The Angle of Our Vision 1

“But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you.”                                           (Mt. 6:33)

This book is not about church organizations or structures.  It is about the people who make up the universal Christian church of Spirit-born believers around the world.  Get people personally connected to Jesus Christ, and He can then capably take it from there to produce the positive results we read about in the lives of the people of faith recorded in the Bible.

A genuine reformation in the Christian church begins with repentance, prayer, Bible study, listening in the Spirit, and a heartfelt desire for genuine discipleship.

But a fundamental reality in the world is that not many people listen to the words of the true prophet at the moment the message is being delivered.  This is primarily due to the vertical separation between the message of the prophet’s speech in the elevated realm of faith and trust in God, and how well people in-the-moment have the capacity for listening “in the Spirit” (Mt. 11:15; Acts 27:9-11).

Most people going about their normal lives have their vision focused horizontally upon day-to-day concerns, and are not contemplating the higher ways of God in their daily affairs (Isa. 55:8-9).

But a true prophet of God is always trying to elevate people’s spiritual vision up into the higher realm of daily living combined with “walking in the Spirit.”

This is the location where faith and trust in God can produce divinely orchestrated outcomes coupled with profound character growth.  This is also the area where resistance to change and the element of risk reside.

This is why for many people the sudden introduction of the message of God through a prophet is often a jarring and unwelcome event.  The prophet’s message can be a nettlesome intrusion into our otherwise normative, complacent, worldly sensible plans.

Israel historically revered their prophets in hindsight, and went to great efforts to accurately record, maintain, and pass along the sayings and writings of their prophets.  But many of the biblical prophets were persecuted and rejected by their contemporaries at the time they delivered their messages (Jer. 1:19).

It is a relatively safe exercise to look backwards in time in nostalgic appreciation for the purely intellectual component of the prophet’s message, conveniently removed into the history of centuries past.

It is a relatively safe enterprise to endorse the ancient prophet’s fiery call for personal repentance, a heartfelt change in our lives, and the challenge to step-up into a biblical-style adventure of faith (Mt. 23:20), as long as this message can be interpreted to apply to past generations of our wayward ancestors…and not directly to us.

A Spirit-filled prophetic call to surrender all to Jesus today, in full consideration of the costs and benefits involved, can be just as sobering a challenge for us now as it was for the Old Testament Jews listening to Moses, Samuel, Elijah, or Jeremiah.

The unique aspect of the final chapter of the Christian church in the last days…is that there will not be a future, upcoming, extended period of time in human redemptive history on earth…to nostalgically look back upon the present-day words of prophets…calling people to a higher and deeper experience following Jesus Christ…in-the-moment…right now.

The second coming of Christ brings an end to this current human redemptive period…for all time.

This interaction between God and people set within the context of life’s events and circumstances, having mutual faith and trust as the bonding cement of the relationship…is not found anywhere else in philosophy, religion, or human experience.

The validating element of this arrangement is authenticated by the reality that the living God must actively take up His part of the relationship.

Like playing catch with a baseball, someone real has to be on the opposite side to catch the ball and throw it back.  In the case of a biblical journey of faith, the one true God invented the game and openly invites all to participate.

The entire Bible can be interpreted as God’s attempt to get us to release our faith and elevate our vision up into the realm where God can effectively work with us.  This is actually a key aspect of the Bible that confirms its divine origin.

The component of God’s active out-reach toward us is something that cannot be fabricated by human invention.  The callings of God, and the ingenious and varied narrative stories that follow the enlistment of each person of faith recorded in the Bible, are totally outside the imagination and literary invention of man.

One classic example of God trying to get people’s vision raised above the horizontal, everyday thinking…is recorded in Mark 12:13-17.

The Pharisees and Herodians come to Jesus, and ask Him: “Is it lawful to give tribute to Caesar, or not?”  These opponents of Jesus think they have Him intellectually cornered with this cleverly devised question which appears to offer no positive option within the worldly horizontal realm of practical concerns.  Answering yes or no strictly within the bounds of conventional wisdom…spells trouble either way.

Telling the Jews not to pay their taxes offends the Roman government.  Telling Jews to dutifully pay their taxes to the hated foreign occupiers offends the populace in the very sensitive area of Jewish national pride and in the practical area of their pocketbooks.

But Jesus brilliantly lifts this issue up a level into the elevated realm of the Spirit, above our horizontal vision.  Jesus asks the Pharisees to show Him a coin, asks whose image is engraved on the coin, and then unexpectedly divides the answer to their question into two distinct vertical zones.

