The Pagan Path

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

Saturday, March 30, 2013

How to Live ( Resurrection Life! )

'The nerve!'

'You're telling us how to live!?'

The 'problem' is, most Christians don't believe that we are in the Resurrection. There should ( ideally ) be an immediate objection made to such a statement, such as, 'Jesus said 'I AM the Resurrection and the Life'; we are in Jesus, therefore, we ARE in the Resurrection, but don't hold your breath, or you may NEED a physical 'resurrection'!

While any Christian 'worth his salt' will readily acknowledge that he ( or she ) is 'a new creation', this phrase is usually spiritualized to say that it is only in the spiritual sense that we have been made new, much less, the entire creation being made new. 'The old things have passed away', sure, but that's just spiritually speaking. Until, Jesus comes back and burns up this first creation ( which God pronounced    'good', by the way! ). The creation will continue as it has since the beginning of time ( II Peter 3:4 ). Since 'the prince of the power of the air' currently rules this world, you might hear, all we can do is hunker down, and 'hold the fort' till Jesus comes back!

'Just look at the state of the nation', you might hear; if Jesus was actually reigning and ruling right now, there would be no more death or dying, tears or crying; pornography, reputedly the number one killer of marriages, would not exist, murder and rape would not even enter the minds of men and women, 'the wolf would lie down with the lamb', and all would be as it was in the beginning of creation, a perfect utopia!

As the world is now, and with evil existent, how can we truly be at peace, right? Sure, because of Jesus, we can have peace in our heart, but how can we 'be at peace' knowing that, at any given moment, some pervert might decide to settle his lustful eyes on our blue-eyed blond-haired teenage daughter? How can we 'be at peace' knowing that we, or a loved one could drop dead, at any given time, seemingly out of the blue? How can we truly rest, knowing that all sorts of evil daily seems to threaten our very existence?!

Well, the obvious answer, which any Christian could give you, is that 'the peace of God, which passes all understanding', rules in our hearts! A convenient answer and divinely true, but sadly, in the lives of many Christians, it seems to stop there! How many times have you heard people say, upon the 'passing' of an acquaintance, a friend, or a loved one, that 'he is finally at peace'! It does seem sometimes that the only way that we can actually be at peace is to leave this world, but the Christian should have a big problem with that! The problem is that we are promised peace, and even in the midst of trials and tribulations we can rest in our Peace, knowing that He accomplished His Purpose in entering our world; death is defeated, all things have been made made new, and we can rest in peace, now!

As always, we have a choice before us; we can 'hunker down' and wait for 'the peace that passes all understanding', or we can live in that Peace now, knowing that He fulfilled, and through His people, continually fulfills that Purpose! Having defeated 'him who had the power of death', and having received the nations for His inheritance and the ends of the earth for His possession ( Psalm 2 ), Jesus now rules this world through the in-dwelling ( John 14:23 ) of His people!

Let us live in that Peace, knowing that this IS 'Our Father's World', and that He does rule over the affairs of men, and through His chosen people, is spreading that peace throughout His inheritance!

Peace, my beloved  brethren!

Charles Haddon Shank

Friday, March 29, 2013

Create in Me a Clean Heart, O God?

Have mercy upon me, O God,
According to Your lovingkindness;
According to the multitude of Your tender mercies,
Blot out my transgressions.
Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity,
and cleanse me from my sin.
Psalm 51:1 & 2 

You might as well clap the irons on me now, and shut me away for good!

Listening to Keith Green's 'Create in Me a Clean Heart' this morning, which is based on Psalm 51, verses 10-12, I was moved to ask, as I have often in the recent past; 'is it fitting for a Christian to recite ( sing, pray ) those words, and other like Psalms and prayers?'

Okay, you may want to throw away the key, too!

Don't get me wrong; I love David's Psalms, and the way that Keith Green put this one ( or a small part of it anyway ) to music, although much could probably be written as to why his song only covers that short passage in the Psalm. But seriously; hasn't God already cleansed our hearts? Hasn't He already forgiven our sins? Hasn't He already renewed a right Spirit within us? Are we not a new creature, like Paul said ( I Corinthians 5:17 )? With the way that we Christians act sometimes; you might pause to wonder! Have we really been perfected, like we read in Hebrews 10:14? Are we really all that glorious, as Paul wrote in Romans 8::29? Again, it seems very doubtful, much of the time!

If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us ( our } sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 
If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us. 
I John 1:8-10

This being somewhat familiar territory for me, and probably for my readers, I will not say too much here, except that we have been taught, as Christians, to repeat this 'mantra' on a daily basis, or at least in corporate worship every Sonday. Here again, though, we seem to run into similar problems! Has not God already cleansed us from all unrighteousness? Did He not once for all forgive our sins? Did not Christ on the cross, say 'it is finished'? ( One might ask here, for clarification; 'what was finished'? )

It's almost too clear that men, even, and maybe especially Christians still sin; it seems to be pretty obvious that 'they' have not been cleansed from all unrighteousness! One would even be hard-pressed to say that some Christians have a right Spirit within them! So how can we, as believers in fulfilled eschatology, say that all the words of God in this matter have been fulfilled, that we have a completed salvation?

In the 'formula' above, John says pretty clearly that if we claim that we don't sin anymore, we not only deceive ourselves, but we make God out to be a liar, right? Well, yes, of course; we still transgress the commandments of God, usually on a daily basis, and if we do not acknowledge that we have sinned, and repent of those transgressions, we have deceived ourselves and called God a liar! 

