A Delicate Balance for Unbelief

“And through his policy also he shall cause deceit to prosper in his hand; and he shall magnify himself in his heart, and by peace shall destroy many; and he also shall stand up against the Prince of princes, but he shall be broken without hand.”                                                            (Dan. 8:25)      

 If God wanted to provide incontrovertible proof to the world that Jesus of Nazareth was the Son of God and the promised Messiah to Israel, all Jesus had to do after He was raised from the dead was to walk down the middle of Main Street and right into the temple in Jerusalem, on Tuesday or Wednesday of the first week following His resurrection. 

This is so obvious that we miss it. 

This is like the theological controversy between the Pharisees and the Sadducees in the first-century regarding the resurrection of the dead. 

Jesus answers this question posed to Him as a theological challenge by the Sadducees (Mk. 12:18-27), by pointing out in the scriptures that at the burning bush God identified Himself to Moses as the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  Jesus then says that God is not the God of the dead, but of the living, thus resolving this first-century controversy as to whether there is life after death. 

Even though the Old Testament is not overly definitive on the subject of the afterlife, the answer to this specific question was right there all the time in plain sight in one of the most well-known encounters in the Old Testament, in this exchange between God and Moses at the burning bush.

If the risen Jesus can suddenly appear in a room where the disciples are gathered (Lk. 24:36), and earlier the same day walk alongside two disciples heading for the nearby village of Emmaus (Lk. 24:13-32), it would not have been any more difficult for Jesus to openly walk into the temple in Jerusalem. 

 Then everyone, including the Pharisees and scribes, would believe in Him.

 Why did Jesus only appear to Mary Magdalene at the tomb (Jn. 20:11-18), to Peter (Lk. 24:34), to James (1 Cor. 15:7), to the eleven apostles (Jn. 20:19-23), to five hundred people (1 Cor. 15:6), and to Paul (1 Cor. 15:8)? 

Why did God set-up the gospel-message preaching of the early church based upon the eyewitness testimony of the disciples, instead of the more obvious and beyond-a-doubt visual proof of Jesus walking openly through the streets of Jerusalem after His resurrection? 

 Why did God moderate and fine-tune the impact of the Son of God’s ministry on earth in such a way as to leave intact the ability of large numbers of people to remain in skeptical unbelief for centuries to come? 

 Why is this fine-tuning of the balance between belief and unbelief in the spiritual realm, at a level comparable to the precision of the fine-tuning of the strength of gravity or the cosmological constant in our natural world? 

Why does the Christian witness today begin with our testimony that Jesus Christ lives, that He redeemed us into a new and living way, that the transformation in our lives demonstrates that God is real, and that our knowledge that we now possess eternal life sets us free from a past life in bondage to sin? 

Why do we come home from a prayer meeting at the age of 18 like I did, after becoming a new Christian, into a house and a family that is antagonistic toward the Christian faith (Mt. 10:34-36)? 

Why do we start-out having to earnestly resolve to live the Christian life in all of its purity so that those around us will see His Light within us and also believe? 

Why is it so important for God to maintain this delicate balance between the ability to freely believe in Him, and conversely the freedom to remain in skeptical unbelief, which makes evangelism and the conversion of others so difficult?

The answers to these questions are profoundly deep, yet rather simple to understand. 

The only thing that really matters in our verbally spoken and life-in-action witness about Jesus Christ, is the quality of our transformation into becoming new improved people in Christ. 

All of the persuasive speech in existence will sound empty and flat if our faith in Jesus Christ produces no tangibly noticeable improvement in our outlook, our attitudes, our countenance, and in our actions. 

The acid-test in the witness of any Christian’s testimony to the world is the positive change that has occurred in our lives (Jas. 2:18). 

Once people see this positive change, it is then up to them to evaluate whether or not they will consider and be open to the possibility in their own lives of repenting of their sins before God, abandoning self-in-control through the cross, and following Jesus into a journey of faith creating genuine meaning and purpose for their existence. 

Jesus Christ as seen in the lives and in the verbal testimony of Christians, is what attracts most people to the Christian faith (Mt. 5:16). 

This is why a universally accepted, factual acknowledgement of the existence of God through something like the fictionalized, hypothetical example of the resurrected Jesus walking openly down the main streets of Jerusalem, is unacceptable. 

There must be a broad separation between the two extremes of belief and unbelief, having a wide gray-area center of indecisive fence-sitting, for the intentional and committed discipleship of picking-up our cross to follow Jesus, in order to have real value.

God could easily confirm His existence supernaturally anytime to the satisfaction of the most skeptical people on earth today.  God could remove unbelief in an instant. 

But then our decision to follow Jesus Christ in response to His love would not be based upon a voluntary free-will choice. 

We do not voluntarily choose to believe in the existence of the noonday sun.  We do not choose to believe in two plus two equals four.  These are obvious, involuntarily acknowledged facts that require no faith or choice whatsoever. 

A resurrected Jesus walking into the temple in Jerusalem, or walking openly down its main city streets, would not result in a free-will choice to believe, trust, and follow Him in response to His loving invitation for an intimate friendship. 

It would simply change the nature of faith in Jesus Christ into an incontrovertible fact, conferring no more virtue upon its adherents than upon the observation that the noonday sun exists.

One reason that God has maintained the delicate balance between belief and unbelief throughout the long course of human redemptive history, is that it adds meaning to the free-will choice of human beings to believe in God to the point of yielding their lives to His will and leading. 

The virtue of following God through thick-and-thin, like Abraham, Joseph, Moses, David, Peter, and Paul, only has genuine meaning in a world where people can freely push God away and live their lives in total self-sovereignty apart from God. 

This delicate balance between belief and unbelief in the spiritual realm is just as vitally important, indeed maybe more so in the eternal scheme of things, than the delicate balance of the fine-tuning of the current laws of physics in the natural universe. 

Alter even slightly the force of gravity in the cosmos, and the delicate balance of factors needed to support complex life collapses. 

 Alter even slightly this delicate spiritual balance of belief and unbelief, and the working out of the eternal issues of right and wrong in our relationship to God lose all sense of free-will choice, directional purpose, and ultimate meaning.

God Has Not Revealed Everything Yet

            The seven-year tribulation period is traditionally understood by many Christians to begin with the “covenant” that the Antichrist makes with the nation of Israel described in Daniel 9:24-27. 

            For purposes of this book, I am assuming a seven-year tribulation period, recognizing that many past and present Christians have suggested a three and one-half year tribulation, and that there is disagreement as to what to do with the second half of the 70th week of Daniel after the messiah is “cut off” and the sacrifice caused to “cease.” 

            Every Christian knows from the gospels of Matthew and Luke, and the book of Revelation, that there will be an end-times great tribulation. 

            The question of how long the tribulation will last and when the rapture would occur, is still open.  

