Monday, March 28, 2016

God is Not in the Box!

God is Not in the Box!

“He is risen!  These three simple words have changed the world.  Believing in the literal and physical resurrection of Jesus is a defining factor of true Christianity.  If you are not willing to believe in the truth of the resurrection of Jesus (and it is a choice), you cannot be saved and “born again.”  The resurrection of Jesus is a critical aspect of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  Without the resurrection of Jesus from the dead, the work of redemption is not finished.

When I say these three words have changed the world, most people have no comprehension of the way in which the resurrection of Jesus changes the eternal dynamic of human existence.  The theological, as well as the practical, ramifications of these three words are overwhelming.

“1 In the end of the sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, came Mary Magdalene and the other Mary to see the sepulchre. 2 And, behold, there was a great earthquake: for the angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat upon it. 3 His countenance was like lightning, and his raiment white as snow: 4 And for fear of him the keepers did shake, and became as dead men. 5 And the angel answered and said unto the women, Fear not ye: for I know that ye seek Jesus, which was crucified. 6 He is not here: for he is risen, as he said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay. 7 And go quickly, and tell his disciples that he is risen from the dead; and, behold, he goeth before you into Galilee; there shall ye see him: lo, I have told you” (Matthew 28:1-7).

The resurrection of Jesus is what makes Jesus the “door” into the New Genesis.  Therefore, salvation cannot exist apart from being miraculously placed into the body of Jesus, which body is the New Genesis “in Christ.” 

“7 Then said Jesus unto them again, Verily, verily, I say unto you, I am the door of the sheep. 8 All that ever came before me are thieves and robbers: but the sheep did not hear them. 9 I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture” (John 10:7-9).

The resurrection of Jesus refers to the resurrection of the human body of Jesus as the Son of God who was born of the virgin Mary.  Therefore, the resurrection makes Jesus the “firstborn” of the New Genesis.  Jesus’ resurrection provides an opening to escape from the cursed first creation for all those who will rest their trust in Christ’s finished work of redemption.  Jesus is “the beginning” of the New Genesis and the “door” opened “by grace” and entered “through faith” for “whosoever will” to come.   

“12 Giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light: 13 Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son: 14 In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins: 15 Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature: 16 For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him: 17 And he is before all things, and by him all things consist. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence” (Colossians 1:12-18).

The words “who is the beginning” in Colossians 1:18 are words that should incite the passions of every true believer.  These few words are a promise to every believer that rests his faith in the finished work of Jesus.  The promise is that what has happened to Jesus will happen to every true believer who rests his soul in the finished work of Christ.  The amount of what we are capable of comprehending regarding the miracle of the New Genesis “in Christ” is minute compared to the scope of this new existence.
The religious apostates of Judaism attempted to seal the crucified Son of God in a tomb.  Unbelief prompts fools to try foolish things.  A huge stone had been prepared to roll into a trench dug into the earth that would require a small army of very strong men to move it.  Then, the Jews wanted a guard put upon that sealed tomb so no one could come and steal the body of Jesus.  Even after they had crucified their Messiah, they were doing everything they could to keep him from being known.  They wanted no one to believe in Him.
It is amazing to see the depth to which religious apostasy will stoop in order to continuing protecting their position of hierarchy.  Throughout Matthew chapter twenty-seven God reveals to us that even the pagan Roman Pilate and the “centurion,” along with the one-hundred soldiers under his charge, all recognized that Jesus was more than just another man.

Pilate said, “Whom will ye that I release unto you? Barabbas, or Jesus which is called Christ” (Matthew 27:17)?  Then, Matthew 27:18 tells us by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit that Pilate “knew that for envy they {the apostate priesthood of Israel} had delivered him.”  Even Pilate’s pagan wife was given a dream by God revealing that Jesus was something more than what He was being accused of being by the Jews.  Pilate’s wife sent testimony to her husband on behalf of Jesus, “Have thou nothing to do with that just man: for I have suffered many things this day in a dream because of him” (Matthew 27:19).

