THE MANUAL AND THE GARDEN
THE MANUAL AND THE GARDEN Copyright Š 2006 Trumpet Ministries, Inc. All Rights Reserved
Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright Š 973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.
There are two distinct realms of the Gospel. One is of far greater importance than the other. For two thousand years the Christian churches have been occupied primarily with the realm of lesser importance.
The first, and less important realm, concerns doctrine and statements of faith.
The second realm involves the formation and dwelling of Christ in us.
It appears from the Prophets that there is to come a period when Christ suddenly will be brought to maturity in the Church. We may be entering this period now.
Table of Contents
Introduction The Realm of Doctrine and Statements of Faith The Realm of the Formation and Dwelling of Christ in Us The parable of the sower The formation of Christ in us The dwelling of Christ in us The Prophetic Timetable Conclusion
THE MANUAL AND THE GARDEN
You diligently study the Scriptures because you think by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life. (John 5:39,40—NIV)
The manual is the Bible.
The Garden is Christ.
The new covenant is the Garden, not the manual.
The manual tells us all about the Garden but is not the Garden.
The Bible explains the true significance of world history and orients us to God's plan of redemption through the Lord Jesus Christ. The Bible also commands us how to live so as to please God. These are the two aspects of the Bible, the manual. But these are not the garden, the new covenant. It is only as we keep God's commandments that the garden begins to grow. When the garden comes to fullness of growth God's Throne will be installed for eternity in Christ-filled people. When God's Throne has been installed in that which formerly was the dust of the ground, Satan and the other former leaders of Heaven have come to the end of all their authority and status.
Because it is only by keeping God's commandments that the Throne of God can be installed in Christ in the believers, and because Satan and the former leaders of Heaven do not wish to come to the end of all their authority and status, the rebels from Heaven use every trick available to prevent God's people from keeping God's commandments.
One trick is to overemphasize the importance of the manual at the expense of the garden. Another is to provoke the believers into arguing endlessly over the manual as though it itself were the new covenant and eternal life.
A third trick, perhaps the most damaging of all, is to mix Paul's doctrine of grace with Gnosticism such that the Christian salvation is seen to be a grasp on theological knowledge with the end in view of attaining eternal residence in the spirit Paradise.
Satan's great success is seen in the eternal babyhood of the believers and the lack in the world of a clear, shining testimony of God's Person, will, way, and eternal purpose in Jesus Christ.
For two thousand years the Christian churches have been working largely with the gardener's manual instead of the garden. There have been at least a million arguments over the wording of the manual. Believers have been tortured and killed because they had a different view of the manual. But the garden has been neglected.
The manual consists of our doctrines and statements of faith.
The garden consists of Christ formed in us and dwelling in us.
Why God has permitted this incorrect emphasis to continue for so long I am not prepared to say. It appears the philosophy of Gnosticism has played an important role in Christian thinking and does to the present hour. In fact, current Christian doctrine is to a significant extent a watered-down Gnosticism and not Christianity at all.
Gnosticism, a philosophy prevalent when the Christian Church came into existent, is heavily dualistic. Gnosticism maintains that the fleshly body contains sin and will continue to sin. Salvation, which in Gnostic terms means to return to Heaven, is for the spirit of man. Salvation is gained by holding to certain mystical secrets. The behavior of the body is inconsequential.
One can be perfectly ready for Heaven by belief in the secrets even though the body makes no attempt to keep God's commandments.
The Gnostics went so far as to claim Jesus Christ did not come in a body of flesh but only appeared to do so.
Sound familiar? Christian doctrine today points toward the spirit Heaven as our goal, maintaining that if we hold the correct doctrinal belief we will go to Heaven even though we sin in the body. The unscriptural doctrine of the pre-tribulation "rapture" of the believers is tainted with Gnosticism in that it ignores the fundamental importance of the resurrection of the body and stresses the ascent of the individual to the spirit realm, not caring whether we are in the body or not. The important thing is to get our spiritual nature into Heaven so we can live in the spirit Paradise forever. Who needs a physical body in the spirit Paradise? Thus the fleshly body is de-emphasized.