            The scenario of world events that would lead to the nation of Israel signing such a peace agreement with the involvement of the Antichrist is currently not known.  The idea that the chaos following a worldwide rapture would precipitate the series of events that would facilitate the rise of the Antichrist, is speculative conjecture based upon one plausible scenario among many other possible alternatives. 

            No human being has all of this completely figured out at this time. 

            We currently do not know what would be the magnitude of the impact that a worldwide disappearance of hundreds of millions of Christians and underage children, through the rapture, upon the psyche of the world’s current 7-billion population. 

            The only real expert here is the Holy Spirit.

             It is not an article of faith to accept the viewpoint that the rapture is required to set up the conditions for the rise of the Antichrist.   This particular viewpoint does not have to be taken as gospel.  

            There are a number of possible events that could create the environment conducive for the rise of the Antichrist, some of which may be revealed already in Matthew 24:4-7 depending upon the order, magnitude, and timing of their particular occurrence. 

            The ancient hatred of the Arab countries for the nation of Israel alone has enough explosive political energy within it to propel a deceptive, smooth-talking, outwardly charismatic peacemaker into world prominence and power.

            Christians, at this time, do not have to commit to anyone’s particular end-times interpretation, including my own viewpoint as expressed in this book. 

            Nowhere in the Bible, that I can find, does it say that we must have all of the last days events completely figured out one-hundred percent ahead of time. 

            It is allowable, even divinely purposed (Joel 2:28-29), to hold some questions in suspension for a while until actual events begin to unfold. 

            The teaching that because the Bible is one-third prophecy, that this automatically infers that we can put all of the jigsaw puzzle pieces of the end-of-time biblical prophecies together completely ahead of time, sounds commendably logical on its surface according to horizontally conventional thinking, but this viewpoint is not biblically correct. 

            The parable of the fig tree (Mt. 24:32-35) suggests that Christians must watch for the sprouting of the leaves (end-times events) to know when the end is near. 

            Joel 2:28-32 tells us that in the last days our sons and daughters will prophesy, young men will see visions, and old men shall dream dreams. 

            This implies that there is additional, fill-in-the-gaps, Holy Spirit breathed and validated prophetic information to be revealed at the appropriate future time when this information begins to become applicable. 

            This divinely promised, definitive revelation will be a timely and welcome improvement over the varied opinions and interpretations that have been commendably and honestly debated over the past several centuries.

Biblical Faith 3

            Does the life-story of Abraham match the analogy that Jesus presents of a seed falling into the ground to die, rising up to produce much fruit?

            Does the postponement of the birth of Isaac the son of promise represent God dangling the desire-of-the-heart out of the reach of Abraham and Sarah for a period of time, for a capricious and ill-intentioned motive, or does utilizing this innately created characteristic in Abraham instead produce the unique context for biblical faith to actualize, to rise-up out of the ground to become a supernaturally created, fruit-bearing tree?

            Does this concept starting with Abraham reside at the pinnacle of moral reasoning, at the very peak of importance in the long expanse of human redemptive history?

            Moving along in the Bible, certainly the life-story of Joseph in Egypt demonstrates over his lifetime the innate, in-built capacity to successfully manage the sheep herding family-business in Canaan. 

            But the series of extraordinary events that leads to Joseph governing the entire nation of Egypt during a great famine, as a Hebrew foreigner, falls outside of not only the human capacity of Joseph to contrive and self-orchestrate, but falls outside of his ability to even imagine ahead of time.

            The information-content that describes the person and life-plan destiny of Joseph, placed inside him like a seed, finds brilliant fulfillment through his God-composed life-script that begins with his innate talents and abilities, tinged with the arrogance of being his father’s favorite son. 

            These innate talents must first fall into the ground and die for a period of time as a servant-slave in Potiphar’s house, and as a falsely accused felon in Pharaoh’s prison, before this divinely composed life-script for Joseph can actualize into concrete reality.

            Moses will not commence the deliverance of the Hebrew slaves from Egypt by killing an Egyptian and hiding his body in the sand.  Moses incorrectly assumed by this action that his Hebrew “brethren” (Acts 7:23-28) would recognize and acknowledge his calling to deliver them from bondage.

            No human power on earth could deliver the Israelites from bondage as slaves in Egypt.

            But at the burning bush, the innate abilities created within Moses, match-up with the God-composed life-script calling for Moses, and he enters into the spectacular and larger-than-life destiny through faith and trust in God and not in himself, that according to Hebrews 11:6 cited above pleases God and benefits a large number of people. 

            Who else in the Bible falls into this same pattern of an information-rich seed first falling into the ground to die before rising out of the ground to become an apple, orange, or avocado tree, to realize their in-built potential?

            Joshua has good reason to fear the heavily fortified, walled cities of the Canaanites that he has been tasked by God to militarily conquer.

            God says to Joshua several times throughout this campaign to conquer the Promised Land: “Fear not, neither be thou dismayed” (Josh. 8:1).

            Yet Joshua and the Israelites have to learn the hard-way on two occasions about the difficulty of the transition from self-sovereignty to God-sovereignty (Josh. 7:3-5, 9:14-15).

            Certainly, David knows intimately about the concept of a seed falling into the ground to die, rising up to become a specific “tree” with a specified purpose and destiny bearing much fruit.

            Even though David is anointed at the age of seventeen by the great prophet Samuel to become the next king in Israel, David somehow understands that he cannot help-out God to fulfill his calling when on two occasions David could have taken the life of King Saul (1 Sam. 24:4-7, 26:8-12).

            It would be safe to say that like Joseph in Pharaoh’s prison three months before God gives the famine dream to Pharaoh, David’s low-point at Ziklag (1 Sam. 30:6) comes at the end of the long process of a seed dying in the ground.

            Both Joseph and David rise-up into their respective destinies having their innate talents and abilities still intact, but now redirected within the narrow gate and the hard way of God-sovereignty (Mt. 7:13-14) to be now able to “bring forth much fruit.”   

            Similar scenarios of seeds falling first into the ground to die can be derived from the stories of Gideon (Jud. 7:2), Ruth (Ruth. 1:16-18), Hannah (1 Sam. 1:15-16), Elijah (1 Ki. 19:10), Jeremiah (Jer. 20:7-9), Esther and Mordecai (Est. 4:16-17), Daniel (Dan. 2:12-18), Ezra (Ezra 4:21-24), Nehemiah (Neh. 1:11), Joseph and Mary (Lk. 2:41-52), John the Baptist (Jn. 3:30), Peter (Lk. 22:61-62), James the half-brother of Jesus (1 Cor. 15:7), the disciples (Mk. 14:50), the early Christian church as a whole (Acts 8:1), the apostle Paul (Acts 9:3-9), and Jesus Christ (Lk. 22:42), to name a few.

            Self-sovereignty is incapable of “bringing forth much fruit” according to autonomous individualism because human beings lack divine foresight and timeless foreknowledge.