Part one of the fully correct answer…is to render faithfully to the demands of the everyday practical world that which belongs to the everyday world…render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s.

Part two of the answer is to render to God the living faith and trust that can only occur within the elevated realm of the adventures of faith following God, which up until that time were vividly and clearly portrayed throughout the Hebrew Bible.

This ingenious answer by Jesus to this otherwise difficult question has intrigued skeptics and admirers of Jesus for almost 2,000 years.  The Pharisees and Herodians shake their heads and walk away in amazement at this answer of Jesus.  In its brevity it fully addressed all sides of the issue of practical godliness in this broken world, having the clear bell-ring of truth that left no further opening for a follow-up question.

This succinct answer by Jesus is inarguable and unassailable in its pinpoint accurate truthfulness, because it’s simple depth and scope fully encapsulates God’s program for all humanity in a nutshell.

Gethsemane 3

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 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…self-autonomy apart from God leading to sin, and fellowship with God leading to holiness…violently collide with deadly impact 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 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.

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 uniquely ingenious plan to cancel out the weight of this massive debt of human sin.

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 strike 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, which 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 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 their spiritual eyes, and unclog their spiritual ears, so that they can see and hear God better in the specific ways that God would like to lead them.

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 2

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, that 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 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.

However 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 (God) had to go back a second time and pray more earnestly, tells us just how difficult it was to absorb within Him 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. 22:34).

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 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 Lucifer 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 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.

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

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, not my will, but thine, be done.”

Lucifer 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.

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.

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 resurrection, is the perfect example of this concept.

Hebrews 5:8-9 reads “Though he were a son, yet learned he 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.  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 own 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.

The Natural Moral Law 3

If one thinks about it, this is an amazingly profound realization.

How is it that we agree so readily about the decision for duty, honor, and responsibility over the pursuit of personal happiness?  How can this natural moral law rise to elevated precedence over everything else, including our personal goals and wishes?

How can the natural moral law be that important?  How can there be values in life worth making sacrifices for, over and above our personal desires?

How can “doing the right thing” command our respect and loyalty to this degree of self-sacrifice?

Why does this theme repeat itself in so many great movies, achieving so much popular acceptance and acclaim, yet be so morally demanding?

No Christians today would in hindsight tell Noah to stop building his ark, or advise Abraham to stay in Haran, or advise Moses to refuse God’s difficult calling to go to Egypt and deliver the Israelites.

No Christians would tell David to forget about the absurd notion of attempting to kill Goliath using only a sling and a stone, or tell Peter to continue mending his nets rather than accept the invitation of Jesus to follow Him, or tell Paul he had better give up his missionary quest and return to the safety of being a Pharisee in Jerusalem…after being nearly stoned to death in Lystra.

Buried deep within our conscience, we know that doing the right thing is more important than doing what we might otherwise want to do, when the circumstances of life require us to make a choice.

This must have the clear bell-ring note of truth that resonates in our innermost being, otherwise the movie Roman Holiday would not have captured our imagination and maintained its longstanding popularity to reach the elevated status of being considered a “classic.”

Within the highly competitive marketplace of ideas filtered through the cultural medium of modern movie-making, the theme of this beautiful story has stood the test of time for a good reason.

There is an important lesson we can take away from this classic movie.

Even the supportive and affirming aspects of common romantic love, which God created, can change people for the better.

Before her one-day love affair in Rome with Joe Bradley…the Gregory Peck character in the movie, the Princess Anne is going through the perfunctory motions of acting like a princess, of doing what everyone around her tells her to do, because that is what is expected of her.  But after she discovers, even for a single day, that a handsome and charming man actually loves her for who she is rather than what she is, this supporting validation of her as a person sets her free to become her own person.

Not only does the love, value, and respect coming from the Gregory Peck character in the movie enable Anne to grow instantly into a mature woman capable of independent decision-making, but also enables Anne to make the difficult but elevated moral decision to continue in the responsible role as her country’s princess.

After her Roman Holiday, the Princess Anne will enter into her duties in the service of her family and her country out of her own volition and choosing, albeit at the high cost of a lost romance and a broken heart.  This one-day, eye-opening experience will make her a better person and a more committed public servant for all of the right reasons.  This one-day transformation came about through the respect and support that comes with being genuinely loved.