True Christian doctrine is the opposite of Gnosticism. True Christian doctrine emphasizes the behavior of the body and the coming of the Kingdom of God to the earth. The Kingdom of God consists of all the Glory of God and Heaven clothed in physical form, just as was true when Jesus of Nazareth came forth from the cave of Joseph of Arimathea.
The reason Christians do not keep God's commandments is they believe what we do in the body is not critical to our salvation. The New Testament teaches the opposite. The Apostle Paul maintained that if we sin in our body we will not inherit the Kingdom of God.
The Apostle Paul groaned for the redemption of his body, noting in Romans that if we continue to live after the flesh we will die—spiritually, that is (Romans 8:13)
The Judgment Seat of Christ reviews what we have done in our body, and we are given back in the Day of Resurrection what we have practiced in the body.
The Apostle Paul stressed the resurrection of the physical body to the point of stating if there were to be no resurrection from the dead we Christians are of all people most miserable.
Paul also claimed that those who are part of Christ will be made alive at His coming, implying that even though we have eternal life today by believing in Christ we do not actually come to life until the Day of Resurrection.
For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. But each in his own turn: Christ, the firstfruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to him. (I Corinthians 15:22,23—NIV)
God does not consider people to be completely alive until their physical body has been redeemed.
Is God actually going to redeem our physical body? Of course. If not, there would be no resurrection from the dead. Our heavenly body will not be raised from the dead because it has never died.
The physical body of the Lord Jesus, the flesh and bones of it, walked out of the burial cave of Joseph of Arimathea, and no doubt did a little dance at the time.
We have made Christianity a spiritual religion when in actuality it is both a spiritual and physical religion. Man is one whole—body, soul, and spirit. The whole man is to be redeemed and restored to life on earth, not to life in Heaven.
Perhaps because of the influence of Gnosticism the Christian churches for two thousand years have stressed the manual instead of the garden. Have we brought people to Jesus Christ or to our belief system? If to our belief system we are proselyting, not converting people.
We place enormous stress on our doctrines and statements of faith. Actually these are the manual, not the garden. There is no salvation in doctrine or a statement of faith unless these lead us to the living Jesus.
Think of the pain and damage inflicted throughout the Christian Era as believers have fought over doctrine. This is nonsense. It would be funny if it were not so tragic.
Do you imagine when the Lord returns that what we believe will be a major issue?
"I believe there is one God and Jesus is His Son." So do the demons and they do not have eternal life.
"I believe Jesus was born of a virgin." The demons know this and it does not benefit them at all.
"I believe the Lord Jesus Christ shed His blood for my sins." The demons are well aware Christ shed His blood for the sins of man but the knowledge brings no redemption to them.
"I believe Jesus rose from the dead and is coming again." The demons realize this and tremble at the thought. But it does not save them.
Am I saying there is no place for doctrine or a statement of faith? I am not saying this at all. The Gospels and the Epistles provide us abundantly with doctrine and from this we can concoct a statement of faith (which probably will conflict with another equally devout Christian's concocted statement of faith).
Each denomination preserves its identity by means of its statement of faith. Its unique statement of faith is the only excuse it has for being a separate denomination!
I am not certain of the value of a statement of faith. But the writings of the Apostles are of immense importance for two reasons.
The first reason is that through these writings we are oriented correctly to God's eternal purposes in Christ Jesus. We are apprised of the true meaning of world history, of the Divine plan of redemption through Jesus Christ, and of what will take place in the future. In particular we learn of the coming Day of Judgment and Resurrection.
The second reason is that we are informed of the commandments concerning how we are to live. We must obey the commandments if we expect Christ to be formed in us.
Our great theological positions are concerned with the first reason, that is, that we may be oriented correctly to God's eternal purposes in Christ Jesus. In fact, due perhaps to the influence of Gnosticism, we leave the impression that salvation consists of our correct understanding of God's eternal purposes in Christ, the meaning of world history, the Divine plan of redemption through Christ, what will take place in the future, and the coming Day of Judgment and Resurrection.