            Only God can write the extraordinary and unconventional biblical narrative stories of faith matching the in-built, personal capabilities of the people of faith with callings that have supernatural missions, goals, and outcomes that are only assessable through the biblical faithdescribed in Hebrews 11:1 and 11:6.

            Falling into the ground as a seed to die, picking-up our cross to follow Jesus, entering in at the narrow gate (Mt. 7:13-14), ”hating” this life in terms of “the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life” (1Jn. 2:15-16) are the necessary components of making the transition from self-sovereignty to God-sovereignty, in the realm of the kingdom of God where all things are possible.

            In John 15:5 Jesus is recorded as saying: “I am the vine, ye are the branches:  He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.”

            The supernatural participation of God in the biblical narrative stories of faith that separates-out atheists and agnostics into unbelief, is the very thing that creates the life within the God-composed journey of faith life-scripts.

            The self-sovereignty of going our own way is the wide gate and the broad way of Matthew 7:13-14 that leads to destruction, because on that broad road of self-autonomy God has no opportunity to make the connection between our created abilities and the life-script He has written for us that can bring forth much fruit.

            Self-sovereignty is the way of rebellion and chaos, of thinking our ways are better than God’s ways and is unacceptable in the kingdom of God in a timeless eternity.

            Only faith and trust in God will push through the adversity of falling into the ground as a seed to first have our own will and ideas die, in order for God to raise us up according to our in-built capacity and destiny, to walk with Him through life along a supernatural path that has the unique and individual context to bring forth much fruit as articulated in the brilliant John 12:24-25 verses quoted above.

Biblical Faith 2

            I do not think it would be a stretch to infer from the life-script of God’s calling of Abraham to say that the desire to produce a family was a high-priority in the information-package divinely created within the “seed” that describes the person and character of Abraham.

            Abraham has everything…wealth, possessions, servants, and a beautiful wife he loves…but he does not have a family upon arrival in Canaan.

            At the very center of the God-composed life-script for Abraham is a promise of descendants as numerous as the dust of the earth, pinpointing at the outset of his calling a divinely created, in-built desire-of-the-heart for Abraham that is accurately utilized by God in fashioning Abraham to become over time, through a series of divinely crafted events the “father of faith.”

            Yet this same created, innate desire for a normal family-life also produces the context for the problem with Sarah, Hagar, and Ishmael. 

            This sets-up the supreme challenge of faith for Abraham on Mount Moriah (modern day Jerusalem) that may be the most difficult test that any human being has ever been asked of God to face, other than Jesus Christ as the Passover Lamb of God two thousand years later at Calvary.

            In other words, God not only crafted the life-script adventure of faith for Abraham, but God as Creator placed within Abraham the unique information-content of being the right “seed” to take this adventure of faith on God’s terms all the way to a successful conclusion, to produce good fruit (Heb. 11:17-19; Rom. 4:3).

            What makes the biblical narrative stories of faith so extraordinary as to validate their divine origin starting with Abraham, is that Abraham’s own ability to produce children of promise through Sarahneeded to fall into the ground to die like a seed in order to rise up as a supernaturally endowed and beneficial life-story. 

            This then rises far above the worldly conventionality of self-produced outcomes through autonomous individualism (Gen. 17:15-19).

            It would appear from the biblical narrative stories of faith that the big-picture, fundamental objective is worldly unconventional to the core.

            The big-picture objective gleaned from the biblical narrative stories of faith examples is not to validate our worth and value according to self-reliant self-achievement (Mk. 8:36) using our created talents and abilities apart from God, but instead to validate an entirely different objective.

            That entirely different objective is to create the unique contexts for biblical faith to actualize into personal relationships between people and God, at the height of our created purpose and destiny.

            Can Abraham produce children on his own within worldly conventional normalcy and thinking, without God’s divine intervention, outside of the promises of God?

            The answer is yes. 

            After the death of Sarah, Abraham took another wife, Keturah, who gave birth to Zimran, Jokshan, Medan, Midian, Ishbak, and Shuah.

            We should not forget that Abraham produced Ishmael his first son through Hagar (Gen. 16:15). 

            But we do know from scripture (Gen. 17:19) that Abraham cannot produce Isaac the son of promise, other than through Sarah.

            The three men that visited Abraham and Sarah in the plains of Mamre recorded in Genesis chapter 18, the leader being called Lord by Abraham (I believe this was Jesus the Son of God) confirms for us that in this critical opening scenario introducing the biblical narrative stories of faith, this worldly unconventional and innovative component of God validates His divine participation in the affairs of mankind.

            This is for the highest imaginable reasons.

            The life-story of Abraham does not validate the fact that Abraham is capable of producing a large and happy family-life on his own according to conventional thinking, but instead that God can create the new reality of biblical faith as defined in Hebrews 11:1.

            The life-script for Abraham has a gap in time between the initial calling of Abraham with God’s promise of descendants as numerous as the dust of the earth, and the fulfillment of this promise coming years later, that forms the context for this biblical faith to actualize into real human life experience.

Biblical Faith

            When God created the seeds for apple, orange, peach, and avocado trees…and for corn, wheat, and barley crops…He placed within each unique type of seed the information that would not only grow into large-sized trees and farm fields as far as the eye can see, but would also produce very specific and different kinds of edible fruits and grains.

            John 12:24-25 records the words of Jesus:

24 Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a grain of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone; but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit. 

25 He that loveth his life shall lose it; and he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal.                         

            In these verses Jesus introduces a concept that is unique in all of human experience and literary imagination, yet is universally standard within every biblical narrative story of faith.

            This includes His own experience in Gethsemane, at Calvary Hill, and on Resurrection Day.

            There is a pattern that is discernable within the callings of the people of faith in the Bible starting with Abraham’s detailed and highly specific life-script, all the way through to the calling and ministry of the apostle Paul. 

            This pattern authenticates the divine origin of the biblical narrative stories of faith, but at the same time also provides inspirational guidance as to what Christians today should expect in their callings and mission-plans from God.

            Like the information that is contained within the seed that grows into an apple, orange, or fig tree, God as our Creator knows exactly the precise information He has placed within each and every human being.

            The analogy that Jesus uses in John 12:24 above, of a seed first having to die in the ground in order to emerge as a tree or plant as applied to the people of faith in the biblical narrative stories of faith, reveals to us over the long expanse of human redemptive history different types of people, callings, and missions that match the in-built personalities, capabilities, and characteristics of each specific person.

            This islike the seeds for apple, orange, or avocado trees.

            Like the farmer recognizing and knowing the type of seed they are planting, God knows what He has placed within us to be able to enter successfully into an adventure of faith and to fulfill our unique and singular missions with His assistance along the way.

            One question that is crucial here is how does the apple tree know when it is time to stop growing and begin to produce fruit, to produce apples?

            This information is contained initially in the apple seed, and then in the individual cells of the apple tree.

            The same is true for the born-again Christian today, no matter what is our calling and circumstances.