Likewise, the one-day romp through the city of Rome with the beautiful princess in the disguise of a commoner, creates in Joe Bradley a growing love and affection for this woman as the day progresses, that in the end produces the elevated nobility of character that sacrifices for her welfare, the sensational front-page reporter’s story of a lifetime.

While standing in the front row of the gallery of reporters at the next day’s press conference, Gregory Peck assures Audrey Hepburn that the scandalous nature of their day out-in-the-town in Rome will forever remain a secret between the two of them.  Joe Bradley tells the Princess Anne that her “faith in the relations between people will not be unjustified.”  And thus these two people discover together the elevated, self-sacrificing quality of character that their love for each other has created…seemingly out of nowhere.

Anne starts out her Roman Holiday wanting only the excitement of pursuing one day of total freedom to do just whatever she pleases, and Joe Bradley starts out pursuing the personally detached, coldly calculated news reporter’s front page feature article.  Both unknowingly start out the day in the natural realm of worldly conventional, self-centered plans and schemes, but through the day’s totally unique shared experiences they end up at the highest character realm of the natural moral law of self-sacrificing love.

So it is with a God-composed journey of faith following Jesus Christ.  Spending time with Jesus will change us forever.

Romantic love that contains genuine self-sacrifice motivates Hepburn and Peck, in the movie, to make the right decision and to do the right thing.

But it is the actual activities of the day spent together that creates the bond of love between them to make this possible.  This is where the “rubber meets the road” in the story.  Without their “Roman Holiday” there is no context for their shared experiences, growing love for each other, and subsequent elevated character growth.

Without their Roman Holiday experience, they both would remain just the same as they were the previous day, hopelessly stuck within their horizontally conventional realities.

Only God can craft the events and circumstances in our lives to create the singularly unique context for developing love for God and right actions consistent with the natural moral law.

Whenever Jesus Christ calls a person into a particular task, mission, or service as part of their journey of faith, the confidence that God places in us is a divine aspect of love that will inspire a response to rise to the occasion.

This supportive validation of us as a person, coming from no less than Almighty God Himself, will raise the bar to a new elevated level of character within us.  The value that God places upon us, and the trust He invests in our development, when divine love is in operation, will elevate people into the high character level of the natural moral law contained within a journey of faith, to match the beautiful stories of faith in the Bible.

The acceptance, confidence, and validation that are a part of the love of God that is shown in God’s willingness to interact with us on a personal level, will elevate us to become better people, again seemingly out of nowhere (Mk. 4:26-28).

Whether we consciously know it or not, when we place our trust completely in Jesus Christ through a God-composed journey of faith, we are subscribing wholeheartedly to the natural moral law.

A personalized adventure of faith patterned for us after the lives of faith portrayed in the Bible, is God’s ingenious method of establishing a relationship with us based upon mutual love.  This love will capture our voluntary willingness to climb any mountain, cross any sea, and bear any burden in response to the living God who loves us and cares for us.

This explains why Abraham, Joseph, Moses, Joshua, David, Ruth, Esther and Mordecai, Jeremiah, Elijah, Daniel, Peter, and Paul stay with God’s program through thick and thin.  They recognized God’s confident love for them and responded with fidelity and loyalty to God’s higher ways and plans.

This is the elevated, higher character realm of the natural moral law where God resides.

Princess Anne and Joe Bradley unintentionally fall in love as a result of their shared Roman Holiday experience, combined with their physical attraction and growing affection for each other.  This was not a consciously intellectual choice on their part, conferring merit on their creative wisdom to set all of this up in advance.  We simply have the God-given, innate capacity for experiencing love that will alter our lives for the better.

“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.  For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them” (Eph. 2:8-10).

One theme of this book is that God sets up unimaginable life-scripts for us to walk in, individually tailored to His intentions when He originally created each of us.

Love will motivate people to voluntarily choose high moral actions in a truly genuine and fulfilling way.  Divine love is the dynamic force that energizes the journeys of faith recorded in the Bible.  The “that not of yourselves” part involves picking up our cross, listening in the Spirit, and following Jesus.  It is the love of God that actively intervenes in our lives that is the key for individual Christians and the Christian church in the last-days.

This is the part of the Christian experience that is infused with the most unselfish, loving intentions of God toward us, creating the space for God to insert a biblical version “Roman Holiday” of unique situations and circumstances into our lives.

The secondary theme of this wonderful movie Roman Holiday, where the cost of duty and honor is commendably chosen over the short-term gain of personal preference, is something that Christians can anticipate becoming more clearly defined in our journeys of faith as the last–days approach.

