The Pagan Path

Those who wonder are not lost; they are trying to awaken! 'The Sleeper must awaken!'

Saturday, July 31, 2010

What a Beautiful Mess We're In!

I am NOT a big fan of country music, but my youngest daughter is, and for the past week, more or less, I've been subjected to listening to it from the time I go to bed at night, to the time I get up in the morning. ( Don't get me wrong; I'm not really complaining, because I'm not really losing any sleep over it! ) The phrase that has been going through my head all morning, in this case, is 'what a beautiful mess I'm in'. We can look at this statement in several ways, both gloriously true; first, we could well say, 'wow, what a messed-up situation that we've landed in!', or we could thank God ( since 'Father Knows Best' ) for the messed-up situation that He has blessed us with, and graciously sent our way. ( Sometimes we can figure out why He has 'blessed' us in this certain way, but usually we can only speculate! )

You've most likely heard the phrase often, especially lately, 'it's all in how you look at it', and that's very true, in a sense: perception has a lot to do with how we 'handle' things ( not that things are the way we perceive them to be, for more often than not, our perception is a bit 'skewed'! ) In both 'perceived' situations, for instance; we could look at our situation and 'stress about it, throwing up our hands, saying 'why me?!', even, in some cases ( many? ) getting angry with God ( or yourself ), and taking it out on everyone around us, or we could take a look a our situation, and think 'I'm to blessed to be stressed'; God is just putting me in this situation to test me ( for whatever reason ), or too keep me from a different, maybe worse, or even possibly harmful situation. We often forget, when faced with these situations, that they are, whether we perceive it or not, 'a blessing in disguise'! Anyone who knows me, has figured out by now that my favorite Bible verse ( to quote, anyway ) is Romans 8:28; it reads ( depending on the version, of course ) 'For we know that all things work together for good ( or God works all things for good ) to those who love God, to them that are the called according to His purpose'. 'It's ALL good!' ( another familiar phrase, especially among the 'freer' kind ) We surely, without doubt, are in a beautiful mess; we have been 'blessed' ( most of us ) with a unique situation ( though, in a sense, quite common ), and while we can be sure that it is for our good, it's often hard to see that good ( God ), and not stress about the 'bad' that we do see.

Death, as we know, is a necessary part of life, this human existence, but, depending on how we face it, it can cause us ( as in one case I'm sure some of us are quite familiar with ) to say 'why him, God; he was so young, in the prime of his life ( not to mention with a wife and a couple of kids to support)?', or, as in another situation that you might be familiar with; 'God knows best: it was her time to go' ( but we sure will miss her bodily presence ), and God delivered her ( physically ) from a lifetime of hardship and trials, to what we can only speculate about, except that we know she is still in the Presence of God, but now she can enjoy that Presence without the 'fetters' ( blessings too, don't get me wrong ) of her biological body! We can make the choice, and we often make the wrong one, when something like this happens to us, or one of our loved ones, however near or far, to face it with either one of the above-mentioned attitudes ( or one similar ) and decide within ourselves whether we are going to let it 'stress us out', or whether we are going to let it make us stronger, and bring us peace ( either way; God's purpose will be done in our lives, so we might as well make the best of it, right? )!

I pray that we can all ( me especially ) 'treat' life's many and varied 'situations' this way, and that this gentle reminder will be a blessing to all those who read it!

In the Love and service of our great God and Saviour,
Charles Shank

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Too Blessed to be Stressed ( ?? )!

This phrase is becoming more and more common in usage, especially among Christians, but, as in so many other cases; do we really practice what we preach? In so many secular songs, even ( I can think of one country song, anyway ); we often hear that 'I am so blessed', or something to that effect. There can be no doubt that we are too blessed to be stressed ( Ephesians 1:1-3, etc. ), but this doesn't stop the best of us; at some point or another, in some way or another, we all succumb to, if not the physical out-workings of the numerous stress factors that we come face to face with every day, then at least the mental, emotional, and sometimes the spiritual effects of that wondrous creation we call 'stress'!