            One thing that pleases God according to Hebrews 11:6 cited above, is to be able to match-up the innate, in-built capacities He has created within us with a God-composed life-script actualized within the events and circumstances of this present world, for our benefit and for the benefit of other people, through a relationship of mutual trust and faith.

            This dynamic of an adventure of faith is designed by God to last and to endure for eternity.

            This insight of John 12:24-25, universal within every biblical narrative story of faith is so deep it eludes all naturalistic explanations for its origin in the marketplace of ideas. 

            It completely surpasses the reach of the worldly conventionality of humanistic literary imagination.

            This concept is found exclusively in all of literature only in the Bible, actualized in the counterintuitive idea of our worldly conventional ideas dying on our individual crosses, as seeds planted in the ground, alongside Jesus on His cross (Mk. 8:34-35).

            God displaces our self-directed ways with His higher ways and thoughts within a God-composed journey of faith life-script, brilliantly replacing self-sovereignty with God-sovereignty which only God could do.

We Cannot Orchestrate a Journey of Faith

            One of the all-time classic themes of the Bible is that the God-composed journeys of faith life-scripts recorded in the biblical narrative stories of faith are beyond our capacity to contrive or to even imagine ahead of time. 

            As the Creator of everything and everyone, God alone knows our individual attributes and abilities, and thus has the singularly unique starting point for crafting life-scripts for an Abraham, Joseph, Moses, David, Peter, and Paul, to name a few of the people of faith in the Bible. 

            Adventures of faith, because of their supernatural origin, stretch people to achieve more than they could have imagined possible. 

            Adventures of faith reveal that God knows us inside and out by the precise matching of our adventure of faith to talents, abilities, and newfound, morally noble characteristics we did not even know ahead of time we possessed. 

            If we could go back in time and interview the people of faith in the Bible, they would tell us unanimously to a person that they initially had no idea they had the innate ability to go as far as God took them, through their individually crafted adventures of faith.

            I think it would be reasonably safe to say that Abraham did not see himself as the future “father of faith” as he walked from the city of Haran toward the land of Canaan (Gen. 17:18). 

            Although Joseph probably had a good sense of his innate leadership talents, it is doubtful that he ever imagined that he would someday become governor of Egypt, while he labored in Potiphar’s house and languished in Pharaoh’s prison. 

            Moses certainly has no way of seeing into the future the great deliverance of the Israelites from Egypt, as he tries unsuccessfully to talk God out of the immense calling at the burning bush that Moses now feels he is no longer a qualified candidate for (Ex. 3:11).     

            Gideon objects to God’s calling for him to deliver Israel from the oppressive occupation by the Midianites, saying that he is the least even within his own family (Jud. 3:15).  Gideon then comes-up with his proverbial “fleece-test” to confirm that he correctly understands God’s intentions for him 

            As Ruth the foreigner follows her mother-in-law Naomi back to Naomi’s native country Israel, Ruth has no idea that she will capture the attention and affection of the wealthy, noble, and godly Boaz.  Through her marriage to Boaz, Ruth becomes part of the royal lineage that produced King David and culminated, roughly a thousand years later, in the birth of Jesus Christ the eternal King and Savior.

            Elijah complains to God that he is all alone in his opposition to the evil king Ahab and queen Jezebel (1 Ki. 19:14). 

            Jeremiah protests to God that he is too young to be a prophet (Jer. 1:6). 

            We detect in both Ezra and Nehemiah an underlying, suspenseful trepidation just below the surface in their difficult callings to rebuild the walls around Jerusalem, and to rebuild the temple.

            Certainly, Peter is utterly clueless as he goes out of the courtyard of Caiaphas to weep bitterly over his failure to courageously stand by Jesus during His night trial.  Unbeknownst to Peter at the time, standing courageously alongside Jesus would have resulted in Peter needlessly occupying a fourth cross on Calvary the next day. 

            Peter did not realize at the time that the crucifixion of the Son of God for the sins of the world was preordained before the creation of the universe (1 Pet. 1:20), and that Peter’s role at that moment was not to be a martyr for the faith, but to instead be one of the leaders of the early church in Jerusalem. 

            Being the head of the early Christian church and its chief spokesman in Jerusalem amidst intense opposition required a quality of courage and fidelity that Peter painfully discovered in the courtyard of Caiaphas that fateful night, that Peter did not possess on his own without the power of the Holy Spirit (Acts 4:8-12).

            Certainly, as Saul/Paul approached the city of Damascus to arrest Christians, he had no idea that he would soon become the foremost champion of the very faith that he started-out opposing with such fearsome persecution. 

            At that precise moment, before the supernatural light of Jesus Christ shined down from heaven upon him, Paul had no idea that he possessed the inner capacity to become the missionary evangelist to the first-century Greco-Roman world.

            Paul could not contemplate ahead of time that he would compose the divinely inspired New Testament letters to the early Christian churches he helped create, that he would develop the love for other people that could write First Corinthians 13:4-8 now famous throughout the modern world, or that he had the innate people skills that could form the intimate relationships revealed in Romans chapter 16.

            All of these people, along with every person of faith recorded in the Bible would testify that the higher plans that God had for them in life stretched them beyond anything they could or would have imagined (Psalm 23).    

            This component of biblical faiththat is a stretch beyond our human ability to contrive or imagine, argues for the divine origin of the Bible. 

            Biblical faith is not armchair philosophy. 

            No human could or would invent it through contemplative imagination.

            The element in the biblical narrative storylines of God displacing our ways with His higher ways is the factual component that entirely excludes all humanistic explanations for the origin of these stories.

            Atheistic critics of Christianity and the Bible today completely miss this biblical faith component in the narrative stories of faith, incorrectly interpreting as myth what in actuality is beyond the inventive imagination of humanistic conventional thinking. 

            The biblical narrative in a modern world inserts an alternate worldview to worldly conventional normalcy and thinking. 

            The biblical narrative offers a new and living way (Heb. 10:20) into human life that contains the guided trajectories of purpose and meaning, in a true way that cannot be orchestrated through worldly conventional normalcy.

The Temptation of Jesus in the Wilderness 2

            The biblical narrative stories of faith, including and especially the life-script for Jesus Christ demonstrate that only God has the complete picture, that only God has all of the information along with timeless foresight and absolute moral goodness.

            Satan was unable to comprehend and to foresee the final outcome of the Passover, of the blood of a lamb applied to the exterior top and sides of the entry doors to the dwellings of the Jews in Egypt (Ex. 12:7).  This effectuated the plague of the “destroyer” death to safely Passover the houses of the “children of Israel in Egypt” (Ex. 12:27), re-enacted by Jews every year thereafter as the Passover celebration for roughly 1,500 years. 

            Satan was unable to grasp and to anticipate the Passover as a foreglimpse of the prime mission of Jesus Christ the Son of God to be that very Passover Lamb of God.

