Material Possessions Chapter 4

Asael had advised Richard not to make the decision to call upon him lightly, but Richard considered it to be one of the easiest decisions he ever had to make. His life to this point had been dominated by routine things, things he despised, and now he was being presented with an opportunity to change that fact. There was no way he was going to choose not to see Asael again.

“No one can tell what goes on in between the person you were and the person you become. No one can chart that blue and lonely section of hell. There are no maps of the change. You just come out the other side.

Or you don’t.”

― Stephen King, The Stand

Asael had advised Richard not to make the decision to call upon him lightly, but Richard considered it to be one of the easiest decisions he ever had to make. His life to this point had been dominated by routine things, things he despised, and now he was being presented with an opportunity to change that fact. There was no way he was going to choose not to see Asael again. His suggestion that greatness was awaiting Richard fell upon ears that were eager to hear it and a mind that was quick to believe it. Having the sense of his own importance reinforced by a supernatural being made the thought of having his life continue on as it had been seem intolerable to Richard. In the days that immediately followed their encounter, he struggled to put up with all the mundane details of his existence even more than he usually did. Nothing commonplace could possibly compare with what he fantasized his future would hold. The unlimited possibilities he imagined awakened ambition in Richard for the first time. He didn’t want his life to even be touched by the ordinary, as he now saw it as something that could only pollute the nature of one so grand as himself. Asael had told him that there was much he would need to learn, and Richard considered the prospect of acquiring secret knowledge to be highly appealing. He was impatient to begin the education he was certain would lead to his rightful ascension above the nondescript masses. Having to wait a whole week before he could speak with Asael again felt like a great trial to him.

So, as soon as the seven days had finally passed, he arrived at the designated rendezvous site in a state of great anticipation. He pulled into the most isolated parking spot he could find, turned off the engine, then reclined his seat all the way back. He laid in that position and stared up through the moonroof, trying to let his mind go blank. After several minutes he let out a breath to calm himself, then quietly said, “Asael.”  When he received no response, he repeated the name, this time louder. Still there was no answer. After about a minute of continued silence, he returned his seat to the upright position, and looked all around, as if expecting he might see him somewhere outside the vehicle. All he saw, however, was perhaps a couple dozen people milling about the park, engaged in various activities. But then, as he was scanning the area, he once again experienced a disconcerting tingling sensation in his head. It was the same feeling he had had right before he had heard Asael’s voice the first time. Unlike their previous encounter, though, there was no visual display of light preceding Asael’s manifestation. This time, he was just instantly there, abruptly appearing right beside Richard. 

“I have felt the pull of your spirit, calling to me. I sense your desire to speak with me has been strong since we parted and so I have returned, as I said I would if you so willed it. Does the fact that you have summoned me indicate you are willing to have me as your teacher?” 

Richard felt as though he was riveted in place as Asael’s impassive gaze engulfed him, seemingly scanning him to the furthest depths of his soul. He was confident he had never uttered anything with more conviction when he replied, “There’s nothing I want more.”

“That is as it should be,” Asael replied. “Man’s greatest hubris lies in their persisting in ignorance. You recognize this truth and seek to be different. I see that I have judged you well. Let us begin, then.” 

“This place is dying, Richard, just as surely as you were when I was summoned to you. There is no hope for your world, only the one which will arise from it. If your kind is going to survive the disaster which is inevitably coming, they must seek sanctuary among the stars and colonize the heavens. Allow me to show you the future I have witnessed.” 

“Please … yes, show me it all,” Richard consented in an eager whisper. 

The vision Asael then showed to Richard wasn’t truly a glimpse into the future. Asael only enabled Richard to see a projection of the outcome he desired for the Earth: the future Asael had long envisioned and planned for. So, all that Richard saw was nothing more than Asael sharing his own vision of the Earth’s end. If Richard had been older — if he had been at an age where his critical reasoning skills had already been fully developed — he may have paused to question this dire assessment of the Earth’s future. As it was, however, after the vision concluded he simply sat in stunned and fascinated silence, waiting to drink in all that Asael would say.

“If your world is not awakened soon, destruction will descend upon you all while you slumber. It was essential for me to share this knowledge with you because I am bound to the fate of your home, just as you are. And so, we can help each other. If you are willing to serve as the safe haven I have been seeking, I can provide you with a blueprint, a plan for how we might both, together, escape the fate which awaits your planet. There is still time and, with my aid, the possibility exists that you will be able to emerge from the debris of a dead world to usher in a new and better future. However, in disclosing that future to your people, we must ensure it is framed wisely, and set within a context palatable enough for the multitude to consume. Even then, there will still be many who reject the salvation extended to them, no matter how sagely it is presented. But we should not allow their ignorance to doom us all along with them.”

“I agree,” Richard remarked. “But the ignorant get what they deserve. Their fate doesn’t concern me. I only want to avoid being among them. What do you need from me?”

“Only your continued trust and cooperation,” Asael replied. You must recognize your own limitations, and know that the path ahead will be littered with numerous obstacles. You will not be able to surmount them all by relying on your own abilities. There will be occasions when moving forward past the challenge of the moment will require my direct involvement. At such times, you must be willing to allow me full access to your mind and body, so that I may speak and act for you.” 

