rightful position as God and King in our hearts, is spiritual balance restored (Mt. 4:17).

This is one of the explanations for why newly born-again Christians experience an inward sense of joy, peace, and release.

Christians no longer have to continue the unnatural fiction of attempting to be the all-wise and all-knowing god that we were never created to be.  The blood that Jesus shed on the cross not only washes the repentant believer clean of the ill-effects of the rebellion of sin, but also sets in proper order and balance Jesus Christ on the throne of a person’s life.

Genesis 3:5 records Lucifer’s classically deceptive statement to Eve in the Garden of Eden: “For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.”

This was the start of the human problem.  Possessing the knowledge of good and evil has no correlation to the capacity to be an autonomous, independent god.  Knowing the difference between good and evil is indeed one attribute leading partially toward becoming godlike, but having this knowledge alone falls far short of the requirements to make a person a god.

This is the full-disclosure portion of the half-truth of Lucifer’s recruiting campaign that he deceptively left out of the temptation in the Garden.

The resume for being God runs much deeper than merely having one’s eyes open to know good and evil.  Trying to be a god is much more difficult than anyone thought.

Rebellion by itself does not equate to having the elevated capacity to adequately fill the top leadership position that a rebellion creates.  Mankind has been learning the reality of this difficult lesson the hard way for thousands of years.  The basic problem with our planet earth is that there are multitudes of people trying to be junior gods-in-training on their own…who do not have the super-intelligence, wisdom, divine foresight, and perfect character to fulfill that job title.

When Adam and Eve rejected the council of God and ate the fruit from the tree in the midst of the garden, which God told them not to eat, by their willful action they unwittingly said “we do not know or love God well enough yet…to take Him at His word…as opposed to this new enticing offer.”

By this distancing action they pushed God off His rightful place on the thrones of their lives, moved away from the bond of friendship with God built upon mutual trust, and thereby damaged the basis of their relationship with God.

In unspoken words, Adam and Eve said loudly by their action: “we will trust the word of this seemingly better informed serpent instead.”

This fundamental, ill-fated decision left mankind “high-and-dry,” having eyes now opened to the knowledge of good and evil (Gen. 3:8), but without having the divine character capacity to independently be able to cope with the new position of being our own gods.

The unanticipated consequence of their action was to reverse the leadership orientation of their relationship with God…demoting God off the throne as sovereign King…and placing themselves in the top leadership position…now exercising autonomous individualism regarding the course and the direction of their lives…above God.

Lucifer successfully got mankind to join his rebellion, by cleverly tempting us with the seeming allurement of the power of possessing an upper management position over the destinies of our lives, which we are not qualified to occupy.

Because none of us comes with the Operator’s Manual of how we are individually and uniquely supposed to function, the knowledge of good and evil…without the Manufacturer’s Instructions…is essentially worthless.

The long, sad history of mankind struggling unsuccessfully to achieve peace, harmony, security, and happiness as the sole managers of the purpose and direction of our lives…is a manifestation of the unbalanced spiritual condition of mankind trying to live above ourselves as gods, instead of as the potentially wonderful and remarkable human beings that God created us to be.

The Genesis 3:5 temptation in the Garden of Eden had pinpoint accuracy.  Lucifer crafted a cleverly designed temptation of mankind that is still functioning well even today.  Sitting atop the thrones of our lives is still as strong a temptation as ever.

Lucifer knew where to attack non-divine human beings created with free-will.  Intellectually convince someone today that the gospel is true, and at the end of the discussion that person can still decide to reject Christ because they do not want to give up control over their lives.

The in-built drive for excellence that God placed within each human being…lies at the center of the enticing temptation Lucifer offered in his deceptive short-cut around God to obtain the position of being gods onto ourselves.

If our God-created inner drive for excellence was not so strong, this temptation to eat the forbidden fruit would never have gotten traction with Adam and Eve.  If the opportunity to jump at the chance to possess a knowledge of good and evil as our own gods was not so appealing, Adam and Eve would have brushed off this whole encounter with Lucifer in the Garden as nothing immediately important, and would have simply remarked that they would discuss this issue with God and then get back to Lucifer in the near future.