            If Satan had any foresight and advanced knowledge into the true mission-plan of Jesus at the time of the temptation in the wilderness, he would not have wasted one of his temptations on the idea that Jesus of Nazareth would be susceptible, would lower His sights, to the enticing allurement of using worldly power and glory as a shortcut to achieve His destiny. 

            The offer of this worldly conventional means by which to save the world that might presumably tempt Jesus, again clothed as a deceptive half-truth but lacking the complete picture was intended for Jesus to take the quick and easy worldly path to accomplishing His mission.

            Whatever was miscalculated by Satan at that moment in time, the underlying destructive intention was to subordinate Jesus to Satan’s authority (Lk 4:7), the main goal of this temptation in the wilderness.

            To sacrifice His unique role and singular opportunity as the Son of God in a human body, in order to accomplish the saving of the world by taking its repair into His own hands by using the standard, worldly conventional means of political power, glory, and influence, to Satan’s thinking might be appealing to Jesus.

            As a “shot-in-the-dark” this corrupted form of self-sacrifice at the enormous cost of abandoning God-sovereignty, of worshipping Satan as the means to an easier way to save the world, might work at that critically opportune time of the physical weakness of Jesus after fasting in the wilderness (Lk. 4:1-4).

            But Jesus emphatically rejects this tempting proposal put forward by Satan, choosing instead the elevated life-script composed by Jesus, God the Father, and the Holy Spirit before the foundation of the world (Rev. 13:8).

            Jesus Christ knows His own life-script calling andmission-plan, because Jesus of Nazareth as the Son of God in a human body possesses all of the information ahead-of-time (Lk. 2:49; Mt. 9:6, 9:28, 12:40, 26:53-54; Jn. 18:36-37, 19:10-11), being in direct communion and communication with God the Father at all times (Mt. 11:27; Jn 3:34).  

            The unique life-script for Jesus Christ to become the Passover Lamb of God atoning sacrifice for mankind’s sin, elevated and transcendent far above worldly conventional normalcy and thinking, was foreglimpsed in the aborted sacrifice of Isaac on Mount Moriah (Gen. 22:8), was foreglimpsed in the yearly Passover instituted at the time of the deliverance of the Israelites from Egypt (Ex. 12:1-28), and was foreglimpsed in the brazen serpent lifted up on a pole by Moses during the Exodus (Num. 21:8-9; Jn. 3:14).

            The extraordinary revelation here that illuminates the real truth about God is that Satan at the time of the temptation of Jesus in the wilderness was incapable of envisioning and comprehending a higher, transcendent mission-plan for Jesus the divine Son of God, to absorb within Himself the sins of the world.

            Satan cannot rise above his own limited capacity and character, in crafting his temptations for Jesus Christ of Nazareth, and for human beings today.

            This is where God can outpace and out-run Satan, as demonstrated in the biblical narrative stories of faith, and in God-composed journey of faith life-scripts for Spirit-born Christians today.

The Temptation of Jesus in the Wilderness 1

            The temptation in the wilderness of Jesus regarding the attractive appeal of the kingdoms of this world, and the power and glory of them (Lk. 4:5-8), as the sole means to solve the problems of this world, should not automatically be disqualified as not being commendable and admirable just because it comes out of the mouth of Satan.

            The cleverest and most appealing of the destructive temptations by Satan contain a kernel of partial truth, being half-truths that have some measure of positive value.

            The destructive nature of Satan’s temptations is that they rob the intended target of realizing the fuller benefit of the half-truth being deceitfully offered, having a final, hidden outcome that intentionally and knowingly falls far short of the misleading promise conveyed.

            This is like unknowingly accepting a one-hundred dollar-bill from a counterfeiter, only to find out later at the grocery store that it is worthless.

            The precisely targeted temptations by Satan in the Garden of Eden (Gen. 3:1-5), of Jesus in the wilderness (Lk. 4:1-15), and now being put forward in this present time attempt to get people to lower their sights to aim for things below their created potential, to aim for lower goals that miss the mark of people’s divinely intended destinies.

            Human beings were created with the privileged capacity to be able to have a personal relationship with our Creator God, to know Him from the least to the greatest (Jer. 31:34).

            One of the most misguided tragedies in this life is to become side-tracked by alternative goals that distract, frustrate, and dilute the fully realized human life-script of enjoying a walk with God through life, that actualizes into reality this intimate personal relationship with God.

            The destructive intentions deceptively hidden within the temptations by Satan are masked within the details of choices and suggested courses of action, that have the outward appearance at first glance of being reasonably beneficial and sensible.

            By taking these classic temptations apart piece-by-piece, sunlight being the best disinfectant, what is revealed is the realtruth about God in our modern world (Jn. 10:10). 

            For example, the temptation of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden that: “ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil” (Gen. 3:5), hopelessly falls short of its implied benefit.

            It misleadingly falls short of the whole story, because simply knowing about good and evil alone without the dual accompanying divine capacities of timeless foresight and absoluteperfect character, leads to the despair of failure. 

            It leads to the frustration of not be able to fully achieve consistent success, of not being able to produce and maintain the trouble-free life of secure happiness, of elevated safely above and out of the vulnerable zone of being corruptible and mistake-prone.

            In a nutshell, going our own way at the compromised lower level of lost potential is an accurate description of flawed human nature.  In essence, this is a fundamental explanation for the imperfect record of human history.

            Our modern culture denigrates the story of the temptation of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden as a human invented, literary myth, but the highly sophisticated theme here is far above and outside of the boundaries of worldly conventional normalcy and thinking. 

            To lightly dismiss this Garden of Eden temptation story as having a human imaginative origin, in my opinionis being naïvely uncritical and short-sighted.

            No human literary writer at the time of the writing of the book of Genesis, or in modern times today, could or would get within ten miles of this story of the downward fall of mankind being negatively defined as venturing out on our own within the self-reliance of self-sovereignty, this being the very cornerstone of humanism.

            Obtaining the knowledge of good and evil alone, on thecheap in the Garden of Eden by merely eating a particular fruit from a tree, is like someone giving us an automobile for free that has no motor.  It may be beautiful on the outside, but it is not functional in terms of getting anywhere.

            That “knowing good and evil” alone would be a positive thing for mankind is a classic example of being a half-truth having an end-point outcome that does not fully deliver as advertised.

            The only way that “knowing good and evil” successfully operates for autonomous human beings walking within our own self-composed life-scripts apart from God, is if we also innately possess the timeless foresight to see into the future to make correct decisions ahead-of-time, and possess the absolute perfectcharacter to always without exception choose the right course of action for the optimum benefit to ourselves and to other people

            Without possessing timeless foresight and absolute goodness, then knowing good and evil becomes a Catch-22 dilemma of only being able to recognize, appreciate, and second-guess our past bad choices and mistakes in hindsight, after-the-fact in the reactive, cleanup mode.