Why do we get 'stressed', even though we know that we've been blessed beyond our wildest imaginings? If we sat down ( calmed down ) and really thought about it; we have been blessed so far beyond what we can even speculate, I mean; what does it really mean ( entail ) that our Creator God, our Father, He who birthed us ( spiritually-John 3 & 4 ), should deem to come down off His throne, subject Himself to the indignity of becoming one of us ( lowly ( weak ) humans ), suffering a lifetime of a fairly normal human existence, and then, in the last three or so years of His physical life on this earth being persecuted by His own kin, to finally end His ( physical ) existence in one of the most cruel deaths imaginable, the suffocating death of the cross ( crucifixion ), as the song goes, 'just to save a sinful soul like mine', to redeem His people, really, from their ( our ) own weakness, and, put simply, stupidity; idiocy, if you will! So how blessed are we?

Sure, you might say ( you must say, if you're honest with yourself, and Scripture ), 'we've been spiritually blessed, but those physical blessings seem 'far and few between', most of the time!'. This is so, but, as we all know; it usually only seems that way. If we stop ( rest-this is another of the 'Purposes of Night' ) and really think about it, as the song says 'Count Your Blessings, and 'name them one by one', we come to see ( understand ) just how blessed we are, even in this physical realm of our human existence! We have everything we need, do we not? God ( Jesus ) promised ( Matthew 6:33 ) that if we seek first His Kingdom, ( spiritual blessings), then all these things ( physical blessings ) will be added to us. We know this; I believe we all understand this ( and believe me, especially lately; I'm one of those I'm about to mention ), at least to a lesser or greater extent, but we still seem to be 'brought down' by the multitude of 'stress' factors that we find in our lives. Why must this be so?

A few years ago; I wrote a series of articles entitled 'A Focus on the Physical', and found that this had been one the major 'problems' throughout the history of God's people ( real or imagined ), and still 'plagues' many within the Body of Christ today! I believe that many, if not all, of our 'stress' factors can be blamed on this ( again, I'm not better in this area than anybody else )! In this physical realm that we call 'life ( 'That's Life' ) it is hard to live among all the hardship and pain without letting it 'get to us', which it inevitably does, at some point, or in some way, to whatever extent. The key is to stay focused on what God, in Christ, has done for us, and not on what we ourselves 'must' do. We need to find a happy medium between realizing ( trusting fully ) what Christ has done, 'resting from our labors' ( ceasing trusting our own works ), and willingly, happily doing what is necessary for us to do while we exist in this physical, human plane. There are things that need to be done while on this earth, and, normally, these things require hands and feet, but, while we try to keep in mind the spiritual and physical blessings; we often tend to get 'stressed out' ( I know I do ) when thinking of all the things that we 'have' to do, and while it's easy to preach Matthew 6:33, etc., it is infinitely ( almost ) harder to practice it!

What can be done then? Is it possible to live amongst all this anguish and turmoil without letting it get us down? I say 'Yes'! I've admitted that I'm finding it more and more difficult to accomplish, and basically found that it's almost an integral part of the human condition, but I'm by no means saying that it is a lack of faith ( maybe I am ) or trust in God, that many of us do fall prey to the 'stress' in our lives, but that when we begin to feel the 'weight' of those 'stress factors' pulling us down, we should immediately stop, raise our 'eyes' to 'Heaven' and thank God for the 'stress factors' that He has placed in our path, and for the strength that He has given us to over-come those obstacles!

Humbly & Hypocritically.
Charles Shank

Saturday, July 24, 2010

'He doesn't belong to anybody; he just came to me. He only shows himself to those that need him.'

For Pete's Sake

I just started watching one of the first movies that I ever watched as a youngster, along with about the only friend I ever had as a youngster ( all to myself anyway-his name was Shawn, as I recall ); that movie was 'Pete's Dragon', and sitting and watching it with my youngest daughter just now ( were on a break right now ) not only brought back some faint child-hood memories, but it also brought some covenantal truths to mind; 'fresh' truths, if you will!