Love that produces and exhibits self-sacrifice is one of the basic spiritual realities of the Christian life.  It is one of the fundamental aspects of this natural moral law that is a part of the Almighty God that we worship and follow.

Amazingly, this natural moral law even shows up as a main theme in a classic movie produced out of Hollywood in 1953.

The Natural Moral Law 2

Without knowing it, this secular movie classic comes very close to touching upon an aspect of the high standards of God for all eternity.  C.S. Lewis called it the natural law.  Others have called it the moral law.  It is the independent standard by which all behavior is judged.

According to C.S. Lewis it goes something like this:

If you have written me a letter a month ago, and you unexpectedly run into me at the supermarket, and ask me why I have not written you back yet, I will respond with any number of quick excuses like “I hurt my wrist and can’t write” or “I ran out of my favorite stationery’ or “My wife has kept me incredibly busy lately painting the exterior of the house.”

But I will not say “why do you ask me that?” or “who says I have to write you back?”  We both know and agree, because you are my friend, that I owe you a return letter.  That is why I come up with a quickly fabricated explanation that will plausibly excuse my lack of good social conduct in this matter.

Unconsciously, we are both appealing to the same code of fair mindedness and expectations of right behavior.  My quickly fabricated fallback excuse is my way of getting around my poor performance, instead of just coming out and admitting to my friend that I “dropped the ball”, that I am sorry, and that I will return his letter shortly.

But if I come out and flatly say: “I am not going to write a return letter to you because I don’t want to” and thus discard the mutual expectations contained within the natural moral law regarding valued relationships, then I am in peril of losing a friend.

What neither of us is willing or capable of removing (consciously or unconsciously) is the natural moral law that forms the basis for our relationship as friends.

This right code of conduct, the natural moral law, is separate and distinct from us.  Like gravity, it just exists.  It is not a person like God, but it is at the upper limits of perfection like God.

The common everyday phrase “hey, nobody’s perfect” is a response to this natural moral law, because all of us fall short of it.  It is one of the strong proofs for the existence of God.  There is no philosophical explanation for its existence without acknowledging that there must be a higher being…who either created it…or is in perfect harmony with it.

Otherwise, how did it get here…in the psyche of the human race?

Continuing with the story, after the princess returns to the embassy palace, she is confronted by her three aides (a retired general, a countess, and an elderly man), who ask her to explain her absence for the benefit of the king and queen back in their home country.

One of these men solemnly reminds her of her duty.  But Princess Anne has grown up during this one-day escapade out into the real world.  Yesterday, she was a girl, controlled by her over-zealous aide the countess.  This night, as she stands before them, she is a mature woman, capable from now on of making her own decisions.  She responds in a firm tone:

“If I were not completely aware of my duty to my family and my country, I would not have come back tonight, nor indeed ever again.”

The movie viewing audience clearly understands this to mean that if she were free to have her way, she would run off with Gregory Peck.  After a pause to let this sink in, she politely gives them leave to withdraw for the evening.

The primary conflict of the movie, containing an element of entertaining good humor, is the character question of whether or not Gregory Peck will selfishly cash-in on his one-day romp with the princess through the city of Rome, and write a sensational news story, or whether he will take the noble and honorable route to protect the reputation of the woman he has fallen in love with.

At a press conference in the embassy reception hall the next day after their previous night’s parting…standing at the front of a greeting line…Gregory Peck assures the princess the secret of their Roman holiday is safe with him…and Eddie Albert humorously hands her the packet of photographs he secretly took of her all that previous day.

The final ending of the movie has Audrey Hepburn nodding her head slightly toward Gregory Peck in a gesture to say a last goodbye, with a radiantly beaming smile but an inwardly broken heart, then turning away with her entourage to go back into the interior of the palace, and Gregory Peck manfully but sadly walking alone out of the palace reception hall.

But the underlying, secondary theme of the movie has much more power.

The night before, after the princess dismisses her aides, she is standing alone in her room looking out the window at the city of Rome below, thinking about the life she will never enjoy there with Joe Bradley (Gregory Peck).

She has made the hard choice to return to being a princess.  She realizes she will never see Joe Bradley again (she still does not know until the following day’s press conference that he is a reporter), will never sit leisurely out on a sidewalk café sipping champagne, never ride through the city on the back of a motor scooter, and never again go dancing at night along the waterfront barges, as a regular person, as a non-princess.