            Not having the benefit in-the-moment of being able to see ahead into the future the final outcomes of our decisions, choices, and actions now in the present time, and not being able to divinely separate and parse the subtleties of good from evil at the proactive, preventive, and trouble-free level of perfect character, is a current reality of human life

            But acquiring the knowledge of good and evil alone, as non-divine human beings, does indeed work extremely well if this clearly recognizable deficiency in our nature is repaired by the addition of a personal connection with our Creator God.

            The essence of the biblical narrative stories of faith is that the God of the Bible does possess the divine attributes of timeless foresight and absolute perfect goodness, a reality that is brilliantly patterned for us in the detailed life-scripts of these worldly unconventional, biblical narrative stories of faith.

            The tempting appeal of independently acquiring for ourselves one of the legs of the three-legged stool required as a first-start to becoming “as gods,” the three legs of the stool being at a minimum the knowledge of good and evil, timeless foresight, and perfect character, this hasty and rash decision by Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden carries with it the unimaginably destructive, hidden by-product of going our own way (Isa. 53:6).

            A thoughtfully questioning and worldly-savvy Adam and Eve might have more wisely answered back to the serpent: “What you say sounds good and appealing on the surface, but there is no rush.  We will first discuss this with God, think about it, and then get back to you in a few days.  Also, we know God just well-enough now to trust His judgment, and will ask God to elaborate further on why He told us not to eat this fruit, and why someone like you would be suggesting we do otherwise.  We will put the question squarely to God if there might be another alternate reality we are missing-out on in this Garden of Eden, that is independent of and contrary to the council of God, before making our decision regarding this new option you present.”

            The absence of all of the information needed to make a thoughtful decision, of not having the whole picture, identifies this temptation in the Garden of Eden as having such a malicious and destructive intention.

            Its subtlety is masked within a half-truth containing some limited measure of appealing value, enabling us now in hindsight to be able to categorize this temptation by Satan as being an injuriously deceptive evil.

            This is evidenced on a monumental scale as demonstrated every day in the front pages of newspapers around the world, of people having a knowledge of good and evil but being incapable as less-than-divine gods to divinely control life-events consistently towards favorable outcomes.   

            The temptation in the Garden of Eden essentially gave us a bank account with a checkbook full of checks that we are unable to cash.  It gave us a brand-new automobile without an engine.

            Applying this same line-of-reasoning to the temptation of Jesus in the wilderness, the pivotal turn-about here is that Satan did not know…that this time he was the one who was partially uninformed at the time of the temptation of Jesus in the wilderness, about the premeditated and timeless plans of God for Jesus to be the Passover Lamb of God atoning sacrifice for sin (1 Cor. 2:8). 

            Psalm 22 and Isaiah 53 were brilliantly hidden in the Old Testament scriptures as prophetic, predicted events to be fulfilled centuries later in the future, as were actualized into reality on Calvary Hill and on Easter morning in Jerusalem about three and one-half years after this temptation of Jesus took place in the wilderness.

            Satan is a created being and does not possess the divine attributes of divine foresight and foreknowledge.  This time around Satan himself was not “with-it” and divinely savvy to know in advance the precise plans of God for the redemption and salvation of mankind.

            The temptation of Jesus in the wilderness to use the power and glory of the kingdoms of this world as the means to fix humanity’s problems was not an off-target, misdirected temptation.  It was not a random, shot-in-the-dark outcome of Satan’s not fully knowing in advance of the precise details of the life-script for Jesus Christ the Son of God, in a human body here on earth.

            But in crafting this deceptive temptation of Jesus in the wilderness, what separates itself out here that tells us a great deal about the real truth about God, is that Satan this time was the one who did not possess all of the information.

Gethsemane 2

            Satan (Lucifer), like many of us today, thought he knew better than God. 

            Satan persists today in his rebellion against God because he thinks his destiny is to replace God.

            The error of sin in human nature is to insist upon being in complete control as junior gods sitting atop the thrones of our lives, a position that we are only partially qualified to occupy.

            This is where the “I will do this and I will do that,” self-serving, God-less attitude comes from. 

            By contrast, the example that Jesus sets for us with enormous personal difficulty in the Garden of Gethsemane, and the way that He opened up for us in life through His own painful death on the cross, is based upon the words: “nevertheless, notmy will, but thine, be done.”

            Satan and unregenerate mankind, by contrast, hate the idea of submitting themselves to the loving and unselfish rulership of God in their lives to such an extent that they will actually go to the extreme measure of attempting to kill God Himself to get rid of this idea. 

            When God willingly allowed Himself to be crucified through the Second Person of the Trinity, through Jesus the Son of God, He unmasked the truly evil character of the go-it-on-our-own-without-God approach to life. 

            Stubborn pride is that strong within self-autonomy.  It will refuse God any participation in our lives if this participation infringes even a little upon our own will and way. 

            This is why the world pushes Jesus Christ away.  This is why the gospel message of love and forgiveness is so inexplicably offensive to the world. 

            This is the central issue at the core of our existence.  When we are operating as our own god, atop the throne of our lives, we are lost (Jn. 8:24).

            This is the root cause behind humanity’s problems. 

            This issue cost Jesus Christ His life, on our behalf, through the cross.  It will likewise cost us death to our self-in-charge natures when we choose to follow Christ. 

            An essential part of becoming born-again in the Spirit is not only acknowledging Jesus Christ as Savior, but also restoring Him to His rightful position as Lord in our lives.  

            In the motion picture Ben Hur, staring Charlton Heston, toward the end of the movie Judah Ben Hur, his future wife Esther, and his mother and sister are sitting on the side of a long stairway as the condemned prisoner Jesus is ascending the steps carrying His cross. 

            Judah Ben Hur’s mother Miriam, and his sister, Tersa, both have contracted leprosy.  Esther had thought to bring the two women to hear Jesus preach, and thus give them the hope that there was a life after death, free of leprosy.  But instead of being able to listen to the teaching of Jesus as they had hoped, all four were surprised to find that Jesus had been tried, condemned, and sentenced to death by crucifixion. 

            As Jesus approached them carrying His cross, Esther asked in amazed astonishment “how can this be?’  How could the religious rulers in Jerusalem and the Roman authorities have condemned Jesus, a teacher of righteousness and the healer of so many people, to something as unthinkable as execution by Roman crucifixion? 

            At the cross is where the stark contrast between the vulgarities of human sin crashes up against the divine love of God. 

            Mankind at that moment was unwittingly displaying its own worst condition. 

            In open view, for all to see, was the futility of man’s wisdom and self-works when they exist apart from God, as mankind was performing the most embarrassing indignity possible in putting to death its own Creator.  Nothing remotely imaginable could be more wrong than this. 

            To God’s everlasting credit, this very same misguided and inexcusable action by the Pharisees, Sadducees, scribes, and Roman rulers, was providing the means for salvation and eternal life to mankind through a divine atonement for man’s sins. 