If we are accurate in the above facts we will go to Heaven when we die, it is believed.
Nothing could be further than the truth. There is not one drop of salvation existing in the fact we are correct in our understanding of this information.
But what about the several passages that declare the importance of belief, in particular Romans 10:9,10?
That if you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved. (Romans 10:9,10—NIV)
"Confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord.’"
"Believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead."
"With your heart you believe and are justified."
"With your mouth you confess and are saved."
The above is a perfect proof-text for the believer who desires to maintain that our salvation consists primarily of the confession and belief of facts.
It is no wonder Gnosticism with its emphasis on what one believes was able to so readily invade Christian theology.
By using the above passage from the Book of Romans one can play all kinds of games, such as proving we are saved in spite of our conduct, and even that once we are saved we never can be lost.
The reason we draw such conclusions is that we are manual-oriented. We take a passage Paul was employing to convince the Judaizers of the necessity for looking up from the Torah to Christ, and then ignore the realities of the sixth and eighth chapter of the epistle from which the above was drawn.
We are so predisposed to look for a formula that will guarantee our residence in Heaven in spite of our sinning that we choose key passages and ignore their contexts, their contexts being the entire epistles from which they were taken.
The whole New Testament must be considered whenever one is interpreting a single passage. And the emphasis of the entire New Testament is assuredly not on a doctrinal formula that guarantees eternal residence in Heaven but on the creation of a person who has been renewed morally by having Christ formed in him or her.
A gardener's manual is not the garden. One can memorize the manual and be absolutely correct, and still not have a garden. So it is that one can believe the facts concerning Jesus Christ and confess these facts and never become a new creation. It happens every day!
There are Christian people who have embraced Romans 10:9,10 and continue to gossip, slander, backbite, criticize, hate people, refuse to forgive those who have offended them, who are proud, arrogant, haughty, unteachable, who lie, steal, seek preeminence, who do immoral things, who cause division among the church members, who manipulate circumstances insuring that they always get what they want.
Because of our incorrect theology we do not pay to much attention to such behavior in the churches. But the Lord Jesus Christ is extremely upset with these attitudes and actions and sends judgment upon us because of them.
Do you know any Christians like this? Do you believe they are saved because of their belief system? What do you mean by "saved"? Are they ready to dwell with the saints in glory? Are they going to be carried up to Heaven in a "rapture"?
If you believe this I think you might consider reading the New Testament to see what Jesus and His Apostles said about such people. People who are careless about righteous, holy living actually have never been converted although they have obeyed Romans 10:9,10, unless you think of conversion as mental acceptance of theological facts.
This type of Christian may have the manual but one can't say much about his garden. He certainly is not growing the fruit of the Spirit. He is growing thorns and thistles, and according to the Book of Hebrews he or she is nearer to cursing and the fire than to Heaven.
But land that produces thorns and thistles is worthless and is in danger of being cursed. In the end it will be burned. (Hebrews 6:8—NIV)
Remember that the above verse was addressed to experienced Christians.
I know from the New Testament that Jesus and God will never accept believers when they are in this condition. Their statement of faith has not saved them at all.
When we do not keep Christ's commandments we do not love him. When we do not bear the fruit of Christ's moral image we are cut from the Vine. When we have hatred in our heart there is no eternal life dwelling there.
No, knowledge may save the Gnostics (however they view salvation) but it doesn't save Christians. Christians are saved by dwelling in the living Jesus and He in them. When they do this, moral transformation occurs. Then they know they have eternal life.
First we shall discuss the formation of Christ in us. Later, the coming of the Father and the Son to dwell in us.
The Lord's parables were about the Kingdom of God, of Heaven. No parable teaches us about going to Heaven. The idea that salvation has to do with going to Heaven comes from Gnosticism, not from the Scriptures—Old Testament or New.
The parable of the sower. The central parable of the Kingdom of God is that of the sower. If we do not understand the parable of the sower we will not understand the other parables.