The temptation in the Garden of Eden was a brilliantly aimed, well-executed assault using genuine insight into the nature of superbly crafted human beings made in the image of God, possessing free-will.  This is why spiritual rebellion on earth is as alive and well today as ever.

Jesus 2

Another lesson that we can learn from the life of Jesus is that the quiet years from age twelve to thirty seem, according to conventional wisdom, as counter-intuitive.

We would think that God would pack as much ministry as possible into every minute of the life of Jesus on earth.  We would think that during this period of time all of the people living in the town of Nazareth and its environs would be saved, delivered, and healed of all maladies.  Jesus might even have prevented some destructive natural storms, or blessed the local crops and industries to miraculously prosper, or provided wise council regarding some local town issue.

We would think the legend and renown of Jesus would have spread throughout the region…long before the start of His official ministry.

The Son of God on earth, according to horizontally conventional wisdom, would be an invaluable asset to mankind that should be put into full use.  Yet the will of God the Father is just the opposite.  With incredible self-restraint the Son of God waits on the Father before beginning His earthly public ministry, to the point that the local populace in Nazareth is surprised and offended when He does step forward to assume His role as the Messiah.

They thought… according to conventional wisdom…that any true Messiah would have revealed Himself much earlier, by means of a grander and more spectacular entrance upon the world stage.

The silent years of the life of Jesus are an elegant display of the second half of the cross lived perfectly.

If Jesus had jumped the race starter’s gun and began His ministry a few years ahead of the appointed time according to some humanly expected timetable, Jesus would have been out in front of John the Baptist and would have ruined the prophetic sequence.

Yet all this time Jesus is holding back the ministering care that He could provide to loved ones and acquaintances in Nazareth, as the Son of God.

Jesus stayed within the parameters and boundaries of His calling, from beginning to end.  His will was subordinate to the will of God His Father in heaven.

This is another reason why Jesus is the moderating and balanced way, truth, and life for impatient and impulsive humans…like me at times…inclined to operate through self-energized action.

In the first century, Jesus is restoring sight to the blind, cleansing lepers, healing cripples, casting out demons, multiplying a few fish and loaves of bread to feed thousands, and raising the dead.  He is teaching like no other man has ever taught in history.  Multitudes of people are coming to see and hear Him from all over Israel and Jerusalem.

Yet Jesus has the enormous breadth of character to be able to have the worldly valued “pride of life” (1 Jn 2:15-17) crucified on the cross of Calvary, unselfishly for our salvation.

Jesus is able to span the highest elevations and the lowest depths of human experience.  Jesus can have thousands come to hear Him preach from a hilltop, yet the next moment humbly pick up His cross and head toward Golgotha for our sakes (Mt. 27:39-44).  Jesus suffers the worst possible outcome in life in the first century through Roman crucifixion.  Nothing outwardly epitomizes failure and defeat more than to end life on a cross in agony and shame.

Being a world-class heart surgeon will never exceed raising Lazarus from the dead.  Being a renowned lawyer arguing important issues before the United States Supreme Court will never surpass the instantly brilliant answers that Jesus gave to His critics in their numerous verbal challenges, which have intrigued skeptics and admirers down through the centuries (Matthew 22:46).  World-famous university professors and intellectuals cannot begin to reach the depth of insights in the teachings of Jesus (Mk. 1:22; Jn. 7:46).

Yet one of the most profound things about the character of God as revealed through the earthly ministry of Jesus the Son of God, is that the famous saying: “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do” (Lk. 23:34), was put into practice and is in full operation at the beginning and throughout the ministry of Jesus.