I just recently wrote an article on how we need not fear the 'night' or 'darkness' ( physical ) anymore, and watching 'Pete's Dragon' ( along with 'Aslan', in the movie version of 'The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe' ); I was reminded of the superstitious fear that some have garnered over the fear of, even the symbol of the dragon ( see John's 'Revelation' ) and what it has stood for, among those superstitious ones, over the years ( same with snakes ). John's 'dragon' ( from 'Revelation' ) is dead, defeated, conquered, 'crushed' ( Romans 16:20 ) under our heels; we need no longer fear that 'dragon', but Pete's 'dragon', that's another matter!

One line from the movie that I had forgotten, sounds strangely familiar; when asked to sell 'Elliott' ( the dragon, Pete replied that the dragon was not his to sell, and then, when asked who he belonged to, he replied 'he doesn't belong to anybody; he just came to me. He only shows himself to those that need him'. 'Elliott' showed up at a time in Pete's life when he needed him most; like many of us, Pete had a specific need, and this 'magical' dragon came to fill that need, in much the way that God comes to us when we need help. As with most types and allegories; this is not a perfect picture of Christ, nor of what He did and does for us, but as I re-watched this movie today, for probably only the second or third time since I first saw it as a youngster, I couldn't help but see in the story, whether it was intentional on the part of the writer or not, the beautiful picture of the grace of God in Jesus. Granted; this WAS a Disney film, and though an older one, Disney nonetheless, but even so; I have gained a new appreciation for this film and was even almost moved to tears by the beauty of the Christology, intended or not!

This article was not intended to be a synopsis of the movie, so much as a treatise on the Christian life. Whether we will admit it or not; even the strongest of us has fears: fears of the unknown, fears of what may happen if we do such and such, of losing ( in this physical existence, anyway ) a loved one, even of losing ourselves, and to some extent, our salvation. In this physical existence ( and don't get me wrong; I'm not 'downing'' this ( physical ) life ); we often face much the same fears ( and loneliness, which is a fear in itself ), and even though, as Christians, we have realized the spiritual rest that we have been granted in Christ, we still long, often with fear and trembling ( anguish, even ) for that physical rest, that comfort that we, as physical beings, can best feel in the arms of another physical being. When Pete and Elliot first showed up in this quaint little New England ( I believe ) seacoast town; the dragon is not visible, except to those he wishes to reveal himself, and can, at will, become visible or invisible. Watching the havoc, usually purposeful ( to get his beloved Pete out of trouble ), that his mere presence created upon the town, even when invisible, reminded me of Jesus' words to Nicodemus, in John 3:8, 'The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit.' Again; not a perfect picture, but I think that this picture, as with many other such pictures serve, not only as entertainment, but as beautiful reminders of what has been done for us, and is done every day, whether we realize it or not!

As I said above; John's 'dragon' was defeated and banished from existence, but we have Pete's 'dragon on our side, fighting our battles, both seen or unseen, real or imagined!

In the love of Christ,  and in His service,
                           Charles Shank

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Don't Fear the Sandman!

Sleep with one eye open
Gripping your pillow tight

Exit light
Enter night
Take my hand
We're off to never never-land

                                                                 ( from 'Enter Sandman' by Metallica )

This is a story that is probably almost as old as time itself, but sometimes it doesn't hurt to take a fresh look. Scripture tells us in many places, particularly in the Greek New Testament, that sin, or ungodliness is often associated with 'night', or 'darkness'. Jesus, prophesying of His crucifixion and death, told His disciples that 'I[we] must work the works of Him who sent Me while it is day; the night is coming when no one can work' ( John 9:4 ), and later, speaking on the same subject; 'if anyone walks in the day, he does not stumble, because he sees the light of this world. But if one walks in the night, he stumbles, because the light is not in him' ( John 11:9b & 10 ). The apostle Paul wrote later, in Romans 13:12, 'The night is far spent, the day is at hand. Therefore let us cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light', and to the Body of Christ ( Romans 12:5, I Corinthians 12:27 ) at Thessalonica, 'You are all sons of light and sons of the day. We are not of the night nor of darkness' ( I Thessalonians 5:5 ). There is much more that could be written here, for Scripture has much to say  ( significantly ) about the folly of 'night' or 'darkness' but we will ( only ) look at several more New Testament Scriptures that speak figuratively of the New Jerusalem. In Revelation 22:5; John 'saw' that 'There shall be no night there: They need no lamp nor light of the sun, for the Lord God gives them light. And they shall reign forever and ever.' ( see also 21:25 ) A more thorough study from Scripture on this subject ( of 'night' ) shows us that it referred, in a symbolic and figurative way, to the Old Covenant, which Paul called the 'ministry of death' ( II Corinthians 3:7 ), but since the New ( Covenant ) has fully come, we no longer fear the night, and in fact, one might find it ironic that what was once a symbol of fear and wrongdoing ( godlessness ) is a time that symbolizes the rest that we have in Christ.