Focusing on verse 9; I believe that a very good case can be made, especially since this letter was not written to us ( audience relevance, remember? ), that this admonition was written, not so much for our sakes, as to bolster those in the first century who were striving to make the transition from Judaism or even heathenism to Christianity. This is not to say, as I hinted earlier, that these words are not for our instruction; they are!We must be careful though, to realize that, with our completed salvation came complete forgiveness, complete cleansing, and complete renewal of Spirit! 'Why', you might say, 'don't we act like it?'

Good question; 'Why DON'T we act like it?'

While many different reasons and answers might be given for this dilemma, when it comes right down to it, most Christians would have to say that it is because our salvation is not yet complete. Because Jesus has not come back, these Christians would say, and not having conquered sin and death by destroying him who has the power of both ( 'Satan' ); sin and death are still rampant in the world, which is not ruled by Him, but by the prince of the power of the air ( again, 'Satan' )! 

What a bunch of 'horse-hockey' ( nice way of saying 'bullshit' )!

Besides a faulty view of eschatology; I believe the blame for much of this false dilemma can be laid at the feet of 'individualism', the emotion that 'Jesus died for MY sins!', 'He paid the penalty for ME!', or even the famous 'Jesus loves YOU!' ( got those chains handy? ) Before I get mauled here; yes, Jesus DOES love you, yes, Jesus DID pay the penalty for my sins, and yes, He did die for my sin, but let's look at what the Gospel according to Matthew says about what He came to do. The last part of verse 21 of chapter 1 reads, 'He will save His people from their sins'. Sure, as individuals are part of His people ( now known as the Body of Christ ); Jesus did save individual people, but most importantly, He came to save US, His Bride, HIS people!

Again I ask; 'is it fitting for us as Christians, and especially as believers in fulfilled eschatology, to recite/pray the words of Psalm 51, I John 1:9, etc.? I believe that it is very fitting for us to ask our heavenly Father to 'Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me, and know my anxieties' ( Psalm 139:23 ), or to pray 'Cleanse me from secret [ faults ]', because, as expressed, that is something that needs to be done on a daily, even hourly basis, but it is not that we may be forgiven, or even may continue to be forgiven; it is because we HAVE BEEN forgiven!

We ARE individuals, and one might say this is where the 'heart of the matter' lies; because we are individuals, we each have a choice, every day, every hour, every minute, whether to do what we know is right, or whether to do what we know is wrong. In this world, especially from those who are outside the gates, there is much pressure, often, to do what we know is wrong, and when we 'cave in' to that pressure, which does happen, like it or not, as loving children of a Loving Father, we KNOW, as well, that we can 'go to Him' with the assurance that we ARE forgiven, and confess that trespass to Him, and accept ( realize ) His forgiveness!

Those nasty 'isms'!

This CANNOT be pointed out too much, though it sure seems like it; Jesus died for the sins of HIS PEOPLE! He came to save HIS PEOPLE from their sins! He accomplished that Purpose, once for all, when on the Cross, He uttered, in finality, 'it is finished'; He had done what He came for! Though in actuality, His ( first-century ) people had yet to be freed completely of the chains of sin and death ( Old Covenant Judaism - Revelation 21:6 ), in Reality, it was finished, the redemption was accomplished, His people WERE saved from the effects of the sin and the death of Adam, their first covenant ( federal ) head!

The Body of Christ, not those individuals within, is what has been perfected and glorified! Though we as individuals, being members of that Body, are thus partakers in that Perfection & Glorification, we ourselves, as is proven on a daily basis, are often seen as for from being either perfect or glorious! Not that we shouldn't live our lives, as far as is possible, in perfection and glory; we rest in the fact  that it is in Him that we ARE perfected and glorious, in His Body!

Individualism, as many other isms, is an idol, and one that needs to be cut down and removed, cast into the fire, so to speak! 

Because of this idea, we have fostered the belief, especially in American Christianity, can attain perfection. As human beings, we never will! There has only EVER been One perfect human, and He was that because He was also God! The thing we MUST understand, or we will never be able to live our lives, free from the chains of individualism, is that WE, as the Body of Christ ARE free of those 'chains', those 'chains' were never upon us! Through many well-intentioned means ( 'the road to 'hell' is paved with good intentions'? ), the American Christian has been convinced that he ( or she ) MUST attain that perfection, as an individual, or he ( or she ) cannot claim that Perfection that comes in Christ alone!

One of my beloved brethren puts it this way; 'we have been perfected in our imperfection': this is probably one of the most, if not THE most succinct statements regarding this matter! We ARE perfect in our imperfections, not as individuals, although some may beg to differ, but as members of the community of divinity, the Body of Christ!

As the Body of Christ, then, having been made 'perfect in our imperfections', let us strive, not for perfection, but to shine forth the Perfection that we have been given, that through our shining example, the children of God spread abroad may realize as well, and awake to the fact that they to, have been Called to Perfection!

Glorying in our Perfection,
Charles Haddon Shank

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

The Resurrection to the New Temple

I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live.

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.

Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit [ who is ] in you?
Whom you have from God, and you are not your own!
Paul-I Corinthians 6:19

First, a short rant-The problem I've always had with trinitarianism, besides the fact that there is no good ism but a prism, is that many trinitarians, because of the 'orthodox' doctrine of the Trinity, have inserted a great separation, whether they know it or not, whether they admit it or not, within the God-head! Now Paul also said ( Colossians 2:9 ), 'For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily'. Would that not tell you, in other words, that Jesus was the embodiment of God Himself?! One may accuse me of proof-texting here, but how else are we to read Paul's words? 