Perhaps the greatest miracle in all of nature is that of the seed. How the seed of a plant or animal can contain in itself all the attributes of the parent only God understands.
The Kingdom of God is the Seed that comes from God Himself. It contains in itself the attributes of the Parent, God. Doctrine and statements of faith orient us to the Kingdom. But the Kingdom of God is not in the doctrine any more than the garden is in the manual. The Kingdom of God is the Divine Seed.
We need to remember when we are preaching and teaching that while we may be orienting people to the truth of the manual, they do not enter the Kingdom until the Divine Seed is conceived in them. For this reason our practice of counting and recording how many people are "saved" is unrealistic. We actually mean how many people have assented to the facts we have presented. Whether the Seed of the Kingdom was planted in them and whether it will bear lasting fruit is the information that by rights should be recorded. But this is not as easy to do.
As we sow the Seed of the Kingdom, some falls on people whose heart is so hardened that the seed remains on top of the ground. Sooner or later the demons will come and remove the Seed lest it germinate.
Other people are superficial. The Seed germinates. However their conduct is all in a show of religion. They do not take the time in prayer to send down roots into God. When affliction or persecution brings pain to them the Seed perishes from lack of water.
The Seed perishes! What is the Seed? The Seed is Christ, the Kingdom of God. It perishes if we do not patiently pray and follow the Lord. Whether or not we still retain our doctrinal position, the Kingdom has perished in us. No lasting fruit has been borne. The branch is cut from the Vine.
There are numerous dead branches in the Christian churches, as will be revealed in the age of moral horrors that is coming upon us. They are not living in daily interaction with Jesus Christ. They were cut from the Vine years ago.
Can you see now why it is vain to place so much emphasis on our doctrine when the real issue is the forming of Christ in us?
Other Seed falls on soil deep enough to permit germination. But like weeds in a garden, the worries of the world and the deceitfulness of riches crowd out the Seed and it perishes. No permanent fruit is produced. The branch is cut from the Vine.
Then the Seed falls on honest and good hearts. Some with patience bring forth a thirtyfold yield. Some, a sixtyfold yield. Some, a hundredfold yield.
The yield is Christ—Christ formed in us; the Kingdom of God formed in us.
Why does the yield differ from person to person? Because some are more careful than others to nourish the plant. The plant is nourished as we pray, meditate in the Scriptures, and obey God implicitly.
Every believer is invited to reap Christ a hundredfold. Whether he does or not depends on the diligence he applies to abiding in Christ in day.
God plays no favorites. As we sow we shall reap.
The formation of Christ in us. The believers in Galatia were being lured back into the Law of Moses (more wrestling over the manual). Paul labored that Christ might be formed in them, knowing that all doctrinal issues are cleared up as Christ comes to maturity in us. The true knowledge of God does not come through study but only as Christ is formed in us and dwells in us.
In the second chapter of Galatians, Paul addresses the issue of going back into sin once we have left the Law of Moses. The relationship of sinful behavior to the grace of Jesus Christ is not understood by numerous Christians to the present hour.
The following verse is Paul's answer to the question of how Christians are to regard sin, now that they have been freed legally from the jurisdiction of the Law of Moses:
I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. (Galatians 2:20—NIV)
"I no longer live, but Christ lives in me."
"In Him is life, and the life is the light of men."
"The life is the light of men." Life is light. The Life of Jesus Christ is light, Divine Light. When we have Christ in us we understand that which theology can never grasp.
We do well to study the Scriptures until the Day Star rises in our heart. When the Day Star rises we have true understanding. In that Day we know we are in Christ and Christ is in the Father.
How many hours have theologians spent arguing over the nature of the Godhead (more quibbling over the manual). The Godhead can never be comprehended by the mind of man. The Godhead is comprehended only as Christ is formed in us. Then we know we are in Christ and Christ is in God.
When Christ is formed in us we understand being circumcised or not being circumcised is of little importance (more debate over the manual). All that matters is the new creation, which is Christ formed and dwelling in us.