Any attempt to contain the infinite God in a finite space is a ridiculous premise at its best.  All that the unbelievers could see was a helpless man.  They were spiritually blind to the God-man in Jesus.

“57 When the even was come, there came a rich man of Arimathaea, named Joseph, who also himself was Jesus’ disciple: 58 He went to Pilate, and begged the body of Jesus. Then Pilate commanded the body to be delivered. 59 And when Joseph had taken the body, he wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, 60 And laid it in his own new tomb, which he had hewn out in the rock: and he rolled a great stone to the door of the sepulchre, and departed. 61 And there was Mary Magdalene, and the other Mary, sitting over against the sepulchre. 62 Now the next day, that followed the day of the preparation, the chief priests and Pharisees came together unto Pilate, 63 Saying, Sir, we remember that that deceiver said, while he was yet alive, After three days I will rise again. 64 Command therefore that the sepulchre be made sure until the third day, lest his disciples come by night, and steal him away, and say unto the people, He is risen from the dead: so the last error shall be worse than the first. 65 Pilate said unto them, Ye have a watch: go your way, make it as sure as ye can. 66 So they went, and made the sepulchre sure, sealing the stone, and setting a watch” (Matthew 27:57-66).

When reading these texts, we are reminded of the transition from the wilderness experience of God under Moses to the Promised Land experience of God under Joshua.  This is very similar to what happened with the Apostles after the resurrection and ascension of Jesus.  In the wilderness under Moses, the children of Israel had the visible presence of God in the pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night.  Every single day for their many years in the wilderness, they saw and knew the visible presence of God (except the time Miriam and Aaron “spake against Moses” recorded in Numbers chapter twelve and God “departed.”).  When the children of Israel entered the Promised Land, the presence of God was thought to be in the Ark of the Covenant carried by the priests.  In Joshua chapter three, God instructed Joshua to have the priest carry the Ark of the Covenant into the swollen Jordan River.  As the feet of the priests carrying the Ark touched the flooding waters of the Jordan River, the waters of the river were backed up to the city of Adam.  The natural inclination of Jewish believers was to now think that God was in the box.  From this point forward, the children of Israel were to “walk by faith, not by sight” (II Corinthians 5:7).  From the time they entered the Promised Land, they would know the presence of God, and the blessing of that presence, only by the outcomes of their victories.
There are two basic problems with the faith vision of most people.  First, many forget that God sees all things.  Second, many fail to see God working in all things (Romans 8:28).  Many are so ignorant of God’s will and expectation that they think almost anything goes with Him.  Joshua learned very quickly that courageous faith comes only to those who trust in the God that goes before us rather than in the numbers that follow behind us.  God’s promise to Joshua is the same promise Jesus gave to His disciples.  Notice the similarity in the promises.

“Have not I commanded thee? Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the LORD thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest” (Joshua 1:7).

“18 And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. 19 Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: 20 Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen” (Matthew 28:18-20).

Matthew 28:18-20 is the last statement of Jesus, other than the statement in Acts chapter one, where Jesus tells His disciples to wait for the coming of the Holy Spirit before they attempt any ministry.  Again, the filling of the Spirit must precede any attempts at spiritual warfare.  Biblical faith understands this reality.  In both God’s promise to Joshua and Jesus’ promise to His disciples, we find three wonderful truths.

1. The unlimited availability of divine power
2. The continuing presence of God
3. Victory is sure since the battle is the Lord’s

The very nature of the spiritual dynamic of the New Genesis is that Jesus died vicariously for us so that He might live vicariously through us.  This is the spiritual dynamic behind the resurrection of Jesus Christ.  Jesus tried to explain the necessity of His going away in order for Him to remain with His disciples in the Person of His Holy Spirit.  In other words, Jesus’ departing from the believers in a physical way would cause them to lose the kind of intimacy they had known in the physical presence of Christ.  However, once Jesus departed physically, He released His Spirit to indwell each of them to empower each of them in a much higher level of intimacy than they could have experienced had Jesus remained physically.