For the Christian especially, but for mankind in general; God has given us the night-time for our physical rest, because, as Jesus explained above, in John 11, using the analogy of walking, if one walks in darkness, in the night, having no light to show his path, that he will stumble, not being able to see any obstacles in his path. Although many have not and do not take advantage, for whatever reason, of the night-time for restful purposes; common-sense tells us that a wise person will use the hours of darkness to rest and sleep, bringing some physical restoration to our depleted bodily resources. ( I must say here, in deference to some; that there are times and places, where there arises a need to work through the night, and we must, and do, appreciate their labors ). In Psalm 127:2, Solomon wrote, as in a proverb, '[ It is ] vain for you to rise up early, to sit up late, to eat the bread of sorrows; for so He gives His beloved sleep'. This is 'The Purpose of Night', the reason for which God has set the universe in such an order that the sun's light moves from one part of the earth to another. The king also wrote, referring to the wisdom of obedience, for his son's comfort and instruction, in Proverbs 3:24, 'When you lie down, you will not be afraid; yes, you will lie down and your sleep will be sweet.' In Ecclesiastes 5:12; he wrote, 'The sleep of a laboring man is sweet, whether he eats little or much; but the abundance of the rich will not permit him to sleep'. In the covenantal context of Scripture; we can see that Solomon was referring to those who, because of worry over their 'riches' cannot find the 'rest' that those who do not have that worry find, but also to those Old Covenant Jews, as the 'rich man' in Luke 16:19-31, who, 'seeking to establish their own righteousness' ( Romans 10:3 ), could not and, did not find the 'rest' in the night-time that Jesus spoke of in John 9, and that Paul wrote of, in Romans 13.

In conclusion; I would like to re-iterate that we need not fear the night, especially those of us who have found spiritual 'rest' in Christ ( God ), not only because the spiritual 'night' ( Romans 13:12 ) has passed ( although there are those who, whether because of their own stubbornness, or 'blind' choice, still walk in the darkness of night ), but also because we can rest physically ( without stress ), knowing that He has taken care of everything ( Matthew 6:33 ).

May God bless us all with this realization.

Charles Shank

Saturday, July 10, 2010

God's Tale of Two Cities

How many times have you been told that 'the Bible is God's love letter to us'? This may be true enough, very loosely speaking, but aside from the fact that using this kind of language lends credence to the personalization of the Scriptures; the story that we read in the Scriptures is, to borrow from a famous author, 'A Tale of Two Cities'.

The Hebrew, or more commonly, Old Testament Scriptures lay out for us the establishment of the temporal, or earthly city, and the Greek, or New Testament Scriptures record the establishment of the eternal, or heavenly city, on earth. Paul wrote to the church at Galatia;

'For it is written that Abraham had two sons; the one by a bond-woman, the other by a free-woman. But he [ who was ] born of the bond-woman was born according to the flesh, but he of the free-woman through promise, which things are symbolic. For these are [ the? ] two covenants; the one from Mount Sinai which gives birth to bandage, which is Hagar-for this Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia, and corresponds to Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children-but the Jerusalem above is free, which is the mother of us all.' ( Galatians 4:22-26 )