I am not denying the Scriptures by revealing this, because there IS plenty of available evidence that, during the period under which Israel was being tutored (  groomed? ), and especially the transition period between Jesus' Ascension and His return ( in the clouds ), there WAS somewhat of a separation ( Matthew 27:46 ( Psalm 22:1 ), or distinction of offices. In John 14:26, most famously, Jesus told His ( first-century ) disciples that, after He had ascended to Where He was before, He would send His Spirit to comfort them during their tribulations. He said numerous times, in other words, maybe, that 'My Father is greater than I' ( John 14:28, Luke 10:22, Luke 22:29, Matthew 26:53 ). Clearly, Jesus WAS a man, as He referred to Himself most often, 'the Son of Man' ( Matthew 10:23, Mark 8:38 ( 14:62 ), Luke 9:22 ( 26 ), John 5:19 ), so, during this period, there WAS a definite distinction to be made between the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, but NOW that we have His Presence ( dwelling with ( in ) us ); I believe that, post-Parousia, it is no longer necessary, and even useless to make that distinction!

Now that I've shocked most of my family & friends ( well, maybe I haven't! ); let us go on to better things!

As Jesus clearly said; He, being the Son of God, God Himself ( John 8:58 ) was the embodiment of the Resurrection, or the Resurrection made visible ( revealed ) to the eyes of those who sought a sign. The Scripture can't be much clearer in that respect; whoever believed in Him would never die, but would in turn, become a vessel for that 'living water' which He alone gives ( John 4:1-26 ).

Some may wonder if the Holy Spirit dwells individually within each one of His people, and while we may answer in the affirmative, this is somewhat beside the point! The greater and revealed mystery is this, that He has chosen to make His Home ( one could say, 'Their Home', if one wishes ) in the midst of His people ( Luke 17:21 ( ESV ) ( Deuteronomy 23:16. Hosea 11:9 ).

There are those, and this IS the accepted 'orthodox' position, I believe, that insist that Jesus still inhabits His ( individual ) physical Body, in 'Heaven', at the 'right hand' of the Father ( 'from thence He will come to judge the living and the dead' ), and while I can recite this phrase almost without 'compunction', I cannot abide by the 'orthodox' understatement of it! I believe that Jesus DOES inhabit His physical Body, but that Body is not an individual one, physically occupying a place on His Father's throne; it is what Paul refers to as 'His body, which is the church' ( Colossians 1:24 ).

We've 'been there, done that', but it seems like the problem just won't go away!

'Individualism', spiritually speaking, is probably about the wost kind of 'ism' out there, and 'a root of all [ kinds of ] evil'. There can be no argument that the Body of Christ, the Church that Paul spoke so highly of, is necessarily made up of individual Christians ( followers of Christ ), but I wonder if we often don't put too much of a focus on how we, as individuals, fit within that Body, than on the glorious fact that we, as a part of that Body, have been (corporately ) 'made perfect in love' ( I John 4:16-18 ( Hebrews 10:14 ). 'Individualism' is the culprit that insists that Jesus is yet a man, and must come again, in that form, to judge the living and the dead! 'Individualism' says that the Resurrection has not happened yet because men still die ( physically ), and their biological bodies 'return to their dust' from whence they came ( Psalm 104:29 )!

'Individualism' must die!

The Church, the ( corporate ) Body of Christ MUST realize that She IS One! Till the Church realizes that She is not ( just ) a group of individual persons, or even congregations placed on this earth to foment and spread the love of God to His 'children', She will continue to have, at most, a nominal, and in many cases, adverse effect, on the Kingdom of God on earth! Now, don't get me wrong; it IS God's Kingdom, and He rules omnipotently over all, but as 'those who are outside' ( I Thessalonians 4:12 ( Revelation 22:15 ) perceive it ( KoG ), the Church has done much to degrade it!

I do not say this, as some have accused me of, to slander the Bride of Christ, nor do I say things like this to lessen the guilt or culpability ( responsibility ) of 'those who are outside', but to alert Her, and yes, individuals within Her, of the Unity that we have in Christ, not because we share the same doctrines in uniformity, but because we share the same Lord and Father!

If the Resurrection has not yet occurred, although most will admit that there HAS been 'a' resurrection of sorts ( kinda like 'a' Coming, 'a' Parousia? ), then we ( the corporate Body of Christ ) cannot BE the New Temple, for the 'Lord of heaven and earth' will have nothing to do with a dead body, as typified in the Law of Moses ( Leviticus 21:11, Numbers 6:6, 19:11 ( Isaiah 26:19 ) Haggai 2:10-14 ), but rather, as Jesus explained to the 'hardhearted' Pharisees, 'He is not the God of the dead, but the God of the living' ( Mark 12:27 ). If there remains a Resurrection of biological bodies, in the manner of our Lord's, then we wait for the fulfillment of His promise, and if we await the Resurrection, then we CANNOT be the Temple of the Holy Spirit, for we are a dead Body!

In the love of God and the Unity of the Spirit.
Let us reason together, Charles Haddon Shank

Saturday, March 23, 2013

The Universal Priesthood of Man and the Expansion of the New Covenant

You have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and [ how ] I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to Myself. Now therefore, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant,
 then you shall be a special treasure to Me above all people; for all the earth [ is ] Mine. 
 And you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.
These [ are ]the words which you shall speak to the children of Israel.
Exodus 19:6 

Israel was born to be God's Priest to the nations. I don't think anyone would argue against that. Some would say that Israel's purpose failed, and to a point we might agree, but God's Purpose never will! It is very arguable that Israel did keep God's Holy Covenant, especially in the context of what we call the Old Covenant Age, but in the light of certain Scriptures, prophecies like Isaiah 42:6 and 49:8, both of which speak of the Christ, the Redeemer of Israel, it is clear. that 'first' covenant ( Hebrews 8:7 ) was simply a picture, a foretaste, a shadow of better things to come! As Paul said, 'the law was our tutor [ to bring us ] to Christ'. 