Jesus knows the men of religious and political power who will eventually reject Him and bring about His death (Mt. 12:14-15; Jn 6:64; 7:19; 8:28).  Yet Jesus accepts invitations to eat in their homes (Lk. 7:36), teaches in synagogues throughout Israel and in the temple in Jerusalem, and has Pharisees and scribes around Him most of the time He is in public (Mt. 9:11; 12:2; 12:38).

“Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” was not just a moment of inspiration expressed from the cross, but was a part of the consistent character of loving outreach of Jesus Christ to every person alike during His entire ministry on earth.

The point here is that no one could invent Jesus Christ.  The huge character span capacity we see in Jesus is beyond the conception and creative imagination of human literary invention.  Jesus in the midst of His many challenges recorded in the gospels never falters or makes a mistake.  With Jesus there are no lessons learned the hard-way from past mistakes.

No one could invent such a perfect person.  What frame of reference could the gospel writers draw upon for inspiration to create the perfect person of Jesus Christ?  Not only could not Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John invent the person of Jesus Christ, but no one in any century in all of history could make His story up.

The life of Jesus recorded in the gospels has a unique and singular context as demonstrated only through a perfect, sinless, divine Son of God at the pinnacle of character expressed in a human body, yet with the unfathomable capacity of unselfish love to become the physical sacrifice on the cross as atonement for the righteous judgment of God for our sin.

Shakespeare, Dickens, Tolstoy, Tolkien, or Follett could not invent the person of Jesus, or the broad encompassing adventure of faith that Jesus modeled perfectly for us.

Such Knowledge is Too Wonderful (Ps. 139:6)

This breadth and depth of divine/human experience is how Jesus, and only Jesus, can craft individually tailored life-plans different for every Christian disciple.

Jesus can blend the heights of sublime achievement with the depths of divine humility through the cross, because He went before us in this regard to become the way, the truth, and the life…the author of our salvation.

Jesus Christ as Savior means both the elevated Light of the world, and the lowly sacrificial Lamb of God for our sins.  This means that the breadth and the depth of the opportunities for individual callings is almost limitless in our modern world.

Instead of being incorrectly viewed through fearful unbelief as a limiting and narrowing approach to life, a biblical journey of faith following Jesus Christ is the most broadly liberating adventure in life that is possible (Jn 8:36).  The part that is beneficially narrow…in going through the “narrow gate” of Matthew 7:13-14…is that our self-centered ambition and stubborn adherence to self-in-charge will not fit through the gate leading into this journey of faith.

The second half of the cross is not opposed to the fullest realization of our talents and abilities.  Jesus the Son of God spanned both the heights of divine achievement and the depths of loving self-sacrifice, combined together in perfect harmony.

The Bible is the unprecedented and uniquely singular record of God taking flawed and fallible people and crafting them through a journey of faith into the fulfillment of their created potential.

This is possible because Jesus Christ our Sovereign King fills all-in-all…the height and the depth of what any of us will ever experience in our individualized callings of God.  Jesus Christ fills all-in-all, from the low-point of the utter rejection of the cross (Isa. 53:3-6) to the high-point of the resurrection morning for the redemptive salvation of the world.

Amazingly almost beyond comprehension, flawed and imperfect humans even need God’s help to teach us divine humility through the experiences of the cross.

With the life of Jesus, the cross is not divided into a first and second half as has been done in this book.  Jesus experienced all parts of the cross in perfect totality.  The divine love of God demonstrated through Jesus Christ, is the whole of the cross in its entirety.  Even though Jesus Himself was without sin, He suffered the penalty for sin for us on the cross.  The second half of the cross—death to self-will, self-direction, and self-reliance in favor of God the Father’s will and plan, is integral throughout the life of Jesus from beginning to end.

Through Jesus we have an opportunity to see into the very heart and character of God.  In the life of Jesus, God is telling us that in His world where love and peace rule, there is no place for stubborn self-centeredness.

In the idyllic, morally perfect reality of God, even the eternal Son of God is willing to step down off the throne of His human life in favor of God the Father, in order to fulfill His appointed role and calling as the Savior for mankind.