In her large and opulently decorated embassy bedroom, she is again utterly alone.  She will take up her demanding duties the next day, attending the aforementioned press conference, a trade relations appearance, and a diplomatic reception.

The powerful thing about this secondary theme is that we agree with it.

The screenwriters and producers of this movie were not fools.  They would not write a bad ending to this movie that everyone would be disappointed with, on purpose.

Roman Holiday was nominated for ten Academy Awards©, including Best Picture (Audrey Hepburn won for Best Actress).

The enduring high acclaim and stature of this classic movie validates its theme.  Few movie viewers then or now would say that Audrey Hepburn’s character should have walked away from her duties and responsibilities as a royal princess and heir to the throne of her country, and gone off with Gregory Peck.

We agree with her choice…even though it cost her…the one love of her life.  Even the two main characters in the movie agree with her choice.  Both Princess Anne and Joe Bradley know deep down that if they had walked away from duty and right living, they would eventually regret it.

The Natural Moral Law 1

“For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.”                                                                                               (Rom. 8:14)

In the 1953 movie Roman Holiday, Audrey Hepburn plays a young princess on a demanding good-will tour of Europe, who toward the end of her whirlwind trip has a minor nervous breakdown one evening while being briefed for the next day’s activities.

She is given a slow-acting drug to calm her nerves and to help her to sleep.  But before the drug can take effect, she manages successfully to put into action a spur-of-the-moment idea she had earlier that evening…to escape that same night out of the embassy palace into the “carefree” outside world for some fun and adventure.

The other main actor in this movie, Gregory Peck, finds Princess Anne (Hepburn) about to fall asleep on a bench along a public street.

Not knowing what to do with the seemingly half-intoxicated, well-dressed, and beautiful young woman with no place to go, Peck plays the Good Samaritan and takes her to his studio apartment to safely sleep it off.

This sets the scene for the Roman “holiday” the next day that will dramatically change both their lives.

Briefly, the plot of the story is that Peck, a newspaper reporter, discovers the next morning that Anne is the visiting foreign princess who has supposedly taken ill and cancelled all public appearances, yet astoundingly is sound asleep in his apartment.

When Hepburn does finally wake up later that morning, she does not suspect that Peck knows that she is the Princess Anne.  Peck offers to show her the town as a ruse to create a front-page story, and they have fun all day getting in and out of minor trouble while visiting the tourist sites in Rome.

Audrey Hepburn does not know that Gregory Peck is a newspaper reporter out to get an exclusive story on the day in the life of a princess escaped incognito “out on the town,” who has seemingly dropped out of nowhere into his world.

Peck is helped in his scheme by his photographer friend in the movie, the actor Eddie Albert.

But the unexpected happens.  At an outdoor dance along a waterfront barge that evening with Gregory Peck and Eddie Albert, Hepburn is recognized by her country’s secret service.  In their attempt to pull her away toward a limousine to take her back to the embassy palace, Peck and Albert come to her rescue, a wonderful brawl ensues, and Peck and Hepburn jump into the water to escape, swimming to safety to a nearby shore while the police arrest the disguised in-plain-clothes secret service agents.

There they sit down to rest for a moment to catch their breath, and break into laughter about the excitement and adventure of their narrow escape.  Wet and cold, Peck puts his arm around Hepburn, they unexpectedly kiss, and while looking intently into each other’s eyes they discover through the course of the day’s events that they have somehow fallen in love.

Back at Peck’s apartment later to change clothes and dry off, Hepburn (Princess Anne) realizes she has fallen in love with this handsome man, and if she were free to have her way would like to explore the possibility of spending the rest of her life with him.

But they both know, for reasons that cannot be verbalized for the time being, that in reality their one-day romance can only last for a single day.

Peck cannot come out and reveal his intentions without ruining this journalistic opportunity, and Hepburn still thinks that Peck does not know who she really is (the movie script leaves out the obvious question that should have been asked by Peck after their narrow escape: “Why were those men attempting to abduct you?”).

Anne offers to cook something for them to eat and finds out that he does not have a kitchen.  He tells her that he always eats out.  She asks him: “Do you like that?”

He then utters a line that is the secondary theme of the movie: “Life isn’t always what we would like it to be.”  She answers: “No, it isn’t.”

Audrey Hepburn’s character is torn between her duty to continue being the princess and future sovereign in her country, and her personal desire to run off with Gregory Peck.

She chooses to return to the embassy palace.  Peck then drives her to within a short walking distance from the palace entrance, both still attempting to hide their true identities, and they tearfully part.