 Permit me to follow a rabbit trail here; there are many out there who claim that the law was abolished, that it perished at the cross, and Scripture does say that that Jesus has 'taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross', while the writer to the Hebrews said ( of that first [ covenant ] ) that 'what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away'. Though the Mosaic Law did become obsolete for the people of God, and vanished away like the vapor it was, the Law that it foreshadowed was the True Law, the Royal Law of God, you could say, the Christ Himself! ( I know; we HAVE been down this road before, but it is very important that we stay on this Path! ) There are many, many Scriptures that could be cited here that plainly say that the law, and more precisely, the royal law is good, but that it only showed the rebellious and sinful nature of man, and magnified his transgression, made it clear, so to speak. The Psalms and Proverbs, for instance, are full of such references. Now; back to our regularly scheduled programming.

Old Covenant ( Hebraic ) Israel was, in the sense above, itself a picture, a foreshadow of the True Israel, the Israel of God ( yes; we've been down this road too, but it's setting some context, so please bear with me ). Clearly, when God declared through the prophecy of Hosea ( 11:1 ), 'out of Egypt I called My son', He spoke of the time to come when Joseph and Mary would bring the Child Jesus back from Egypt after having escaped to there from the hand of the new pharaoh, Herod, the false king of Israel. It should be abundantly clear, as well, that the Church, as the Body of Christ, is the ( made ) New Israel, being the New Temple of the Holy Spirit! All these shadows simply pointed toward the Shadow-maker. Think of it as the Sun casting a long shadow in front of a man on a journey; the closer he gets to his destination, the shorter the shadow appears, and finally disappears! The shadows of that first covenant have disappeared, and in the Revelation of Jesus Christ, the Destination ( John 11:26 ) has been made manifest!

For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive
I Corinthians 15:22

Paul made quite a universalistic statement when he wrote these words! Reading these words in the correct context, both historically and covenantally, we can clearly see that, just as the 'world' that God so loved in that famous passage in John 3, so the 'all' here does not speak ( primarily ) of every single human being, individually. Actually, even in this very phrase, it is clearly stated that, 'in Christ, all shall be made alive' ( sure, you can argue that I'm putting the apostrophe where there isn't one, but I'm just sayin............) The question before us, one of them anyway, is, 'who are the 'all' that died in ( the first ) Adam?' Is it not those same people who were made alive in Christ? Some would posit this supposed dilemma as saying that it was only Israel that was made alive..................and well, yes, that would be correct, only God's people were made alive and continue to be wakened from their slumber!

Bonus question; 'Who ARE God's people?'

Well, there you go; I've done it now! Here come all the comments about me being a universalist! I must admit that the whole idea is very attractive to me, but for now I will console myself ( and others? ) by giving myself the moniker of 'covenant universalist'' I really don't mind all the 'jabs', though some of them do kinda hurt: I have always said that I was 'saved' 2,000 years ago, for God's sake!

Here's THE question; 'Who are the people, or even 'children' of God?' The ready ( Scriptural ) answer, of course, is 'only those who are in Christ'! There are numerous Scriptures that can be shown as proof of this, most notably I John 3:10, 'In this the children of God and the children of the devil are manifest: Whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor [ is ] he who does not love his brother.' Pretty clear statement, right? Those who do not practice righteousness are not ( children ) of God, right? Yes, we've been down this road, too! As I recall, it had something to do with the historical and covenantal context, but I could be wrong! Think 'children of Israel'!

Okay; another question: 'What does it take to be in Christ?' Maybe a better one would be, 'How do we know when one is in Christ?'' Well, the first thing to come to the lips of most Christians might be the Scriptural answer that Jesus Himself gave, 'You will know them by their fruits' ( Matthew 7:16 ). It is not, however, that our obedience causes us to be in Christ; it is rather the opposite, it is our being in Christ that causes ( enables ) us to bear fruit! So, we can without doubt say that if one shows signs of a disobedient and rebellious nature, there's a good chance that one is not in Christ, right? The first thing we must understand here, aside from the fact that we belong to the corporate Body of Christ, is that our being in Christ is a work of God; it is not of us! It is in God's good timing, not ours, that the evidence that one is in Christ, if ever, will manifest. We can look at a person who is obviously, or apparently living a life contrary to the orthodox doctrine found within the pages of Scripture, and say of that person that he or she is definitely not in Christ, nor in covenant with God, right?

Ready for the next question? 'What does it take to enter into covenant with ones Creator?' Yes; I know what a covenant is, it's a set of binding agreements, made by two or more parties ( in essence, though maybe different words ), not a uni-lateral statement of promises made by the Almighty Creator of the universe. Frankly; I'm about tired of hearing it, not because it's not true, but because it brings God down to our level, which is not fair, or right! This is where the Nature of God comes in: the Godhead is traditionally composed of three parties! I believe we've been down this road as well, so we won't go too far on this one! The Covenant, as has been discussed in previous articles by this author, and others as well ( A.W.Pink, for one ) was made between the Father and the Son, as is evidenced, for instance, in the fact that 'God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life'! This too, being an eschatological statement, maybe a better, and our next question should be, 'does one enter into covenant with his Creator, or now ( post-AD70, as some might say ) are we born into covenant with our Creator?' Well, now; if we say that the 'all' of I Corinthians 15:22 ( et al ) is only speaking of Old Covenant Israel, it seems we might have a problem on our hands! If only Old Covenant Israel, who died in Adam, was made alive in Christ, then where are we? We were never dead in Adam! If the 'all' is universally true ( mankind ), then we have another 'problem' on our hands, the other side of the coin, you might say!