First of all; this should tell us that, besides the fact that Paul is referring to the two covenants, and the freedom ( as opposed to slavery-John 8:33-35-how convenient that they forgot the Egyptian captivity of their forefathers, which captivity Jesus subtly reminded them of ) and betterment ( Hebrews 8:6-13 ) of the second, or New Covenant, which is, as Isaac was, of promise ( Hebrews 6:13-18 ( Jeremiah 31:31-34 ) Genesis 17:19, 18:10 ), Paul is speaking here, in the words of Augustin 'the city of God, and the city of the world ( or man )'. These two 'cities' both bear the same name, as Paul recorded above, but with one striking difference; one is 'now' ( II Peter 3:7 ) and earthly ( physical ), and the other is 'above', heavenly ( spiritual-Hebrews 12:22-24 ). In what is known as 'the faith chapter'; we read how 'all these died in faith', seeking 'a homeland', 'a better, that is, a heavenly [ country ]' ( city? ) ( Hebrews 11:13-16 ) Earlier in this chapter, referring to Abraham; the Author wrote that 'he waited for the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God' ( as opposed to man's-Genesis 10:10-12 ), and again, in Hebrews 13:14, reminded his readers that 'here we have no continuing city, but we seek the one to come'. Again; we must remember that the Author here referred, not only to the fact that our residence on this earth is only temporary at best, but more importantly and to the point, the writer was focused on the eternality of this new and ( ever ) lasting covenant and Kingdom ( Daniel 2:44 ).

Secondly; as the writers of the New Testament Scriptures ( the 'epistles', in particular ) make very clear; this new 'city', as with the covenant, is not an earthly, physical one, as we, as human beings are used to residing in, but rather a heavenly, spiritual one that resides in, in fact is made up of, those who believe on ( trust in ) Jesus as the Christ ( Anointed One ), the Son of God!

Looking first, at some Old Testament, or Hebrew Scriptures; as far back as Numbers 24:7-19; Balaam, at the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, prophesied of the Christ when he uttered these words concerning 'the city of man': 'Out of Jacob One shall have dominion, and destroy the remains of the city'. Concerning this 'city of man'; David prayed, in Psalm 55:9, 'Destroy, O Lord, and divide their tongues, for I have seen violence and strife in the city', while his son saw, in Proverbs 11:11, that 'By the blessing of the upright the city is exalted, but it is overthrown by the mouth of the wicked'. Solomon later wrote, concerning the deadness and uselessness of the Old Covenant, in Ecclesiastes 8:10, 'Then I saw the wicked buried, who had come and gone from the place of holiness, and they were forgotten [ praised? ] in the city where they had so done. This also is vanity.' Though this 'city of man', which God had nevertheless chosen to dwell in ( I Kings 8:44 ), had become corrupted; He promised through the prophet Isaiah, that 'I will restore your judges as at the first, and your counselors as at the beginning. Afterward you shall be called the city of righteousness, the faithful city'. ( Isaiah 1:26 ). Isaiah 26:5 reveals how God destroyed ( and still destroys ) this 'city of man'; ' For He brings down those who dwell on high, the lofty city; He lays it low, He lays it low to the ground, He brings it down to the dust'. In Jeremiah 8:16, we see further proof of how God destroyed 'the city of man'; 'The snorting of His horses was heard from Dan. The whole land trembled at the sound of the neighing of His strong ones; for they have come and devoured the land and all that is in it, the city and those who dwell in it.' Concerning this 'city of man'; God further promised, in Jeremiah 19:11 & 12, 'Even so I will break this people and this city, as one breaks a potter’s vessel, which cannot be made whole again; and they shall bury them in Tophet till there is no place to bury. Thus I will do to this place, says the LORD, and to its inhabitants, and make this city like Tophet', finally saying, in Jeremiah 23:39, 'therefore behold, I, even I, will utterly forget you and forsake you, and the city that I gave you and your fathers, and will cast you out of My presence'.