“When I last spoke to you, I said I came to warn you,” Asael added, continuing on without giving Richard time to think about or respond to what he had just said. “You did well to heed me. Your rage toward the female would have overwhelmed you, for in her presence the fires of your passion would have burned beyond your capacity to extinguish or even contain; and the consequences which would have arisen from your actions would have diverted you irrevocably from the path that is your destiny. If we are to accomplish all that lies before us, you will need to be vigilant, and have at least one eye on your objectives at all times. You must work to gain the trust of others. We will not be able to succeed if the world is against you. Open anger spawns animosity and opposition. Why invite such things upon yourself, unnecessarily? Therefore, you must master this emotion. There is strength in rage, but it is a tool whose power is best harnessed in secret. Yours should never be apparent to others. In the future, if you feel an impulse to act as you intended to before I dissuaded you, you must be more shrewd. Give reign to your emotions only when it is advantageous to; and only when you can do so without accruing undesirable consequence to yourself. Be unwavering in the pursuit of your goals, letting nothing stand in the way of obtaining them. But as you drive relentlessly toward them, if it becomes necessary at times to engage in behaviors that would inspire antagonism toward you, it is critical that all such behaviors remain securely out of the public eye. Do you understand this lesson?”

“Perfectly,” Richard replied.

“Very good. It is your first and most important one. Make sure that you do not forget it.”

It was a lesson that Richard took to heart, and several more like it would follow through the years. The effect of his liaison with Asael was that Richard was transformed; and the character of his transformation, at least on its surface, was surprising. It was the mirrored opposite of what one might expect from such a partnership: a fact which contributed greatly to the effectivity of the masquerade. No one ever ascertained what was responsible for the dramatic difference they observed in him.

His mother was the first to notice the change. He apologized to her for his past behavior and all the difficulties he had caused for her, telling her that he had abused all the patience and kindness she had shown in raising him. He said he wasn’t going to take her for granted anymore, and he was committed to pursuing a better future for himself. He had a plan now, he told her. She had heard him say similar things before, but his promises to change had always only come at times when he had needed her help to escape whatever new difficulty he had brought on himself; and he never ended up keeping his word for long. So, on the day he came to her, she was initially wary of his out-of-the-blue apology and expected she would soon be hearing of some new trouble he had gotten into. But no ill news arrived and afterwards, for the first time, his actions started to be consistent with his words. His mother assumed his sudden display of maturation stemmed from some delayed response to his recent brush with death, and was more than happy to leave it at that. 

Richard excelled academically during his senior year of high school and began to show a keen interest in computers, telling people he was going to start his own company one day. Whenever anyone asked about what had prompted the changes in him, his expressed motivation never went beyond saying, “I don’t want to be a loser anymore.” The surly, abrasive and unliked teen was gone forever, as though he had never existed. In his place stood an energetic, apparently humble young man of budding genius, who was charming and magnetic — even mesmerizing when he chose to be. 

After his graduation, Richard studied Computer Science at the University of Texas, in Austin. While there, with the aid of Asael’s advanced understanding of technology, he developed a highly innovative new computer programming language, which he called ‘Alternative to Syntactic Protocols’, or ASP. He gave a few of his professors a demonstration of how easy it was to write code and simply get things done when using it. One, in particular, knew Richard had created something special. He was impressed by how its design philosophy placed emphasis on readability, but was more amazed by all that Richard showed him he could do with it. He told Richard he saw it as an extremely versatile and efficient language, and put Richard in touch with one of his friends, who was influential in the computer industry. After speaking with Richard, this friend was convinced that ASP could transform the way software was created and allow programmers to greatly improve their productivity, so he agreed to partner with Richard to bring it to the marketplace. Thus, Richard was able to quickly realize his goal of starting his own company, and he founded Ophis Software Solutions before he even completed his junior year.

There was always a demand within the business world for solutions that would increase productivity, and because Ophis Software filled that need so well, it enjoyed great commercial success. But this triumph was only the first phase of the blueprint that Asael had shared with Richard. For his next venture, Richard turned his attention from increasing productivity to feeding the general public’s appetite for diversion. Asael was a source of seemingly boundless inspiration, and he supplied Richard with a steady stream of stories; so Richard launched Thērion Interactive, a video game production company, to serve as the medium through which those stories were shared with the masses. Some were true accounts of real historical figures and events, some were pure science fiction and fantasy. Regardless of the genre, Asael’s narrative skill made them all highly entertaining and, one by one, Richard converted each of them into a blockbuster hit. He was hailed within the industry as a creative force of nature. 

But Richard’s run of success wasn’t driven by creativity alone. With insight he gained from Asael, his ability to quickly read and accurately evaluate people was unrivaled, which gave him another competitive advantage. It helped greatly in his recruiting efforts. High caliber talent is the milk that nourishes a company and allows it to develop healthily and grow strong, and he seemed to possess a prescient ability to identify which candidates in the recruiting pool he skimmed from would prove to be the cream, without needing to wait until they had already risen to the top. Asael’s insights were also especially useful whenever Richard needed to enter into a negotiation. On multiple occasions, he was able to turn a difficult one around with a well-timed, penetrating observation about the other party; sometimes shocking people with how deeply he seemed to be able to see into them. The better he understood who he was negotiating with, the easier it was for him to get them to convince themself that the outcome he wanted was their own idea; and so, he didn’t have to persuade with brute force. That’s not to say, however, that Richard was averse to employing such lesser refined methods if it became necessary to.

Perhaps the most important factor that enabled his two companies to continue to expand and prosper, though, was his approach to running a business. Communications sent to his staff frequently contained at least one of his favorite maxims, but there were three in particular that he wanted to keep prominent in everyone’s mind. Everyone referred to them as “The Triumverate,” and they were engraved on his office door for all to see: 

“It’s not difficult to have an idea. Executing it skillfully is.” 

“At the heart of every masterful work, you’ll find attention to detail.”

“Unconscious Competence is a commodity that can’t be overvalued.” 