I have a 'problem'; I am accused of being extra-biblical, and worse yet, I readily admit it! At this point, some would probably throw up their hands, or better yet, clasp them in prayer, thinking, 'this poor deluded fellow's really gone off the deep end now'! Yes, don't worry ( too much ); I still read my Bible, several different ones, in fact, I still talk to God, and look to the Revelation of His Word for inspiration and guidance, but we have the Word of God inscribed on our 'hearts', as we are inscribed on the palm of His 'hand'. Although we can and should still make application of many of the principles He has written down for us by His servants the prophets, we now have the Living Word within us, attached to the very core of our being!

Going 'extra-biblical' on you, so to speak, could we not safely, more or less, speculate then, that God, since the Revelation of Jesus as the Christ, and the New Covenant, has shown how He is in covenant with 'all' His creation, and desires, through His Son, and through us, to have a blessed and intimate relationship with them? As Israel, under that 'first' ( covenant ) was made a 'a kingdom of priests and a holy nation', so we now, according to I Peter 2:5, are 'a holy priesthood', and why priests? The context of Peter's words tell us; it is so that we may offer sacrifices of love, pleasing to His nostrils! We have been given a flag ( Law ) to follow, and that flag is the banner of love that we read about in the Song of Solomon 2:4, that the Beloved placed over His Lover! Being the New Temple of the Holy Spirit, we are to offer ourselves, as did the Son of God, as living sacrifices of love, sharing His love with 'all' His creatures. As the New Israel, and thus God's Priest to the nations, or 'world', we have a renewed mandate, to have the dominion, not in a physical sense, as Israel under that 'first' ( covenant ) did, in order to symbolically cleanse the Holy Land. Our renewed mandate is to have dominion in a spiritual way, thus spilling over into the physical, over 'all' His creation, to return it to a right relationship with Him! We know from Scriptures like II Peter 3:9 ( a truly eschatological statement ) that God is 'not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance'. Though this was an eschatological statement, and thus was fulfilled in the first century, is it not very applicable today? Can we not safely speculate here that God desires 'all' His creation, His 'children', so to speak, to repent from their wicked and rebellious ways and return to a right relationship with Him?

Returning, once again, to Paul's universalistic statement in I Corinthians 15; as in the passage from 11 Peter, it is an eschatological statement, but would it not be safe to assume the same here? Are the two 'all' statements in that passage speaking of the same group of people, or has the definition of 'all' necessarily expanded with the Parousia of the New Covenant? Can we not safely speculate that the 'all', just as they were God's covenant 'children' who died in Adam, has now been expanded to include His entire creation, 'all' of His 'children', 'all' of whom have been made alive in, or through the sacrifice of the Son of God, though many have not yet been awakened to that reality?

For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, 
and has broken down the middle wall of separation, having abolished in His flesh the enmity 
[, that is, ] the law of commandments [ contained ] in ordinances,
 so as to create in Himself one new man [ from ] the two, [ thus ] making peace,  
and that He might reconcile them both to God in one body through the cross,
 thereby putting to death the enmity.  
And He came and preached peace to you who were afar off and to those who were near.  
For through Him we both have access by one Spirit to the Father.
Ephesians 2: 14-18 

We cannot argue, nor should we, I believe, that 'all', having been reconciled with their Creator, are thus are 'in Christ', in the biblical sense, but I believe that the purpose of God in Jesus the Christ has been made plain, or revealed in its essence. It is the reconciliation of His creation to a right relationship with Himself, no more, no less. It is clear, from passages such as that above, that it is only 'through Him' that His Creation has been, and is being restored; as Jesus said, 'No one comes to the Father except through Me.' ( John 14:6b  ) As the Body of Christ on earth, the Revealed Son of God, through the Power of His Holy Spirit, and as His Priest to the ( expanded )  'world', we, in actuality, though not in Reality, are the ones who spread abroad the Gospel of that reconciliation, shining His Light into every 'heart', thus aiding in the restoration of the relationship that He so desires!

In conclusion; we have a job to do! As always, we have before us a choice as well; will we choose to continue the work of God in Jesus the Christ, or will we continue, as those errant 'children' did, under that 'first' ( covenant ), to take, rather than have dominion, the dominion that we have been given, as the New Priest of God?! The world, as Jesus spoke in eschatological parable to His followers, is 'white for harvest' ( John 4:35 )! In a sense, this is a different harvest than what Jesus referred to His first-century disciples, but in the greatest sense, it is one and the same! It is the New Harvest, the 'awakening of men' by the New Priest! We are all priests after a sort, and though we all have different ministries, gifts, and callings; one calling is common to 'all', to spread abroad the Love He has shone in our lives through the Son of His Love!

Will we do it?

Humbly, and with Love in my 'heart',
Charles Haddon Shank

Thursday, March 21, 2013

The Empire of God Versus the American Empire

That this nation was founded on Christian principles is not only arguable, it is somewhat questionable! There is no doubt that certain of our founders were good Christians, as far as that went, and that the two most important ( traditionally anyway ) documents assembled to birth and govern this fledgling nation were influenced by Christianity, but the whole concept of America as a Christian nation is faulty, at the very least!

God, Guns, Guts, and Country

Most Americans are probably overly familiar with this phrase, or at least with one like it, such as, 'God, Guns, and Guts are what made America free'. Take note that the opposite is also becoming more and more true, 'Gutless, gunless, and God-less Americans are what is imprisoning America': more to the point, though; it is idolatrous, gun-less and gut-less Christians who will be the death of this nation!