“7 Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient {conducive or an advantage} for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you. 8 And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment {He will accomplish what believers could never do}: 9 Of sin, because they believe not on me; 10 Of righteousness, because I go to my Father, and ye see me no more; 11 Of judgment, because the prince of this world is judged. 12 I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear {endure} them now {endurance would be a byproduct of the filling of the Spirit}. 13 Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you {show you the way or teach you how to live the truth} into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come. 14 He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you. 15 All things that the Father hath are mine: therefore said I, that he shall take of mine, and shall shew it unto you” (John 16:7-15).

Understanding the spiritual and doctrinal ramifications of the reality of the resurrection and ascension of Jesus opens to our understanding the potential that lays within every “born again” child of God throughout the Church Age.  Living within the newly created spiritual dynamic of the resurrection of Jesus is exhibited throughout the book of Acts.  The book of Acts provides a powerful spiritual portrait of the Spirit-filled potential available to every true disciple of Jesus who lives separated from worldliness and in holiness before God. 

Before salvation, every person is “dead in trespasses and sins” (Ephesians 2:1).  Upon salvation, Jesus quickens (makes alive) the believer and indwells that person’s body in the Person of His Holy Spirit.  In His resurrection, Jesus emptied the tomb in which his body was laid in order to move into believer’s body in order to bring that body to be a new creation (II Corinthians 5:17).  This is regeneration!
John 16:7-15 is a transitional text similar to Joshua chapter three.  In Joshua 3:7-13, we can see that the transitional issue is that the presence of the Lord will be known by faith.  The Ark of the Covenant was merely a token of His presence.  The knowledge of God’s presence would only be seen through the outcomes of His promises.  Therefore, when the feet of the priests carrying the Ark touched the waters of the river Jordan, then God would miraculously act.  The presence of God was visible by what happened.  His presence would be invisible until something happened.  The children of Israel knew of God’s presence only by promise and believed it by faith.  Faith acted upon the promise.  This is true of believers today.  We know of the presence of the Holy Spirit only by faith in the promise of Jesus.  We see the presence of the Holy Spirit when spiritual blessings happen or when the “fruit of the Spirit” is evident. 

“7 And the LORD said unto Joshua, This day will I begin to magnify thee {Joshua as a type of Christ} in the sight of all Israel, that they may know that, as I was with Moses {as a type of Christ}, so I will be with thee. 8 And thou shalt command the priests that bear the ark of the covenant, saying, When ye are come to the brink of the water of Jordan, ye shall stand still in Jordan. 9 And Joshua said unto the children of Israel, Come hither, and hear the words of the LORD your God. 10 And Joshua said, Hereby ye shall know that the living God is among you, and that he will without fail drive out from before you the Canaanites, and the Hittites, and the Hivites, and the Perizzites, and the Girgashites, and the Amorites, and the Jebusites. 11 Behold, the ark of the covenant of the Lord of all the earth passeth over before you into Jordan. 12 Now therefore take you twelve men out of the tribes of Israel, out of every tribe a man. 13 And it shall come to pass, as soon as the soles of the feet of the priests that bear the ark of the LORD, the Lord of all the earth, shall rest in the waters of Jordan, that the waters of Jordan shall be cut off from the waters that come down from above; and they shall stand upon an heap” (Joshua 3:7-13).

Most believers believe what Jesus said about the presence of the Holy Spirit and that the Holy Spirit indwells us.  This promise is stated by Jesus in Scripture.  However, real faith acts upon that promise because they believe the promise is a reality.  Just as the Old Testament priests stepped into the flooding Jordan river at the peril of their own lives and waited upon God to act, so must the present day believer do the same.  Faith acts believing God will do what He says He will do.  Believing in the resurrection of Jesus, and understanding the theological ramification of what that resurrection effects, the believer should then live in expectation of realization the outcomes of that resurrection. 