When Christ is formed in us we understand that the Law of Moses no longer has authority over us. Yet we know we must overcome all worldliness, all sin, all self-will. We know this because these spirits are not coming from Christ who is being formed in us but are at war against Him. Worldliness, the lusts of the flesh, and self-will are totally incompatible with the new Life being created in us. Such personality traits are not permitted in the Kingdom. The Law of Moses serves as a tutor to bring us to Christ so true moral transformation may take place in our personality.
The manual tells of the transformation and assures us of ultimate victory. But no change actually takes place in us until we keep God's commandments in the New Testament, until we obey the Christ and His Apostles. It is the change itself, not belief in the manual, that is salvation; that is the Kingdom of God; that is eternal life; that is the new covenant.
Christ commanded us to rejoice, to leap for joy, when men speak evil of us because we are serving Christ.
When someone persecutes us unjustly our adamic nature responds with anger and a desire for revenge. If we will permit Adam to do so he will fume, complain, act angrily and spitefully, and nourish a root of bitterness over the incident.
We can choose to yield to Adam or we can choose to pray. If we choose to pray Christ feeds us with His body and blood until the flames of Adam are totally quenched and God's peace once again reigns over our personality.
As Christ feeds us with His Body and blood He is formed in us and we are married to the Lamb. We see therefore that believing God spoke to us this commandment concerning the proper response to persecution is of no benefit until we go to God for help in actually doing what God said. It is in our obedience to the commandment that Christ is formed in us, not just believing God said it but faithfully doing what has been commanded.
The Christian salvation is moral transformation. Our personality is not transformed so it can go to Heaven but so it will be acceptable to God in His Kingdom. It matters not whether we are in Heaven, on the earth, or someplace else. It is acceptability to God (the definition of "righteousness") that is salvation. Salvation has nothing to do with living in Heaven but is directed toward fellowship with God.
What you and I believe is of significance only as our belief leads us to continual interaction with the living Jesus. If our beliefs do not lead us to continual interaction with the living Jesus they are of no value whatever, even though they may be absolutely accurate.
To possess the manual is not the new covenant. To believe what the manual says is true is not the new covenant. To memorize the manual is not the new covenant. The new covenant is the forming of Christ, the Word of God, in our mind so we comprehend the will of God and in our heart so we love the will of God and perform it.
We are not to call Jesus, "Lord, Lord" and then not do what He says. To know what Christ has commanded, to believe the commandments given by Christ and His Apostles came from God, will save no one. It is only as we actually do what Christ and His Apostles commanded, beginning with the Sermon on the Mount and ending with the need for overcoming sin expressed in the Book of Revelation, that we are building our house on the rock.
God will never dwell in any human being. God dwelled in none of the patriarchs or prophets of the Old Testament in the same manner in which He dwells in the true Christian. This is why he who is least in the Kingdom of God is greater than any of the prophets.
God will dwell only in the Lord Jesus Christ. Christ is the Father's House. It is only as Christ is formed in us that God dwells in us, for Christ is the eternal Throne of God. The more of Christ that is formed in us the more of God we can experience, because God dwells in Christ and only in Christ.
Christ is the Rest of God. Christ is the Resurrection and the Life. Christ is our joy, our strength, our life, our wisdom, our song. It is God's will that Christ be all in all to us. This is what it means to be born again.
Christ is the Garden. The manual tells us all about God, history, the world, and how to please God. The way we please God is by obeying Christ and His Apostles. Then Christ is formed in us. Then God dwells in Christ who has been formed in us. This is salvation and eternal life. This is the garden.
Having Christ formed in us is not the same as having Christ dwell in us. This is an important distinction.
It has happened it time past that Christian teachers, having become aware the mystery of the Gospel is not Christ with us but Christ in us, have gone past the truth. They have made Jesus one part of a many-membered Christ. They have lost sight of Jesus as the Lord and Christ whom God has installed as Head of the Church.
No matter how greatly Christ is formed in us we do not become the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is a distinct Person, never having lost His identity even though He is one with the Father. It is true also that we never lose our identity even though we become one with Jesus Christ and the Father.