American Christians seem to have gotten their religions mixed up, somewhat like the nation of Israel, in Daniel's prophecy ( Daniel 2 )  thought they would gain by mixing with Roman power, but only became more brittle, 'like iron mixed with clay'. We seem to have forgotten what Empire we belong to, and thus Whom we seve! In a very real sense, it was 'God, Guns and Guts' that made this country great, but anymore, it seems that most Americans, maybe even some Christians included, seem to have glossed over the fact that it was God Who gave greatness to this country, and have focused their worship and praise instead on man's part in the struggle, 'guns and guts'. This is not to detract from man's part in the struggle, but wrong empirical thought seems to have pervaded America in general, and American Christianity in particular!

Christians have forgotten Whom we serve and Whose Empire we are to be concerned with; we are not here to make this nation great, or even to live the American dream. Rather, we are here, in the greatness of God, to shine forth His goodness and mercy, to prove the greatness of His Love in His empirical Kingdom!  Jesus said that 'you cannot serve God and mammon', but American Christianity has been engaged in this idolatry for years. This saying could well be rephrased to say, 'you cannot serve God's Empire and the empire of man'. We cannot build the American Empire and the Empire of God!

This is not to say that one cannot be Christian and inhabit and even promote life in these United States, but we must keep in mind that, just as Jesus also said, 'seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you', we are not seek our own, or even the advancement of the American Empire: it is for the advancement of the Kingdom of God and His Righteousness, His empirical City, that we are to seek, and to concern ourselves with.

As we go about our day to day business, let us remember always that, even though it is always wise to seek the peace of the nation or city, geographically speaking, in which God has graciously placed us, it is more importantly where we dwell spiritually, and what, or Whose end we serve that may make the difference in whether we follow in the footsteps of Jesus, or whether we idolatrously continue to adhere to Americanism!

Serving the True Emperor in His Empire,
Charles Haddon Shank

Sunday, March 17, 2013

The Two Towers

Now the whole earth had one language and one speech. And it came to pass, as they journeyed from the east, that they found a plain in the land of Shinar, and they dwelt there. Then they said to one another, “Come, let us make bricks and bake [ them ] thoroughly.” They had brick for stone, and they had asphalt for mortar. And they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, and a tower whose top [ is ] in the heavens; let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth.”
Genesis 11:1-4

J.R.R. Tolkien reportedly and repeatedly made the claim that his most famous work, 'The Lord of the Rings' was not based on or biased by his study of Scripture, but it is not difficult to recognize its influence in this  fantastic work. Though this work has recently increased in popularity among the masses because of Peter Jackson's recent movies based on the book, it is eclipsed in importance by his less well-known and often laborious earlier history of the 'world' known as 'Middle Earth', 'The Simarillion'. In this work of art, Tolkien chronicles for us the the first several 'ages' of this fantastic 'world', from its conception and subsequent corruption, to the fullness of time when all would be set to rights again. Even after 'The Return of the King', though, Tolkien's 'world' still had its 'evils'; the 'Evil One' had been vanquished, but bad things still happened to good people, and vice-versa. Men still lost their mortal bodies to the ravages of time, and though it was in all respects better through the king's beneficent and benevolent rule, life was still life, and therefore no utopia and wrought with a degree of danger!

'The Silmarillion' gives us a most important background to 'The Lord of the Rings', though the latter very arguably stands on its own, and much as a passable knowledge and understanding of the Hebrew Scriptures is necessary to a right understanding of the Greek, or New Testament Scriptures, so Tolkien leads us into a better knowledge and understanding of the background of his more famous work!

The fabled Tower of Babel, much as the fantastic towers of Tolkien's Middle Earth, was built at the height of man's arrogance and self-sufficiency. This Tower, while built primarily, maybe, as a defense against the forces of Nature and Nature's God, was at the same time, and more importantly, the mighty cry from natural humanity that it could reach perfection, or 'Heaven', on its own strength, and by its own volition. Reading both the account in Genesis 11 and Tolkien's in 'The Silmarillion' and 'The Lord of the Rings', we can see how this may seem to have worked out for a time, but ultimately proved to be but vanity, though age-long vanity!

Most important to remember, as well, when reading Tolkien's writings and the Gospel of Jesus the Christ, is that these things are in the past. As for Tolkien, of course, it is easy to disregard his writings as pure fantasy, but as for the history we receive in the Scriptures, the message that we read is a lesson on how God has dealt with His errant covenant people in the past, and thus what we can expect in the present from the 'towers' we have erected against His beneficence, and what we might look forward to in the future should we continue to vaunt ourselves against Him!

J.R.R. Tolkien, as a good Roman Catholic, was avowedly a Christian, and as one can see from an informed and judicious reading of his tales, as we mentioned earlier, it is clear that they were influenced, to some extent, at least, by his reading and understanding of Scripture. His tale, though by no means a perfect representation of the history we read in the Scriptures, is, on its own, a fairly accurate, though fantastic and metaphorical account of our history. Our own history has been plagued by many evils, not unlike those of Middle Earth, and like the ultimate eschatological victory won by those hardy individuals in Tolkien's most famous tale, the victory won by the Christ in the first century and continued throughout by His brethren was an everlasting one and eternal in its finality!

In opposition to that first Tower, the people of God, as the New Temple, have become, through the power of the Holy Spirit, a 'tower' that serves the same purpose as was hoped for in that first Tower. As our bodies are 'the temple of the Holy Spirit', we are 'a tower whose top [ is ] in the heavens'; we have, as it were, reached heaven's joys! Through being 'scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth', we have, not ourselves, but through the power of the Son of God, made 'a name for ourselves', and become a Tower, not only in opposition to the 'towers' that men have set up, but a Tower to ensure that the people of God will never ( again ) fall out of touch with their Creator!