Regarding His Son, God revealed that 'I have raised him up in righteousness, and I will direct all his ways; He shall build My city and let My exiles go free, not for price nor reward, says the LORD of hosts'. ( Isaiah 45:13 ) Using very physical language ( this is where some have been confused, I believe ); God promised, following His revelation of the New Covenant, in Jeremiah 31:38, 'Behold, the days are coming, says the LORD, that the city shall be built for the LORD from the Tower of Hananel to the Corner Gate'. Ezekiel also used very physical language when he prophesied ( not unlike John, in Revelation 21:16 & 17 ) 'All the way around shall be eighteen thousand cubits; and the name of the city from that day shall be: THE LORD IS THERE.”[ YHWH Shammah ]'. ( Ezekiel 48:35 ) In Daniel's famous prayer for his people; he longed for this 'change' ( from the 'Old' to the 'New'-I Corinthians 15:52 ) that God had promised: 'O Lord, according to all Your righteousness, I pray, let Your anger and Your fury be turned away from Your city Jerusalem, Your holy mountain; because for our sins, and for the iniquities of our fathers, Jerusalem and Your people are a reproach to all those around us'. In Zechariah 8:3; God renewed His promise, giving His people hope, revealing that 'I will return to Zion, and dwell in the midst of Jerusalem. Jerusalem shall be called the City of Truth, the Mountain of the LORD of hosts, the Holy Mountain'. The sons of Korah prophesied of the blessings of the New Covenant on this 'city of God', in Psalm 46:4, singing '[ There is ] a river whose streams shall make glad the city of God, the holy [ place ] of the tabernacle of the Most High. God is in the midst of her, she shall not be moved; God shall help her, just at the break of dawn.' They also wrote ( and sang ) in Psalm 87:3, 'Glorious things are spoken of you, O city of God! Selah'. Asaph echoed this sentiment, when he wrote, in Psalm 50:2, 'Out of Zion, the perfection of beauty, God will shine forth'. David sang praises when he remembered that 'God will save Zion and build the cities of Judah, that they may dwell there and possess it.' ( Psalm 69:35 ), and the psalmist, crying to the Lord from the midst of his afflictions, takes comfort in the fact that 'the LORD shall build up Zion; He shall appear in His glory'. Remembering that, although there was an actual city called Zion ( the City of David-II Samuel 5:7, I Chronicles 11:5 ), and was technically a 'city of man'; it was typical of the spiritual Zion ( like the 'heavenly Jerusalem' ), which signified the 'remnant' ( Isaiah 10:20-23 ), the New Covenant people of God, the true 'Israel of God' ( Romans 8:6-8 ( Galatians 6:16 ).

We have seen, in the Hebrew Scriptures, how that God had promised to bring, through and to His Old Covenant people, the 'change' necessary to transform them from 'the city of man', and make them a fit dwelling for Himself, into 'the city of God' ( I Peter 2:5 ). Let us look now at a few of the Greek, or New Testament Scriptures which not only tell us of the same, but remind us that this 'transformation' was happening, and was fulfilled in their own day!

It was prophesied in Isaiah 24:10, concerning the destruction of this 'city of man', 'The city of confusion is broken down; every house is shut up, so that none may go in.' Jesus told a parable in Matthew 22:14 concerning the kingdom of heaven, revealing what would happen to the 'city of man', of those who had rejected Him and His Spirit, 'and broken the everlasting covenant'; 'But when the king heard about it, he was furious. And he sent out his armies, destroyed those murderers, and burned up their city'. Before sending His disciples out ( Matthew 10:5 ) to preach the nearness of the Kingdom, or the 'change' from the physical 'city of man' to the spiritual 'city of God'; Jesus had instructed them 'whoever will not receive you, when you go out of that city, shake off the very dust from your feet as a testimony against them.' ( Luke 9:5 ) saying to the people of that city 'The very dust of your city which clings to us [ our feet ] we wipe off against you. Nevertheless know this, that the kingdom of God has come near you'. Remember too, that Jesus had told them, in Matthew 10:23, 'When they persecute you in this city, flee to another. For assuredly, I say to you, you will not have gone through the cities of Israel before the Son of Man comes.' When Jesus had His appointed meeting with the woman of Samaria at the well in Sychar, recorded in John 4, He gave a hint, as He did in the previous chapter, to Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews, of this 'change' that I mentioned above, and which Paul spoke of in I Corinthians 15:52, from the physicality of the Old Covenant to the spirituality of the New. During His conversation with this woman; Jesus told her 'Woman, believe Me, the hour is coming when you will neither on this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, worship the Father' ( 4:21 ), and several verses later, that 'the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him' ( 4:23 ). In His aforementioned conversation with Nicodemus, after telling him of the importance and import of this 'change'; Jesus told Nicodemus that 'The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit' ( 3:8 ), then asked, at Nicodemus' incredulity, 'If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how will you believe if I tell you heavenly things?' In John 14:2; Jesus told His disciples, after revealing that He was 'the Way, the Truth, and the Life', that 'In My Father’s house are many mansions [ dwellings ]; if it were not so, I would have told you. [ for ] I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also' ( I Thessalonians 4:18 ). After a lengthy conversation concerning the indwelling of the Spirit, and Jesus soon bodily absence and yet continuing presence with them; the disciples asked 'Lord, how is it that You will manifest Yourself to us, and not to the world?' Jesus told them, 'If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him.' He said this, not to confuse His earlier statement, but to remind His disciples of the spiritual nature of this new 'dwelling', this 'city of God'!