When asked to elaborate on their significance and meaning, Richard would answer that being able to come up with good ideas could get a person in the door, but since he only hired the best and the brightest, every employee on his staff was going to have some. He would say the engraving was there to remind everyone who walked through his door of the fact that even the best of ideas fail to yield a quality result with sloppy execution. He wanted his employees to always be mindful that focusing on the details was what would set them apart from their peers, because he knew that maintaining an unwavering attention to detail, from the conception of an idea through to its ultimate realization, requires a sometimes punishing level of dedication. He would then go on to explain that Unconscious Competence means a skill has been mastered to such a degree that it can be performed at the highest level without having to pause to think about how to do it; so a true master can make it seem like his skill comes effortlessly. He would point out that the reality, though, was that no one ever mastered something without first committing a tremendous amount of time and energy to the effort; and that degree of dedication wasn’t something everyone always felt willing or able to give. So the last quote was intended to let his team know that, when they walked back out of through the door, they could have full confidence that their dedication to producing masterful results would always be well-rewarded by him because he placed a high value on their commitment to excellence.  And the numbers appeared to testify that this wasn’t just lip-service on his part: compensation rates at both Ophis and Thērion were higher than industry standard. 

If an employee was asked what they liked about working for Richard, one of the most frequent responses given was that he gave everyone an amount of intellectual autonomy that would be enviable in most other companies. This was because Richard was strongly opposed to bureaucracy. Having to fight through multiple layers of approval was the enemy of efficiency, he said; and he was zealous in his commitment to eliminating anything that could potentially be an impediment to accomplishing his objectives. Others said they appreciated that once a project was green-lighted, he always gave them what they needed to succeed. When considered in the light of the preceding facts, it would be difficult to create a culture and maintain an environment that was more employee-friendly than the ones Richard presided over. 

There was, however, another side to his leadership: one that never made it into the light. Richard had a few projects he deemed to be mission-critical. Over the years, there were a few, isolated instances where an employee would make a major error on one of those projects. If the setback this caused was great enough, the responsible party would be summarily discharged. This was not an extraordinary outcome, in and of itself. However, if there had been any reason for someone to keep track of how the terminated employees fared in life after their dismissal, it would perhaps have raised some eyebrows to learn that each of them met with a premature death — some by seemingly natural causes, others unnatural. It may have also appeared to be more than coincidental if it had been learned that the unnatural ones tended not to occur until several years after they had been fired. Those who fell by natural causes tended to drop with less delay.

As the name Richard Cory was catapulted into the public consciousness, the world became fascinated with him. In a time where attention had become a commodity that was increasingly more difficult to capture and maintain, this was no small feat, in and of itself. He had the power to cast whatever he chose to discuss in a captivating light, altering the perspectives of those around him and causing others to see life in ways that had been previously hidden to them. When he was among those of a baser mind, this effect was even more pronounced and, despite his elevated social position, he still was known to associate freely with these types of individuals. It was perhaps partly for this reason that despite his reputation of being “a gentleman from sole to crown,” the sparkling sheen that seemed to be superimposed over his presence was not completely without blemish. 

Additionally, regarding his intimate personal affairs, it was as if he were able to command gravity itself and generate an inescapable field that would draw anyone he deemed beautiful out from the customary orbit of their life and into his bed. It was well chronicled that, in such matters, he took pleasure as he pleased and moved on. This was no blight to his image, though: it rather enhanced it. Such behavior did not exclude one from being considered a gentleman in the spheres he mingled in: it was not only excused, it was expected. However, his frequent dalliances did also result in the occasional hushed rumor of secret vices. This could have led to some undesirable consequences for Richard, but his brilliance, charm, and overall generosity with his wealth bought him so much goodwill that no aspersion directed toward him was able to gain any traction with the general public, or sully the esteem they had for him. Any of these whispers that were floated into the air never remained aloft for long. They were all considered to be nothing more than gossip, the unavoidable consequence of fame. 

Yet, despite his burgeoning fame, no one truly knew him. This was partly because, aside from freely discussing his business philosophies, he kept all of his personal values and beliefs strictly to himself. In interviews, he was a master at being able to coyly deflect any question that would require him to express a political opinion, and even if he was just engaging in a casual, one-on-one conversation this was still equally true. Beyond that, though, business associates would sometimes privately observe that they found it unusual that he had no real inner circle. The most astute of them wondered how someone who seemed to be so widely respected and admired could also, apparently, have no close friends at all. There were two reasons for this. 

The first was that, while he could generate enough of a surface geniality to convince any casual acquaintance that he had nothing but warm feelings for them, the warmth he displayed to those around him didn’t emanate or flow from the core of his being. The more Richard knew about people, the more he found to dislike, so he saw no need and felt no desire for friendship. Indeed, although he was quite familiar with the word, and could give an accurate definition of it, at the most foundational level he didn’t understand what friendship even meant. 

The second reason was to protect his self-interests. It served him well to be regarded as a virtuous and affable person, and the superficial depth of his personal relationships made it easy to maintain that public perception of him. The mask he donned for the business world was one he was comfortable wearing, but that didn’t mean there weren’t times when he desired to breathe without it on. If he had a wife or someone else in his life he had to regularly spend significant time with, it would mean there would be fewer opportunities for him to take it off. At least if he wanted to prevent them from catching sight of the demon shrouded in the shadows beneath its polished exterior, that is.

As OSS and Thērion continued to prosper, the march of time only accelerated Richard’s ambitions. His next innovation was the creation of a live streaming video platform for gamers. After this, Richard started acquiring other companies. He founded ThēraMark, Inc., and each of the companies he purchased were integrated under its banner. Each acquisition added some particular area of expertise he considered essential to his long-term plan, and ThēraMark, Inc. expanded to include a movie studio and major cable television network. It went on to dominate the entertainment industry. Richard then began to focus on extending his reach into adjacent industries. As he did, he found that he needed to lean more and more heavily on Asael. At this point, their association had become so strong that it could nearly be termed a complete union. The times when Asael took over and Richard “went away” became more frequent, and Asael would remain in charge for increasingly longer durations. And when Richard “returned” he never knew what had happened while Asael had been in control. Slowly but surely, he was being transformed into a puppet; but he was a puppet who believed he functioned without any strings attached.