As the True Tower, then, as the New Temple; let us live our lives as the gateway to the joys of 'Heaven' ( the Presence of God' ) that we have become through the power of the Holy Spirit; let us be that shining 'Tower" that men ( and women ) may flee to when their man-made 'towers' crumble!

Only in the strength of the Holy Spirit, and because of the all-consuming sacrifice of 'The Finger of God', we are a 'tower of strength' to a world whose own 'towers' ( 9-11 ) have crumbled and continue to crumble!

The question is; 'how will we present that Tower, and hence, our Power, to a world full of crumbling idols?'

Charles Haddon Shank

Thursday, March 14, 2013

The Gathering of Israel; the Imperial City of God

 Let the waters under the heavens be gathered together into one place, 
and let the dry [ land ] appear.
Genesis 1:9

For you have not come to the mountain that  may be touched and that burned with fire.......................
But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and church of the God the Judge of all, to the spirits of just men made perfect,  
to Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant...............................
Hebrews 12:18-24a 

Jesus comforted His disciples, in Matthew 24:31, promising that He would 'send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.' This gathering, as we shall see, was not a 'gathering', as we are used to thinking of it, as a collection of objects or people together, in a physical sense, though Jesus used this terminology when He promised that 'where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them' ( Matthew 18:20 ). Rather, this gathering was and is a spiritual one, a 'gathering' of the people of God through the ages, into the Body of His Son!

 The City of God as opposed to the city of man is not a matter of one geographical City or Kingdom in competition with another; it is one religious and militant lifestyle set in opposition to another. The City of God, though typified under the Old Covenant in the city of David ( 'Beautiful in elevation, the joy of the whole earth, [ is ] Mount Zion [ on ] the sides of the north, the city of the great King' ) was not to be just one certain city, but would become 'a kingdom which shall never be destroyed', 'and it shall stand forever' ( Daniel 2 ), because it is based on the Rock that is the Christ ( I Corinthians 10:4 )! This Kingdom has been established 'on the top of the mountains' ( Isaiah 2:2 ), metaphorically speaking, and in opposition to the idolatry of man, in the highest places in their hearts, wherever they might be gathered, universally!

In a previous article, we saw how the scattering of Israel from the Land ( of Promise ) was for a greater Purpose, and that Purpose, which had been Yahweh's purpose all along, was to spread His Kingdom, His true religion, to the four corners of the earth, and not just in one geographic area. The Scattering of His people, then, was not primarily for their sin, though there is no doubt that was in view ( 'your iniquities have separated you from your God' ( Isaiah 59:2 ); Yahweh's Purpose in scattering His people was to Gather them, not into one certain geographic area, as Israel under that first covenant, but to expand beyond the borders of the Land to set up a Kingdom without borders, a City without walls ( Ezekiel 38:11 ). This, as Jesus later proclaimed ( Luke 17:20 & 21 ), this Kingdom was not to be like a kingdom of man, that one could set his eyes on, but rather, this Kingdom would be one that would overwhelm the hearts, minds and actions of its inhabitants. In other words, this Kingdom would be qualitative rather than quantitative!

A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones.
Ecclesiastes 3:5a

You also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood,  
to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 
I Peter 2:5

The words of the Preacher, in Ecclesiastes 3, have been immortalized, not only in Scripture, but in a famous ( more or less ) song by The Byrds, but I wander if many people think about their prophetic quality. Solomon was prophesying of a time to come when the people of God would be scattered afar for the purpose of being gathered into a greater and more glorious Kingdom! The 'building stones' of Israel were 'cast away' from the physical ( Promised ) Land that they might be gathered ( together ) in Spirit, and be built into 'a spiritual house,', a spiritual City, if you will, 'the great city, the holy[h] Jerusalem' which John saw descending out of heaven ( Revelation 21:10 ), a City which the writer to the Hebrews had noted earlier, 'the heavenly Jerusalem', 'the spirits of just men made perfect'.

The Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary defines the word 'gather' as meaning;
1: to bring together : collect, gather a crowd; gathered firewood;
2 a : pick, harvest; gather flowers;
   b : to pick up or amass as if by harvesting; gathering ideas for the project;
   c : to scoop up or take up from a resting place; gathered the child up in his arms; 
This is a good definition of the term, and as you can see, it employs some biblical terminology and ideology, but rather than applying to physicality, as in 'to scoop up or take up from a resting place', the people of God are being gathered, in the spiritual sense, TO their resting place, in Christ!

He prophesied that Jesus would die for the nation, 
and not for that nation only, but also that He would gather together in one the children of God who were scattered abroad.
John 11:51c & 52 

That in the dispensation of the fullness of the times He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth—in Him.
Ephesians 1:10 

When the Gospel writers spoke of Yahweh gathering His people together in one ( pictured by marriage-Genesis 2:24 ( Ephesians 5:31 ), it was not a physical gathering, as we are used to thinking of, but rather a spiritual gathering, a gathering of the hearts, minds and actions of men ( and women ) into one unified Body, His imperial Kingdom, in Christ! 

As the people of God continue to be gathered by the Spirit of God, and become one in heart, mind and action, let us forever be reminded that unity does not mean uniformity; we are all part of the same Body, but we are all different parts of that Body, we all have different functions, different gifts!