In his epistle to the church at Rome; Paul explained, in the first three chapters especially, the vanity, or uselessness, of 'the city of man': in Romans 1:18-21; Paul began his diatribe against this city of man, saying that 'the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened.' In chapter 2; Paul revealed that his main argument was with his own people the Jews ( especially their leaders ), saying, in verse 17-23, 'Indeed [ but if ] you are called a Jew, and rest on the law, and make your boast in God, and know His will, and approve the things that are excellent, being instructed out of the law, and are confident that you yourself are a guide to the blind, a light to those who are in darkness, an instructor of the foolish, a teacher of babes, having the form of knowledge and truth in the law. You, therefore, who teach another, do you not teach yourself? You who preach that a man should not steal, do you steal? You who say, “Do not commit adultery,” do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? You who make your boast in the law, do you dishonor God through breaking the law?' In chapter 3, after defending God's righteous judgment on the 'city of man'; Paul explained to them, both Jew and Gentile ( 'for there is no difference' ), in verses 21 and 22, the preeminence of the 'city of God', saying that 'now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all [ NU text omits 'on all' ] who believe.' Again; using very physical language; Paul described the longing of the whole creation ( God's people-Romans 8:20-23 ), and the assurance they had in Jesus, in II Corinthians 5:1 & 2: he wrote, 'For we know that if our earthly house, this tent, is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed with our habitation which is from heaven'. ( I've quoted this passage before, in reference to the New Covenant, which can be equated with 'the city of God' )

Luke quotes from Psalm 69, in Acts 1:20, referring to the betrayal of our Lord by Judas Iscariot, saying 'it is written in the Book of Psalms: ‘Let his dwelling place be desolate, and let no one live in it’'. One could argue that this is referring, not to the 'city of man' in particular, but to the curse that was pronounced upon Judas personally, for his betrayal, but if we think about it, Jesus' betrayal was a result of Judas' living in 'the city of man', with a focus, as with many of the Jews of his day, on the physicality of the promises. Paul, in his letter to the Ephesians, reminded the people of God in that church that they were 'no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit' ( Ephesians 2:19-22 ) When Jesus had cleansed the physical Temple, in John 2:13-22; 'the Pharisees asked Him 'What sign do You show to us, since You do these things?', He, in answering, said 'Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up'. They, thinking naturally, of the physical, as Nicodemus had, were taken aback at this, and plainly said so, but Jesus had spoken of 'the temple of His body', and of the spiritual nature of 'the city of God', as He had mentioned to the woman in Samaria. Paul latter followed this theme in dealing with the carnality ( physical thinking/acting ) of the Corinthian church, when in I Corinthians 3:16, he asked them, by way of remembrance, 'Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?', and again, 'If anyone defiles the temple of God, God will destroy him. For the temple of God is holy, which [ temple ] you are.' ( see also I Corinthians 6:19, II Corinthians 6:16 ) Finally; when John saw in a vision the gloriousness of the New, or heavenly ( Hebrews 12:22 ) Jerusalem; he noted of this city that 'I saw no temple in it, for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple.' Earlier in this vision, John 'brought it all home', so to speak, when he wrote that 'I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God [ is ] with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them [ and be ] their God.' What more needs to be said? The 'city of man' has been transformed into 'the city of God'! Physically speaking, of course, you might well say that even as Christians, we dwell in 'the city of man' yet, but can we really say that?

In the Love of Christ, Charles Shank