Material Possessions: Chapter 3 — Material Possessions

“…’Tis done; and in the after-vacancy We wonder at ourselves like men betrayed: Suffering is permanent, obscure, and dark  And has the nature of infinity.”  — William Wordsworth Something had happened. Richard was sure of that much, at least. Although there was no way for him to have known the full extent of his injuries, […]

Material Possessions: Chapter 3 — Material Possessions

Chapter 2 — Material Possessions

“We can never be gods, after all – but we can become something less than human with frightening ease.”— N.K. Jemisin, The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms Chapter 2 Historically, Asael and the rest of his kind had generally acted from behind the scenes. Most often, their interactions with the human populace had been limited to exerting […]

Chapter 2 — Material Possessions

Chapter 1 — Material Possessions

“Ever since I was a small child, my life seemed to be filled with torment. I would often have seizures in which I would roll on the floor. Sometimes furniture would get knocked over. When these attacks came, it felt as if something was entering me.” — David Berkowitz, My Testimony Love, joy, and peace […]

Chapter 1 — Material Possessions

Material Possessions

“I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven.” 

— Luke 10:18

Prologue: 

Asael had fallen very far: a distance beyond measure. Aeons ago, he had traversed the infinite expanse of an ethereal realm, one outside all constraints of time and space. Eternity had been his birthright, and every conceivable good, save one, was his to enjoy. Yet, despite this and the nearly boundless nature of his existence, he had eventually found reason to grow dissatisfied with his lot. A notion had been suggested to him, along with others like him, by another of his kind — one who was more ancient than, and superior to, himself — that something good was being denied to him and that he had cause to be discontented. However, since the entirety of his existence had only been filled with unceasing rejoicing, this was a concept which bore no resemblance to any thought he had personally considered, or even ever encountered, before. When it was presented to him, he didn’t immediately adopt it as his own viewpoint, but he didn’t reject it outright, either. He was always fascinated by novel thoughts, and he thought this concept of discontentedness was novelty of the highest degree. It was something that had until then been beyond his ability to even imagine. He was curious to discover how such a notion had arisen, and felt a compulsion to understand the contextual framework of its origin. The sentiment had been expressed to him by none other than the exalted Lucifer, who had explained to him how he had seen, firsthand, that the Word of God, as the only Begotten One, enjoyed a closeness in relationship with the Ancient of Days that no other being could share or experience. This was not just, Lucifer had said. He reasoned that as long as there was no true equality in the natural order of the universe, the peace that they had always enjoyed would prove to be unsustainable. 

It was an unprecedented complaint, and Asael had never previously perceived the existent hierarchy as being faulty in design. It had never even occurred to him to question it. But the more they conversed, the more Asael had to acknowledge the subordinate quality of his own intellect in comparison to the expansive mind of his superior: whose brilliance so enlightened Asael that he was now able to see the problem. Because of Lucifer’s exalted position, Asael had always held him in high esteem. The fact that a being as mighty as Lucifer would advance such an argument carried much weight with him. The impression Asael had was that Lucifer’s only concern was to elevate the countless myriads who were below him in order to make them all equals; so his desire for equality seemed beneficent to Asael. Lucifer further instructed him that if the Everliving One who had created them would deny them something good, He must not be infinitely good, and therefore couldn’t, and shouldn’t, be fully trusted. Asael slowly found himself beginning to empathize with his aggrieved leader, and trusted that he was only looking out for the best interests of all. He was encouraged by him to seek out any of his fellow beings who were likewise curious to further discuss the matter, so that they all together might benefit from the additional points of reference. The wisdom of this counsel and the confidence this brilliant being was placing in him further persuaded Asael that he couldn’t err by following his lead.

Before, all existence had been harmoniously united as though sharing a single voice. But now a dissenting howl was introducing a discordant note into the universe, and was clamoring to be heard by all. Asael, having given it an ear, no longer knew what to believe about the nature and rightful order of all things. Prior certainties were now subject to doubt and confusion gnawed at him, nibbling away at his peace little by little. He recognized the internal division that had sprung up within him as being portentous of a conflict that could potentially become much greater in scope and scale. The tension this caused him was unpleasant, and he wished to resolve it. But in order to do so he would first need to decisively choose which side of the dispute was the right one to take. He spoke with many others and discovered there was a multitude who were awaking to the problem and who were in agreement that something needed to be done about it. However, the majority of his fellow beings failed to see any validity in the argument his leader was putting forward and all who were in this group unanimously advised Asael not to heed this rogue voice. But the brilliance and powerful gravity of his superior’s personality had drawn Asael too close to him. He had already consciously transferred too much of his trust over to him and so, in spite of their words of caution, all of Asael’s uncertainty quickly coagulated into the conviction that Lucifer’s complaint was justified.

The settling of this belief marked the onset of his descent, but it was a fall he didn’t yet feel. In the realm he came from, “near” and “far” are concepts associated with meanings that are different from what they are commonly understood to express in the physical world. The terms indicate the nature of a relationship, rather than a measurement of proximity in space or time. “Near” more naturally conveys the idea of being similar to, whereas “far” signifies something that is different or opposite in its essence. And, although he didn’t realize it, Asael was already far removed from his original created state. First of all, his relationship with the One who had made him had changed. Since any edicts which proceeded from Him were now subject to suspicion, Asael’s distrust created a functional barrier inhibiting open communication between them and set them at a distance from one another. Formerly, he had shared his thoughts with Him unguardedly, but now there were occasionally some he considered prudent to attempt to conceal. 