In Christ Jesus,
Charles Haddon Shank

Thursday, March 07, 2013

The Gift of the Spirit, and the Washing of Water by the Word

I came to send fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! But I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how distressed I am till it is accomplished! Do [ you ] suppose that I came to give peace on earth? I tell you, not at all, but rather division. 
Luke 12:49-51 

There can really be no argument that the first century church, the church in transition, if you will, taught and practiced water baptism. The phrase, 'for the remission of sins' ( Matthew 26:28, Mark 1:4, Luke 3:3, Acts 2:38 ), I don't need to tell you, in other words, anyway, comes straight out of the Hebrew Scriptures. Like all the symbolic acts under the Old Covenant, of course, this outward physical sign only pointed to the Reality, which, until the latter days of the Old Covenant regime, or era, had not yet been fully revealed. For whatever reason, the practice of water baptism has been carried on by the Church ( or is that 'church' ) up to this day. Even though the orthodox Church has carried on this tradition, there have been naysayers throughout the centuries who have dared to question 'the traditions of the fathers'!

Much discussion has been taking place recently ( mainly on Facebook ) on this most controversial of subjects. One comment that was made recently was along the lines that when baptism is mentioned in Scripture, it is not always referring to water baptism. No argument there, I should think! However, there are certain places that are pretty obviously referring to baptism by water. Interestingly enough, one of the most-used texts referring to water baptism does not appear ( in those words ) in the most ancient manuscripts. This is not to say that water baptism was not in practice in the 1st century, or even that Philip, in the passage in question ( Acts 8:26-40 ) did not confer water baptism on the Ethiopian eunuch; there can be no doubt that this man was overwhelmed ( with water )! Jesus was certainly symbolically washed in water by John, before entering into His earthly ministry ( officially speaking, that is )! He even told John why He, the Son of God Himself, must be baptized; 'for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness'. Note that the term 'fulfill' does NOT mean in itself that water baptism must necessarily cease after the Christ's baptism, though this could no doubt be argued, and well, at that!!

 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish.
Ephesians 5:25-27 

As THE Federal Husband, Jesus shed His own blood for His Bride, something that not a lot of husbands would do for their wives; that much is abundantly clear! It is when we come to the next notable phrase 'the washing of water by the word' that things might seem to cloud up a bit. Why or how, would Jesus purify and perfect His Bride for Himself with 'the washing of water by the word'? It just doesn't seem to make much sense, does it?! Ritual cleansing was commonly practiced under the Old Covenant, for this was a covenant of shadows, shadows which, as we've seen, pointed to the Reality which came in the Christ. 

There is also an anti-type which now saves us—baptism (not the removal of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God), through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
I Peter 3:21 

Something we might note, before launching into discussion here, is that this passage, as Paul's words earlier, from his letter to the Ephesians, is in direct conjunction with the  suffering of the Christ for His Bride. While this passage is most often read as referring to water baptism, it it quite a bit less than clear that the referent is water baptism; much the opposite, in fact, unless one is stymied by presuppositional 'wranglings'. My father often said, in other words maybe, and in defense of sprinkling or pouring, rather than immersion/submersion, that the ones who died in the Crossing of the Red Sea ( or Sea of Reeds ), were immersed/submersed ( -merged ) in the water, while those who were only sprinkled, while passing through on dry ground, were the ones who were saved. Speculation at best, maybe, but it is not hard to imagine that those towering walls of water would have sprinkled the children of Israel just a bit. In fact, Paul even wrote along these lines, saying, 'Moreover, brethren, I do not want you to be unaware that all our fathers were under the cloud, all passed through the sea, all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them, and that Rock was Christ.' ( I Corinthians 10:1-4 ) In Peter's word above, one may, with a certain bias, assume that the baptism spoken of is water baptism, but that is by no means clear, and is certainly not as evident as some would have you believe!

Prior to the verse in question; Peter recounts the days of Noah in which just a few were 'saved through water'. Note that while 'they' were saved, quite literally, in the Ark ( typical of the Christ ) through the waters of baptism ( there again, sprinkling, not immersion/submersion ), it was by the 'anti-type' that God's people ( New Covenant ) were truly and really saved, and by which they were cleansed in their 'heart of hearts' ( somewhere water would never, could never reach ); the baptism of the Holy Spirit of God Himself ( Ezekiel 36:25-27 )!

Getting back to 'the washing of water by the word'; it is plainly, abundantly clear that Paul's referent in his letter to the Ephesians is the ritual cleansing, both of priests and sacrifices, practiced religiously under the Old Covenant. What may not be so clear, is that Paul's phraseology was also inextricably linked to the early Christian practice of water baptism! These Christians, most fresh from the chains of Judaism, and thus quite familiar with the concept of ritual and symbolic cleansing in water ( always running, as in poured, never immersed/dipped ), must have necessarily realized what these symbolic acts were significant of!

As with Jesus' baptism, these ritual washings continued for a time, throughout the transition period between the Cross and the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple, to comfort them until the Revelation of Jesus the Christ, the Son of God, who came in the clouds of judgment on His Old Covenant people who had apostatized.

It was through the very Word of God that salvation came to His people, and though Paul stated that it was through 'the washing of water by the word', it must be clearly understood, and should be plain that, although he was referring back to the rituals practiced under the Old Covenant, he was, in all reality, speaking of the incarnate Word to which those 'baptisms' pointed. 

It was by the baptism of the Spirit, the Spirit which was 'poured out.............on the house of Israel' ( Ezekiel 39:29 ) in the last days ( Joel 2:28 ), that the people of God throughout the ages received the greatest Gift ever given, the restoration to blessed communion with their Creator and Father!

In Jesus' name, Amen!
Charles Haddon Shank