            At that moment in history, the two opposing viewpoints and lifestyles available to all human beings through the freedom of choice…being self-autonomy apart from God leading to sin, and fellowship with God leading to holiness…violently crash with deadly impact against each other at the cross of Christ. 

            If ever there was a persuasive and clearly demonstrated argument for the wrongness of man going his own way apart from God, the cross is that argument. 

            Man’s actions on that day condemned not Jesus, who had done nothing wrong, but condemned the practice of a religion that conspires with a “civilized” Roman judicial system that can both be so far off-the-mark that they end up killing the God and Creator of the universe (Jn. 1:1-3). 

            If ever there was a well-stated, practically demonstrated argument for trusting and relying upon a capable and loving God to show us the correct approach to life, the cross is that argument. 

            Salvation, redemption, and a new resurrected life of love and peace is made possible by God through this enormous blunder by mankind in putting to death the Creator of life itself on a cross fashioned crudely out of two large, heavy pieces of wood and some metal spikes. 

            That God is intelligent and well-intentioned enough to take the worst action in all of human history, in all of eternity, and turn it right-side up into the very means to provide forgiveness, cleansing from sin, and re-birth into a new spiritual life of joy and peace, is something so sublimely powerful it may take a lifetime in heaven to comprehend and appreciate.

            On one side of the cross was the enormous tally of all of history’s offenses, misdeeds, sorrows, injustices, and shortcomings that are a result of fallen mankind going its own way apart from God. 

            On the other side was the contrasting approach of Jesus using surrender, faith, dependence, and reliance upon the Father’s and His own uniquely ingenious plan to cancel-out the weight of this massive debt of human sin (Rev. 13:8). 

            No wonder Jesus sweated great drops of blood when finally confronted with the insurmountable task of nullifying this great mass of self-centered rebellion, using only His own spotless and blemish-free life, and a lamb-like surrender and reliance upon the will of the Father. 

            No wonder Jesus had to return moments later to the same spot in the Garden of Gethsemane to pray a second time “more earnestly” (Lk. 22:44). 

            At the cross is where Christians must take their cue to venture-out on the path of faith and trust in God, to match the stories of the lives of people of faith as patterned in the Bible. 

            Self-autonomy, self-reliance, and self-direction are on the wrong side of the cross, in the territory of man-made religion, in the camp of the spiritually blind religious leaders and the worldly-minded Roman authorities who crucified Jesus.     

            C.S. Lewis said that we are not just imperfect people who need growth, but we are rebels who need to lay down our arms. 

            Laying down our arms occurs when we repent of our sins, recognize our need for God, and accept Jesus into our lives. 

            But this is not a one-time event at our Christian conversion.  The Christian life as a disciple involves a desire, a bend-of-the-heart toward daily surrender and yielding to God.  It involves placing Jesus Christ at the top of our priority list.  That is why Jesus said we have to pick up our cross daily (Lk. 9:23). 

            For the Christian disciple, the attitude of “I want to do things my way,” has to be crucified on the cross. 

            The calling of God for our lives, which displaces our own self-in-charge nature, establishes a Godly context, a clear set of goals, and a very specific arrangement of situations and circumstances.  This then fashions a path of faith within the course of our lives where the old rebel in us has increasingly more difficulty expressing itself. 

            A genuine walk of faith set-up by Jesus Christ creates constructive and positive things to do that lead to personal growth and ministry to others, absent the rebellion of self-sovereignty. 

            When Moses received his calling at the burning bush, and obediently set-off toward Egypt to deliver the Israelites, he began living in the non-rebel mode. 

            After Paul was converted on the road to Damascus, it was the action of following Jesus within this new context of being the missionary evangelist to the Gentile world, which enabled Paul to now live as a non-rebel. 

            When Jesus said to Peter in Luke 22:32, “And when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren,” it is within the actual context of strengthening the newly born Christian church in Jerusalem that Peter is fulfilling his calling, in living as a non-rebel. 

            This is why the genuine gospel message of repentance, salvation, faith, trust, and transformation into a new person “in Christ” is so important.         The “truth that will set us free” is the life following Jesus in non-rebellion to His leading. 

            This is why we follow a crucified and resurrected Son of God. 

            The will and way of Jesus was crucified to the will of God the Father, in the Garden of Gethsemane and at Calvary, for the benefit of all of mankind. 

            Jesus went before us in this regard.  The fact that Jesus Himself was without sin, tells us that the way of the cross is perfect. 

            This is one of the key character attributes which qualifies Jesus to be our leader.  We learn daily how to “lay down our arms” and become a non-rebel, in terms of our relationship with God, by following the sinless, perfect non-rebel in this regard…Jesus Christ. 

            Every born-again Christian can examine themselves as to who is in charge in their lives, self or Jesus Christ. 

            Every Christian can enter into their personal “prayer closet”, get on their knees, lift their arms up to God, and ask God to assume a greater role in their lives. 

            Every Christian can ask God in prayer to open-up our spiritual eyes, and unclog our spiritual ears, so that we can see and hear God better in the specific ways that God would like to lead us.  

            If it is possible for God to weep in heaven, this is the type of sincere request from His saints that will probably bring tears of heartfelt joy to God’s eyes. 

            Our walk of faith, our purchase of the knowledge of good and evil through a God-composed journey of faith life-script, means that much to God. 

            Jesus died and rose again that we might have an abundant life through this living journey of faith now and forever.

Gethsemane 1

“I am crucified with Christ; nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”                                                                                  (Gal. 2:20)

            The idea that God is the author of life-plans that lead to situations and circumstances requiring complete dependence upon God, with successful resolutions generating the broadest possible spiritual benefits, is a theme that runs throughout the Bible. 

            The life-plan of Jesus Christ the Son of God which culminates in the crucifixion and the resurrection is the perfect example of this concept. 

            Hebrews 5:8-9 reads “Though he were a son, yet learnedhe obedience by the things that he suffered; And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him.” 

            The lessons that Jesus (the second Person of the Trinity) needed to experience first-hand for Himself through a life lived in a human body here on earth, in order to become the qualified leader able to help us to repent, trust, and surrender our lives to Him, came to a focal point at the events surrounding the crucifixion. 

            We discover in God’s own plan scripted for His Son Jesus at the cross, that circumstances were so challenging that Jesus had to exercise perfect faith, trust, dependence, and reliance in God the Father, approaching the limits of His own divine capacity, to achieve a successful outcome. 

            The fact that the scripture quoted above says that Jesus learned obedience by the things that He suffered, tells us that Jesus went through the experience of dependence and reliance upon God the Father, just like we do as Christians today.

            Even the Son of God, when living within the limitations of a human body, must confront and deal with the same issues we do (Heb. 4:15). 

            Humans cannot fathom the depths of God’s divine love.  The agony of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane is partially a mystery (Mk. 14:34).          