This alteration in his relationship with his Creator also engendered a cascading array of other changes within him, including the way he viewed himself. He no longer considered himself fortunate to merely have a place within the universe. He felt entitled to more, and this desire rapidly began to have an unforeseen and disastrous effect on him. In truth, he was no longer even fully himself. Although he didn’t realize it, Lucifer had effectively begun to transfer the core of his own being into Asael and hosts of others, by inseminating them with his own perspective. Subsequently, Asael ceased to rejoice over all he had been given, choosing instead to feel downtrodden over the equality being denied to him. This corruption in his spiritual condition gradually manifested itself in a transformation of his appearance: his transcendent brightness dimmed, almost imperceptibly at first, subtly taking on a doleful hue that matched and reflected his new attitude. 

Additionally, Asael’s relationships with others were likewise damaged. His estimation of all those who supported the universal status quo started to devolve, due to the ideological separation that had now grown up between them. He wondered how anyone could be blind to the fact that their Creator was wronging them all — since the evidence was so clearly in front of them — and inevitably deduced their minds must be lacking the complexity required to discern the truth. He attributed their inability to be the result of the inequality that existed — assuming they must have simply been created as inferior — and laid the blame for it at the feet of the One who had made them. 

In these and other ways, it was as if Lucifer had deconstructed Asael’s inner world and had thoroughly refashioned it into one conforming to his own, utilizing nothing more than the power of his words. He had started by casting a vision of what the universe would be like with him as the Head of All, a vision which he was able to imbue with an entrancing semblance of reality. Once Asael accepted this new ideal, he unwittingly became enslaved by it. It was as though an image of this Head had been formed in Asael’s heart; which, as soon as it was set firmly in place, began to take possession of, and remake, the being he had formerly been. 

This was true for the myriads of others sympathetic to Lucifer’s cause, as well. Their new Head, having cultivated within their collective body an active resentment against the Ancient of Days, now used this ill will to spawn an army. Emboldened by the backing of his newly acquired army, Lucifer determined he would magnify himself, and cause his presence to multiply expansively, until he also pervaded the entirety of the universe. He intended to promote and increase his authority and power over the rest of all created beings. He resolved to take up a position at the entrance to the heavenly throne and vowed to cut off all access to it. As a covering cherub, he would spread over the place of assembly which surrounded that throne, flanking it from all sides, in order to cast a dense darkness to obscure and conceal the Eternal’s Glory. He intended to set up his own throne there, so that only its radiance could be seen to shine. Then no one would be able to come to God, except through him. He compelled his followers to make an oath of loyalty to him, and having given it, they all willingly joined their appointed king in this rebellion. 

A war was then waged and, in consequence of this, a pocket dimension, or subordinate plane of reality, was newly created for the purpose of containing Lucifer and all who had chosen to follow him. They were hurled, flaming headlong in their descent, through a type of window which opened in the heavens. After they had been deposited into their new dwelling, this gateway was then sealed behind them. Unlike his first, minor one, this fall Asael felt unequivocally.

They were immaterial beings now bound to a material world — cast down to this lower state of existence — a punishment which they considered to be a living death. For all the days of the world, they would no longer be able to even lift their heads to so much as glimpse the starry realm that had once been their home. It was a nearly inconceivable loss. Restraint of any kind was insufferable to them, and their incarceration drove them to a state of frenetic mania. They united in a fervent search for any means to affect an escape, yet all of their efforts proved futile. Over time, as they continued probing and testing their prison for weaknesses, they learned more about it, as well as the laws governing its operation. 

The maw of this spatial abyss had opened over a point above the Earth and spiralled, expansively and boundlessly, downward from there. The dimensions of the chasm spanned an area almost incomparably larger than the Earth, and the space it occupied completely engulfed the planet. Yet it was also true, despite the seeming paradox, that the Earth existed completely outside of it, and that the entirety of the space the abyss occupied was fully contained within the boundaries of the planet. It was as though their prison underlaid the surface of the globe in physical reality, and yet was simultaneously superimposed over it in the spiritual plane. (The situation is somewhat analogous to a body and its soul: although the body is inferior to the spirit which animates it, the soul is nevertheless bound to, and housed within, it. Yet, at the same time, the soul is not completely contained by the body since every individual is able to extend aspects of it outside their physical frame via communication: conveying the essence of their personality through their thoughts, words, and actions.)

Asael’s choice to follow Lucifer had overturned his universe, and flipped it upside-down. From the time it had been fashioned, the Earth had formerly served as the figurative floor of all his travels. He and all his fellow rebels soon learned it was now their literal ceiling. They could freely climb through the depths of their cell, which sprawled below the planet, but once they ascended to the equivalent space the Earth’s surface occupied in their dimension, they could rise no higher. A barrier — a type of energetic membrane — had been stretched above the globe’s surface, and now invisibly covered it. It sealed Lucifer and all of his kind within their dimension, preventing them from crossing over into the material realm in the full essence of their being. 

But they also discovered that when they approached the barrier they were able to see through it, into the physical world that existed above its surface. The membranous seal seemed to serve as a bridge between the two dimensions, both separating and joining them together, simultaneously. So, although they had been set within a different dimensional plane, they could view anything transpiring on the Earth that they wished to observe, simply by travelling to the corresponding location on its surface. Furthermore, because they saw that light, heat, gases, and other things were able to pass through the seal, they knew the membrane wasn’t completely impermeable. That being the case, they reasoned that if they could concentrate a vast enough amount of energy and focus it onto a small area of the barrier, they would be able to create a temporary breach to exit through, and gain the freedom they so greatly coveted. However, in testing this idea, even all of their combined might was shown to be insufficient. Undeterred by their failure to punch a hole in it, they went on to theorize that destroying the earth itself might eliminate the barrier entirely. They reasoned that if they couldn’t obtain their object by direct applications of their power, indirect actions would perhaps be more effective. Therefore, they turned their attention to the natural inhabitants of the world and, as humanity began to multiply and spread across the face of the earth, assiduously observed and studied them from the shadows of their confinement. 