In fact our uniqueness is enhanced as we become one with Christ and the Father. It is in our attempt to save our life that we lose it. If we choose to lose our life in Christ we then save it for eternity, paradoxical though this may seem.
The Lord Jesus Christ is the exalted Head of His Church and shall be so for eternity. He is the great Leader, the Commander, the Chief of the holy brothers, the Word of God from eternity.
So it is important to understand that as Christ is formed in us we do not become as great as Jesus. Rather the new creation brought forth by the penetration of the Substance and Nature of Jesus Christ into our personality is neither us nor Christ but an entirely new creation. The Lord Jesus Christ Himself, the unique Person, the Firstborn from the dead, remains seated at the right hand of the Father.
Having explained that the formation of Christ in us and the dwelling of Christ in us are not the same experience, we will proceed to discuss the dwelling of Christ in us.
This is what the LORD says: "Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool. Where is the house you will build for me? Where will my resting place be? (Isaiah 66:1—NIV)
"Where is the house you will build for me?"
Stephen takes up the question:
"Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool. What kind of house will you build for me?" says the Lord. "Or where will my resting place be?" (Acts 7:49—NIV)
Being disgusted with the behavior of the former leaders of Heaven, God is moving His Throne from the heavens to the hearts of people. He has begun with the Lord Jesus Christ.
Jesus Christ is the eternal Throne of God, the House of the Father. Christ is the chief Cornerstone of the Temple of God. But in the House of the Father there are to be many rooms. This is where we become involved.
God needs a house. He needs a living temple through which He can express Himself to His creation. This is what we are being created. This is the garden.
The last of the seven feasts of the Lord is the feast of Tabernacles. This Jewish celebration symbolizes the consummation of the plan of redemption, which is God settling down to rest in Christ in the saints.
But, as we have stated previously, all depends on our keeping the commandments of Christ. Notice this fact in the following:
Jesus replied, "If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. (John 14:23—NIV)
Can you see that the coming of the Father and the Son to dwell in us for eternity depends on our obeying the teachings of Christ? All depends on our reading the New Testament and obeying what is stated there.
The Church is being created the eternal habitation of God. This is the new Jerusalem that will descend through the new sky and come to rest on a high mountain of the new earth.
God through Christ through the saints (which is the new Jerusalem) will wipe away the tears of the saved nations of the earth. Sickness, pain, death will be banished by the saints. The saints will govern the creation, being the royal priesthood of God. The saved nations will walk in the moral (and perhaps physical) light of the holy city.
The Holy Spirit will be available as a river of eternal life, having trees of life growing along its banks, to whoever desires to come and receive the Life of God. But no individual will be permitted to enter through the gates of the new Jerusalem who is not keeping the commandments of the Lord.
The Law will go forth from Zion and the Word of the Lord from Jerusalem. The Sermon on the Mount in particular includes the eternal moral laws of the Kingdom of God that will be enforced on the creation by the rod of iron in the hands of the sons of God.
God's servants, His elect, His Israel, shall serve Him in His temple, which is the new Jerusalem. They shall see His face.
We were born to be the dwelling place of God. The whole plan of redemption is moving to this end: that God's elect may become a suitable dwelling place for the Father through Christ.
There are indications in the Scriptures that Christ will be formed in His Body in the last days. It always has been true throughout the Christian Era that Christ has been formed in every believer who kept the commandments of God. But it may be true that special emphasis is being placed in our day on the maturing of Christ in the believers.
Notice the following carefully:
"But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times. " Therefore Israel will be abandoned until the time when she who is in labor gives birth and the rest of his brothers return to join the Israelites. (Micah 5:2,3—NIV)
We know Jesus Christ came from Bethlehem, was of the tribe of Judah, and will be Ruler over Israel.
But now we are being told (above) that the rest of Christ's brothers will return to join the Israelites after "she who is in labor gives birth."
We think this means Israel will be abandoned until the time the Church (Zion) enters the travail that will form Christ in His brothers. In that day the brothers of Christ will return to the land and people of Israel
But you have come to Mount Zion, to the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the living God. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God, the judge of all men, to the spirits of righteous men made perfect, (Hebrews 12:22,23—NIV)
When we come to the Christian Church we are coming to Mount Zion, the heavenly Jerusalem.