Do you think there might have been some trepidation on the part of the priests carrying the Ark as they approached the edge of the rapids of the flooding river Jordan?  Some might say fear would be the opposite of faith.  Many would say, if the priests had trepidation or doubts, God would not do what He said He would do.  This is not the way it works.  The point is that their real faith moved them passed their real fear of the real danger to risk their real lives to obey what their real God said to do in a real way.  Faith moved them forward in obedience.  Then real faith caused those priests to stop in the midst of the flood waters where the soles of their feet came “to rest in the waters” (Joshua 3:13).  There are not many with the quality of faith that can “rest in the waters.”  The greatest testimony of a Christian’s life would be the words, “he was a person who could “rest in the waters.”  Think about this for amount.  Whether or not the whole nation of Israel would enter their Promised Land depended upon the faith of a handful of priests willing to step into the swollen flood waters of the Jordan River and stand there a moment waiting on God to do what He said He would do.  This scenario repeats itself every day more often than we will ever know.

The life of EVERY TRUE Christian, who seeks to be faithful to God’s commands to be holy and to make disciples, will always be lived in the midst of the flood waters that threaten our very lives.  The fires of trials will never wane when a believer is trying to change the world with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  However, the person of real faith always sees the forces of demonic evil as they are compared to the power and Person of God, who dwells within us and goes before us.

Every local church, regardless of how large, is actually led by a handful of people with real faith willing to risk everything in this world just to be used by God for some seemly insignificant moment.  They never now at that time the real importance of that single moment of their faithfulness.  Yet, their faithfulness at that singular and seemingly insignificant moment will be the trigger for thousands of other events that will follow, causing the cascade of the blessings of God.  The point is that none of us know of the continuum to which any moment of faithfulness connects us and those following us.  The only thing with which we should be preoccupied at any moment of life is simply doing what God has commanded us to do knowing that what we are doing connects us to that continuum.  Generations of faithful people are created by the treasure of real faith of tried in the fire believers who live the moments of their lives trying to be as faithful to God as they possibly can.  Don’t cut yourself short.  You are an important gear in that wheel.

This continuum of spiritual life and spiritual blessings is the substance of God’s intention in the ordinance for the sanctified that we know as water baptism.  Water baptism is an ordinance of choice following a decision that wants to “walk in the newness of life” more than anything else in this world.  We need not read too far in Romans chapter six to understand that living separated from sin (sanctification) is the subject of the text, not salvation.  In fact, the text applies only to people who are already saved.

“1 What shall we say then {now transitioning from the grace that saves to the ‘grace wherein we stand,’ Romans 5:2}? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? 2 God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin {positionally ‘in Christ’}, live any longer therein? 3 Know ye not, that so many of us as were {Spirit} baptized into Jesus Christ were {Spirit} baptized into his death? 4 Therefore we are buried with him by {Spirit} baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. 5 For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection: 6 Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin. 7 For he that is dead is freed from sin. 8 Now if we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him: 9 Knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over him. 10 For in that he died, he died unto sin once: but in that he liveth, he liveth unto God. 11 Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 6:1-11).

Perhaps one of the greatest failures of preaching and theology is the failure to connect Christians in a very practical way to the ramifications of the resurrection of Jesus Christ.  This is what water baptism is SUPPOSED to do.  There should be some instruction along with the water baptism ordinance that connects the thinking of the person being baptized to the supernatural availability of the empowering of the indwelling Christ.  This empowering is resurrection power released through the believer’s life that allows Christ to live vicariously through the yielded believer.  The point here is that the ordinance of water baptism is intended to reflect a choice and an attitude about a righteous relationship with God.  To say we believe in the resurrection of Jesus Christ and then to not live in the power made available to all believers through that resurrection is to practically deny the whole purpose of the resurrection of Jesus.

“12 Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof. 13 Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God. 14 For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace” (Romans 6:12-14).
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Dr. Lance Ketchum serves the Lord as a Church Planter, Evangelist/Revivalist. 
He has served the Lord for over 40 years.

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