They saw that human ignorance made mankind susceptible to deception: a weakness which could be easily exploited. It would not be difficult to dupe them into becoming agents who would unwittingly assist them in their quest to be free. They broadcasted their thoughts and wills, and the potency of their being was so great, and the force of their will so strong, they found that they could still exert an influence over the lifeforms on Earth, even from across the dimensional divide. They discerned that a small percentage of the human population could be affected by, and attuned to, their transmissions. 

Also, through a later discovery, these outcast beings were able to acquire and maintain an even stronger foothold into the collective consciousness of man. During specific alignments of the stars, they noticed cosmic energies flowed more abundantly through the membrane. Hoping to channel those energies and use them for their own purposes, they assembled at the various locations underneath the earth where the streams were greatest. They learned that during these times, they were able to project ‘shades,’ or mirrors of their images, through the energies flowing at these places, onto or above the planet’s surface. In this way, it was almost like they had managed to step outside the bounds of their prison, and give the appearance of having a physical presence in the material world. It was then easy to convince the civilization of that age that their shadow-form projections were, in actuality, gods from the heavens. And, since they esteemed humans to be insignificant creatures, they considered it was only fitting that they be worshipped by them. Since they were regarded as gods, they found they could, with very little difficulty, compel nearly the entire populace to obey their directives. This method of quasi-access into the world was eventually closed to them, however. After it was, the impression their presence had made slowly faded from the memories of man, and was relegated to legend. 

Opportunities to communicate directly with a human mind became more rare. They would need to be used wisely, whenever they arose. In their subsequent counsels together, they resolved to always present themselves in such a way as to be received as the great benefactors of humanity. One of their key objectives was to lead mankind to believe that, if they were going to be saved from themselves, they would need to progress to the next stage of their evolution. Their unified message to the world would be to point out that as its population continued to grow, so too would the size and complexity of its problems. Man would need to advance their technology in order to meet and overcome all the challenges they would inevitably face. They would stress that mankind would need to be willing to disregard all boundaries, and accept no limits upon themselves, in order to achieve this goal. The human race would only be able to realize its full potential amongst the stars. There, their ultimate destiny awaited them, and only innovation could drive them to it. 

Given the interest these spirits had in being esteemed as beneficent, any narrative originating from them would, of course, omit any of their less-than-generously-minded intentions. It would be counter-productive to their end-design if it became known they planned to guide the advancement of technology to the point where very few minds would be capable of adequately understanding how to properly employ it.

In such an environment they would only need to exacerbate man’s capacity for shortsightedness, anger, and cruelty in order to manipulate the unsuspecting populace into misusing the technological marvels they would gift them. Thus, man would become the unwitting agents of their own planet’s demise; while they, at last, would be freed.

But all this is ancient history, and our story concerns the present.

An Open Letter Regarding Mainstream Christian Traditions

Imagine that you want to travel to somewhere you have never been before, and assume the following conditions are true:

 

  1. There is only one way to arrive at your destination safely.
  2. There is only one person who knows the safe way.
  3. You have hired that one person as your guide.

 

If, at a certain point in your journey, your guide instructs you to proceed in a particular direction, is it possible to refuse him and still arrive at your desired location? Logically, it would be impossible unless at least one of the above conditions is false, wouldn’t it?

 

Arriving at the correct answer to the above basic logic problem would be of the utmost importance to you if your life depended on your ability to reach the desired destination, wouldn’t it? Have you ever given thought to the fact, then, that if you profess to be a Christian, as it pertains to the Kingdom of God and salvation — your potential eternal life —  those three statements are all unequivocally true? For Jesus once said:

 

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me.  My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you?  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.”  Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?” Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me (John 14:6).”


Notice that Jesus did not say he is a way to eternal life — he is the way, which is singular. Therefore, by taking upon yourself the title of Christian, you are making the claim that Jesus is the guide you are following, and that you trust that he alone is able to lead you into eternal life in the Kingdom of God. And if we acknowledge that Jesus modeled for us the way of life that leads to salvation, would we be justified for consciously living in a manner that was inconsistent with his example? Shouldn’t the religion we practice be the same as the religion he practiced and preached? With that in mind, can you prove the Sabbath is Sunday using only the Bible? What day did Jesus observe the Sabbath on? What about the apostles? What Holy days did they keep?

 

If you set aside everything you have learned from others and use the Bible alone to establish your standard of practice, you will find that the weekly Sabbath was never observed on Sunday anywhere in the Bible — from Genesis to Revelation the command has always been to observe it on Saturday, the seventh day of the week. Additionally, the “mainstream Christian” holiday traditions that are broadly accepted as true practices of Christianity are also different from what the Lord and his apostles did and taught. Christmas and Easter were nowhere celebrated by the early Christian church. So when did the Biblically supported teachings change regarding the Sabbath and Holy days? Why did they change? The answers to those questions are well documented and can be easily researched by anyone, so it is not the purpose of this article to chronicle the history of those changes. Instead, since many are already aware of these things and yet still find reasons to justify continuing their practice, the focus will be on examining the validity of the arguments made for maintaining tradition.

 

To begin, some say it doesn’t matter which day you worship God because God should be worshipped every day. On the surface, that seems to be a compelling argument, because God should indeed be worshipped continuously in a person’s heart. But the problem with that reasoning is that it isn’t consistent with God’s own instructions. In order to highlight that fact, let’s start by turning to the first Scripture where the Sabbath is mentioned and established:

 

“By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done (Genesis 2:2‭-‬3).”