The victorious saints of today, the brothers of the Lord Jesus, those being born through the travail of the Church, have an unprecedented desire to return to the land and people of Israel, thus fulfilling the prophecy of Micah.
Again, in the Book of Isaiah:
Hear that uproar from the city, hear that noise from the temple! It is the sound of the LORD repaying his enemies all they deserve. "Before she goes into labor, she gives birth; before the pains come upon her, she delivers a son. Who has ever heard of such a thing? Who has ever seen such things? Can a country be born in a day or a nation be brought forth in a moment? Yet no sooner is Zion in labor than she gives birth to her children. Do I bring to the moment of birth and not give delivery?" says the LORD. "Do I close up the womb when I bring to delivery?" says your God. (Isaiah 66:6-9—NIV)
Before Zion, the Church, travailed, Jesus Christ was delivered
When Zion does go into labor she will give birth to children. Who are these children but the brothers of Jesus Christ, mentioned in Micah?
Then we find in the Book of Revelation:
A great and wondrous sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head. She was pregnant and cried out in pain as she was about to give birth. Then another sign appeared in heaven: an enormous red dragon with seven heads and ten horns and seven crowns on his heads. His tail swept a third of the stars out of the sky and flung them to the earth. The dragon stood in front of the woman who was about to give birth, so he might devour her child the moment it was born. She gave birth to a son, a male child, who will rule all the nations with an iron scepter. And her child was snatched up to God and to his throne. (Revelation 12:1-5—NIV)
The "male child" is the Lord Jesus Christ. He is the one who will govern all nations with the rod of iron. He is being born as the Church, Zion, travails.
My dear children, for whom I am again in the pains of childbirth until Christ is formed in you, (Galatians 4:19—NIV)
The Lord Jesus told us the wheat and tares will come to maturity together. The wheat are believers in whom Christ is being formed. The tares are people in whom Antichrist is being formed.
A nation shall be born "at once." That nation is the royal priesthood of God, namely Christ formed in the believers. As soon as Christ is formed in the believers Satan will be torn from the heavens and will never be permitted to reenter. He no longer will have opportunity to accuse the saints before God.
All depends on Christ being formed in the believers. The believers cannot overcome Satan until Christ is formed in them.
So we see a timetable is operating. In the last days of the Church Age the Holy Spirit will place an unprecedented emphasis on Christ being formed in us. This means the gifts and ministries of the Body of Christ will function as never before, because it is through the operation of the gifts and ministries that we shall be brought to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.
The pulpit-congregation model is now vestigial. Every pastor and leader must work toward bringing each church member into his or her ministry. Christ cannot be formed in us until the various ministries are operating.
Also, each of us must be learning to live by the body and blood of Christ. Christ is formed in us as we partake of His body and blood, which we do each time we have to go to Him for strength and wisdom to keep God's commandments.
In addition to the gifts and ministries, and the body and blood of Christ, there are a number of other techniques used by the Holy Spirit to form Christ in us. One very important technique is that of bringing us into imprisonment and suffering until our self-will is destroyed and we learn to lean on the Lord for every decision we make. We must always be sternly obedient to the Father!
All of world history, no matter how chaotic and destructive it appears at any given time, is working to bring God's predestined sons into the image of their elder Brother, the Lord Jesus Christ. God holds the world in His mighty hand, causing all events, personages, and things to work together for good for those whom He has called from the foundation of the world.
The order of redemption is as follows: we are forgiven through the blood atonement; we receive the Holy Spirit—the "oil on the blood"; through the Holy Spirit we keep God's commandments; Christ is formed in us; the Father and the Son take up Their eternal abode in us; we serve God forever in His kingdom as the members of His royal priesthood.
Because man is destined to be the eternal Throne of God, a destiny that infuriates Satan and the wicked archons of the heavens who rebelled with him, and because no human being can be the Throne of God until Christ is formed in him, Satan and the other high-ranking dignitaries of the spirit realm work constantly to keep Christ from being formed in the believers.