            But God included in the New Testament gospels this record of the struggle of Jesus in Gethsemane, with honesty and candor for a reason. 

            This author does not claim to fully understand the duality of the divinity of Jesus Christ and His human nature, which forms the bond between His earthly experience and our personal walk of faith, for all eternity. 

            I do not claim to understand the dynamics of the Trinity, in which God is one, yet three distinct Persons enjoying loving friendship in unity from eternity past. 

            Jesus Christ the Son of God cries out from the cross “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?”  More painful than the crucifixion was the momentary separation of Jesus from the Father, possibly experiencing the oblivion of total spiritual darkness as a result of absorbing within Himself as the Passover Lamb of God…the sins of the world. 

            Hebrews 2:9 tells us that Jesus tasted the bitterness of death for every man, so that we would never have to experience this intense agony of separation from God. 

            Jesus tells His followers that He will never leave nor forsake us (Heb. 13:5).  Because of the sacrifice of Jesus in Gethsemane and at Calvary, born-again Christians will never have to say, over the long expanse of eternity, “My God, why have you forsaken me?”      

            Yet however we try to reach a balanced comprehension of the divinity and humanness of Jesus, this account of the agony of Jesus in Gethsemane tells us that Jesus approached the Father for strength just as He did on several occasions, retiring alone sometimes all night to pray (Mt. 14:23; Lk. 6:12). 

            God is telling us in this Gethsemane account that Jesus did not attempt to go it alone in self-reliance in facing the upcoming ordeal of the cross.  God is telling us with tender, frank, and forthcoming honesty about the depths of His own struggle in this balanced-on-a-razor’s edge, monumentally volatile plan of salvation through the cross and the resurrection, designed for our redemption.    

            We therefore find that in the Garden of Gethsemane, on the night before the trial and crucifixion, that Jesus experiences difficulty with the completion of His calling and must rely upon the Father for the strength and endurance to be the Passover Lamb of God sacrifice for the sins of the world. 

            Even though Jesus knows from childhood that this is the future destiny of His earthly life, when the moment finally approaches, the highest features of divine character are pushed to the limits (if that is possible with God in a human body) of Jesus’ own endurance in offering Himself for the sins and transgressions of mankind. 

            This is one explanation for why Jesus said with relief and triumph just before He died on the cross: “It is finished.” 

            In the Garden of Gethsemane, God reveals to us openly and candidly that His plan devised to transfer to the second Person of the Trinity the weight of the sins of mankind through the Son of God’s atonement on the cross, was not all that easy even for Jesus. 

            Otherwise, Jesus would have breezed through the Garden of Gethsemane without saying his soul was heavy unto death, or having to pray “more earnestly”, or asking the Father to remove this cup of suffering from Him, or sweating drops of blood while praying, or having one of the great angels from heaven (possibly Gabriel), visit Him for comfort and support.   

            In this life-script that God crafted for Himself, we see a level of moral character that instructs us as to the heights of what we can expect in our own spiritual journey. 

            God does not ask us from a comfortably safe distance to step into the risk and adventure of the Christian life. 

            God will not challenge us to the core of our being in terms of character, faith, trust, and reliance upon God, and in times of persecution may even cost the Christian his or her life, without Himself having also shared this similar experience. 

            God composed and orchestrated His own life here on earth in such a way that, in regard to all of life’s critical issues, He challenged Himself through the life-long experience of the cross. 

            This sets the example for us to have a foreglimpse of what is involved in a walk of faith with God. 

            Because Christ lives within the believer’s heart, we have the one and only Person helping us “from the inside” who has successfully been through the cross and resurrection experience ahead of us. 

            Whichever way we interpret the many sides of the agony of Jesus Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane, in trying to understand the limitlessness of the divine love of God, one important lesson stands out.  If God is going to ask me to give my all, and He is offering His help in this regard, then I must have confidence that He has actually been there Himself ahead of me. 

            I must have absolute confidence that my Guide through this adventure of faith truly knows the best possible route to take. 

            In some way that we can only begin to discover through our own God-composed biblical walk of faith, both the human and the divine sides of Jesus Christ gave His all in Gethsemane and at Calvary, in exhibiting unselfish love and pure righteousness in the face of enormous opposition in order to pre-qualify Himself to be the way, the truth, and the life (Jn. 14:6).

            One of the accounts of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane is recorded in Luke 22:39-46:

39 And he came out, and went, as he was accustomed, to the Mount of Olives; and his disciples also followed him.

40 And when he was at the place, he said unto them, Pray that ye enter not into temptation.

41 And he was withdrawn from them a stone’s cast, and kneeled down, and prayed,

42 Saying, Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me; nevertheless, not my will, but thine, be done.

43 And there appeared an angel unto him from heaven strengthening him.

44 And being in an agony, he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat was, as it were, great drops of blood falling down to the ground.

45 And when he rose up from prayer, and was come to his disciples, he found them sleeping for sorrow.

46 And said unto them, Why sleep ye?  Rise and pray, lest ye enter into temptation.

            Luke 22:44 says that Jesus prayed “more earnestly.” 

            This is a remarkable statement. 

            We would naturally think that the initial earnest prayer of Jesus regarding any issue would always be entirely adequate the first time, seeing that He is the eternal, perfect Son of God. 

            The fact that Jesus (the Son of God) had to go back a second time and pray more earnestly tells us just how difficult it was to absorb within Himself the huge mass of the sins and transgressions of mankind. 

            We see in the divine approach that Jesus takes in the Garden of Gethsemane toward this great challenge, a pattern for how we are to confront the difficulties and challenges in our own lives. 

            Jesus was spiritually battling and overcoming the world’s sin, which is based upon rebellion and self-autonomy in mankind, by using the opposite, counter-balancing weapons of surrender, dependence, and reliance upon God the Father’s way instead of His own way (Lk. 22:42). 

            It took the direct opposite attitude of living for oneself, of putting one’s own interests first, of side-stepping a difficult situation, of saving one’s own skin, and of running away from a challenge…for Jesus to cancel-out the sum total of mankind’s sin and to fulfill His role as the Lamb of God sacrifice for sin. 

            This is the part of the first-advent, messianic scenario that the self-absorbed Satan totally miscalculated. 

            This is how God used the short-sighted blindness of evil, rooted in self-centeredness, to turn the lowliness of the cross into the exalted glory of the resurrection for our benefit.  

            This is precisely why the cross of Christ, for man, is the way back to God (Isa. 53:6). 

            The way back to God is not through self-autonomy or self-direction, using our God-given natural gifts and abilities independently apart from God.  These are the fallen tendencies of “self-realization” that got us into trouble to begin with in the Garden of Eden, that actually separated us from a relationship with God and that Jesus is redeeming us from on the cross. 

            In Isaiah 14:13-14, it is the “I will” portions of Lucifer’s statements “I will ascend into heaven” and “I will exalt my throne above the stars of God,” that is the official start of sin in the universe. 

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