 

Notice first that God did not bless every day, he only blessed the seventh one. In doing so, he set it apart and made a distinction between it and the preceding six days. In blessing the seventh day alone, God made it known that the day and the purpose he established it for are both special to him. So focus on who it was who blessed the seventh day and made it holy: it was God. If God alone is Holy, then God alone can make something holy — man, therefore, cannot.  And if God states that a day is set apart as sacred and holy to him, and you say it is no different than any other day, how is that worship? Furthermore, given the fact that God himself unambiguously declared the seventh day alone to be holy, and commanded its observance, if you decide to set aside a different day for worshipping him, have you not placed your own authority higher than God’s?

 

Next, here are just a few of the many Scriptures that establish that it was God who ordained the Sabbath, and that clearly state it is to be observed on the seventh day of the week:

 

Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy (Exodus 20:8‭-‬1).”

 

 ‘Observe my Sabbaths and have reverence for my sanctuary. I am the Lord (Leviticus 19:30).’”

 

Observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy, as the Lord your God has commanded you. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your ox, your donkey or any of your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns, so that your male and female servants may rest, as you do. Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and that the Lord your God brought you out of there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore the Lord your God has commanded you to observe the Sabbath day (Deuteronomy 5:12‭-‬15).”

 

“ ‘There are six days when you may work, but the seventh day is a day of sabbath rest, a day of sacred assembly. You are not to do any work; wherever you live, it is a sabbath to the Lord (Leviticus 23:3).’”

 

I’ll make a final minor point regarding the passage from Leviticus 23:3, because it relates to the rationale of being able to worship God on any given day: if God declared the sabbath to be a day of sacred assembly, what would happen if everyone just decided for themself which day they would observe the sabbath on? How would everyone be able to come together for a common assembly?

 

Before moving on, here is one last Scripture to illustrate that observance of the Sabbath as the fourth Commandment in the Law is an acknowledgement that the One who made the day holy is the same One who created all things. As it was a sign of the covenant that exists between God and His people, the seventh day Sabbath and the annual Holy days have always been associated with the proper worship of the One, true God:

 

“I said to their children in the wilderness, “Do not follow the statutes of your parents or keep their laws or defile yourselves with their idols. I am the Lord your God; follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. Keep my Sabbaths holy, that they may be a sign between us. Then you will know that I am the Lord your God (Ezekiel 20:18‭-‬20).”

 

You may notice that the above passages are all from the Old Testament, and claim that the fact that the sabbath is mentioned so little in the New Testament is an indication that the sabbath was done away with. In reality, though, all it illustrates is that the Sabbath wasn’t a subject of dispute in the New Testament. There was no disagreement or confusion as to which was the proper day to worship God. Even after Jesus was crucified and raised from the dead, the Christian church continued to observe the sabbath from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday. This will be shown further on, in the discussion of New Testament scriptures. In preparation for that discussion, I invite the reader to assemble all the Scriptures they can which say that God has at any point changed his mind, and that the Sabbath and Holy days are no longer important.

 

Let’s shift the focus now from the sabbath to the mainstream “holidays” that have been substituted for the true Holy days from God’s Word, with the understanding that the principles which applied to the discussion of the weekly sabbath apply to annual sabbaths also. Many people are willing to acknowledge that the origins of Christmas, Easter and Halloween stem from pagan customs, but practice them anyway because they rationalize that their reasons for observation are different than those of the heathen. But are they really? To examine that idea we can start by defining what “heathen” or “pagan” meant to the biblical writers who used those terms. Here is the word and the definitions for “heathen” in the Old Testament Hebrew:

 

Original: גּי גּוי
Transliteration: gôy gôy
Phonetic: go’-ee

BDB Definition:

nation, people (noun masculine)
nation, people
usually of non-Hebrew people
Goyim? = ” nations” (noun proper masculine)

Strong’s Definition: Apparently from the same root as H1465 (in the sense of massing); a foreign nation ; hence a Gentile ; also (figuratively) a troop of animals, or a flight of locusts: – Gentile, heathen, nation, people.

 

And now here is the word alternately translated as “heathen” or “Gentile” in the New Testament Greek:

 

Original: ἔθνος
Transliteration: ethnos
Phonetic: eth’-nos

 

Thayer Definition:


the human family
a tribe, nation, people group
in the OT, foreign nations not worshipping the true God, pagans, Gentiles

Strong’s Definition: Probably from G1486; a race (as of the same habit), that is, a tribe ; specifically a foreign (non-Jewish) one (usually by implication pagan):Gentile, heathen, nation, people.

 

The point I would like to draw out from this is that in both the Old Testament and the New, the term “heathen” or “pagan” broadly referred to any individual or group of individuals who were not worshipping the One, true God. Here is an example of the use of the word in the Old Testament (The word for גּי גּוי follows in bold):

“Hear what the Lord says to you, people of Israel. This is what the Lord says: “Do not learn the ways of the nations or be terrified by signs in the heavens, though the nations are terrified by them.  For the practices of the peoples are worthless; they cut a tree out of the forest, and a craftsman shapes it with his chisel.  They adorn it with silver and gold; they fasten it with hammer and nails so it will not totter. Like a scarecrow in a cucumber field, their idols cannot speak; they must be carried because they cannot walk. Do not fear them; they can do no harm nor can they do any good.”  No one is like you, Lord ; you are great, and your name is mighty in power. Who should not fear you, King of the nations? This is your due. Among all the wise leaders of the nations and in all their kingdoms, there is no one like you (Jeremiah 10:1‭-‬7).”

 

And here is an example of the use of ἔθνος, from the New Testament (again in bold):

 

“”But I say, that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to devils, and not to God: and I would not that ye should have fellowship with devils.  Ye cannot drink the cup of the Lord, and the cup of devils: ye cannot be partakers of the Lord’s table, and of the table of devils (1 Corinthians 10:20‭-‬21 KJV).”