Satan is not primarily concerned about our church activities, and perhaps not as anxious about the work of evangelism as we might suppose. The big problem from Satan's point of view is the forming of Christ in the believers. It is only as Christ is formed in us that Satan's kingdom is in real jeopardy.
Since the work of redemption ceases when the believer is not keeping God's commandments, one of Satan's chief tactics has been to deceive the Christians into believing keeping the commandments is not necessary now that we are under "grace." This tactic has been unbelievably successful.
With all that has been written in the Bible about the necessity for obeying God, it is nothing short of miraculous that devout Christian leaders could be deceived into believing Christians need not obey God's Word.
Since Satan views the earth as his proper domain, he also has convinced the Church leaders that the goal of redemption is to bring the believers to the spirit realm, to make their eternal home there.
If Satan had his way every believer on earth would be forced up into the spirit realm and kept there for eternity. Then Satan could govern the earth and enjoy himself by debasing the peoples of the nations.
Perhaps Satan brought Gnosticism brought into existence at the time he did knowing that it would prove useful in corrupting whatever God was about to do. Make no mistake—the early Gnostic influence was exceedingly powerful, corrupting many of the first-century assemblies. There is evidence that some of the early Christian leaders began to believe Jesus Christ had not really come in the flesh but only appeared to do so.
The Gnostic influence of today, the concept that we are saved by faith alone (antinomianism—a belief related to Gnosticism), and that the spirit Paradise is our eternal destination, pervades Christian teaching. Dispensationalism, with its "dispensation of grace," blends readily with Gnostic thinking.
The result has been the destruction of the moral strength of numerous churches to the extent that in America, at least, the Christian witness of good works, the only witness the secular community recognizes, is seriously lacking. When a person declares himself or herself to be a Christian the community does not expect to behold a person demonstrating utmost integrity, honesty, moral purity, or the blameless handling of money.
They would have such an expectation if we through the Holy Spirit were keeping God's commandments!
Satan has won a spectacular victory.
What is to be done? We Christians must return at once to the New Testament, read all that Christ and His Apostles have commanded, and pray with all our strength to God to help us do what is written. Only then will God return and heal our land.
I believe God told me when we started on the Internet that we were to warn the Christians of America to begin to keep His commandments. If we do not keep God's commandments our country is going to suffer greatly. Already there are natural disasters. Also Satan is free to move people, including children, to kill one another with guns and knives. There would not be so much demonic freedom if all the Christians were seeking iron righteousness, fiery holiness, and stern obedience to the Father.
(Since I wrote these words, a few years ago, the United States has been attacked by terrorists and now considers itself to be in a state of war. In addition there have been economic problems.)
People say the Gospel we are presenting is too strict. It is not too strict! It is scriptural! It is we Christians who are too soft. If we want the unsaved to receive Jesus we need to straighten up our lives.
We should have been keeping God's commandments all along, so we are not presenting a strange idea at this point. Rather we are returning to the old paths and are determined with the Lord's help to walk therein.
Scholars tells us the Book of First John was written to combat Gnosticism. Notice what John says:
We know we have come to know him if we obey his commands. The man who says, "I know him," but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But if anyone obeys his word, God’s love is truly made complete in him. This is how we know we are in him: Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did. (I John 2:3-6—NIV)
"We know we have come to know him if we obey his commands."
"Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did." This means we must behave righteously as Christ behaved righteously. We must be holy as He was holy. We must obey the Father strictly and completely as Christ obeyed the Father strictly and completely.
Our adamic nature cannot walk as Jesus did just as an ape cannot play the piano with any appreciable skill. But we can pray continually to the Father to help us keep His commandments. Every commandment given by Christ personally and then through His Apostles came originally from the Father. They are God's commandments!
If we are faithful in keeping God's commandments, Christ will be formed in us, and then we will walk as He did and yet does, because it will be Christ living in us.
This is what the manual says. Let's get busy and grow a fine garden.