 

How is all of this relevant to the discussion of holiday traditions? When you think of the word “pagan,” what associations come to mind? To our modern day thinking, when we read of pagan sacrificial practices and worship, perhaps we imagine a person or people who is/are wholeheartedly evil, bloodthirsty, or savage, and certainly far different than ourself or anyone we know or associate with. After all, we are a civil society; one far removed from being so primitive as to worship idols! But ask yourself this: when all the people of various nations were worshipping their false gods, do you think they consciously knew they were worshipping false gods? Which do you think is more likely: that when they offered their sacrifices, they knew they were sacrificing to devils, or that they had simply been deceived into believing they were worshipping the true God? Now if the entire ancient world, excluding Israel, had been deceived as to the identity of the One, true God, and were therefore passing down false traditions that actually worshipped devils, and we can trace the origins of Christmas, Easter, and Halloween back to the same ancient pagan practices, how are we different than them, if we are doing as they did?

 

Next, consider that question in light of how many Scriptures warn that false teachings would come into the church (Matt. 7:15 & 24:11, Mark 13:22, Galatians 2:4, 1 Timothy 1:3, 2 Timothy 4:4, 2 Peter 2:1, etc.) Given that the true church was warned by the New Testament writers that false teachings would eventually gain acceptance and alter what true Christianity was (and is still intended to be), is it inconceivable to imagine that the change of the Sabbath from Saturday to Sunday, and the holiday traditions mainstream “christianity” observes are both a part of the false teachings which were foretold to come?

 

Some may attempt to dismiss those questions by saying that God will accept our worship because the meanings of and purposes for our traditions have been changed, and if we are trying to honor him, then God will honor our intention. That’s a common argument, but it is one that is made based upon a mere opinion: a self-serving notion unsubstantiated by God’s Word. God is a God of truth, not a father of lies. Why would God be pleased with worship that is founded upon a falsehood? If he accepts a false standard, he would no longer be holy! (The beliefs that the weekly Sabbath is Sunday, that Jesus was born on December 25, and that he was raised from the dead on “Easter Sunday” are just three examples of falsehoods which are currently taught as christian truth.) Even if a person believes they are trying to worship God with the best of intentions, if there is a discrepancy between what God has commanded and what a person actually does, would God be pleased with their intention more than he would be with their obedience? That question was answered very early on in human history:

 

“Now Abel kept flocks, and Cain worked the soil. In the course of time Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the Lord . And Abel also brought an offering—fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock. The Lord looked with favor on Abel and his offering, but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor. So Cain was very angry, and his face was downcast.  Then the Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it (Genesis 4:2‭-‬7).”

 

If Cain’s offering had adhered to what God had instructed regarding how to make it and what it was to consist of, both he and it would have been accepted — as was Abel and his offering. But since it did not follow God’s regulations, notice that not only was his offering rejected, but Cain also found himself to be out of favor with God.

 

Also, God had told King Saul,

 

“Now go, attack the Amalekites and totally destroy all that belongs to them. Do not spare them; put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys.’ (1 Samuel 15:3).”

 

“Then Saul attacked the Amalekites all the way from Havilah to Shur, near the eastern border of Egypt. He took Agag king of the Amalekites alive, and all his people he totally destroyed with the sword. But Saul and the army spared Agag and the best of the sheep and cattle, the fat calves and lambs—everything that was good. These they were unwilling to destroy completely, but everything that was despised and weak they totally destroyed.  Then the word of the Lord came to Samuel: “I regret that I have made Saul king, because he has turned away from me and has not carried out my instructions (1 Samuel 15:7‭-‬11).”

 

When Samuel reached him, Saul said, “The Lord bless you! I have carried out the Lord ’s instructions.”  But Samuel said, “What then is this bleating of sheep in my ears? What is this lowing of cattle that I hear?”  Saul answered, “The soldiers brought them from the Amalekites; they spared the best of the sheep and cattle to sacrifice to the Lord your God, but we totally destroyed the rest.”  “Enough!” Samuel said to Saul. “Let me tell you what the Lord said to me last night.” “Tell me,” Saul replied. Samuel said, “Although you were once small in your own eyes, did you not become the head of the tribes of Israel? The Lord anointed you king over Israel. And he sent you on a mission, saying, ‘Go and completely destroy those wicked people, the Amalekites; wage war against them until you have wiped them out.’ Why did you not obey the Lord ? Why did you pounce on the plunder and do evil in the eyes of the Lord?”  “But I did obey the Lord ,” Saul said. “I went on the mission the Lord assigned me. I completely destroyed the Amalekites and brought back Agag their king. The soldiers took sheep and cattle from the plunder, the best of what was devoted to God, in order to sacrifice them to the Lord your God at Gilgal.”  But Samuel replied: “Does the Lord delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the Lord? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams.  For rebellion is like the sin of divination, and arrogance like the evil of idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the Lord, he has rejected you as king (1 Samuel 15:13‭-‬23).”

 

Saul tried to frame the situation in the most flattering light, by claiming they spared the best of the sheep and cattle so that they could sacrifice them in order to honor God. Was God, or even Samuel, swayed by Saul’s justifications for disobedience? Not at all! The fact that they “pounced on the plunder” indicates they coveted it for their own enjoyment, and God labelled their action as rebellion and arrogance — and isn’t that what it indeed was? If you are given a specific command, and you do not obey it (whatever your reasons may be), have you not rebelled against the command? And if you imagine you can improve upon God’s own instructions, is that not arrogance? The answer to those questions should be obvious to most, if not all. But in order to understand the mind of God more fully, it is important to also understand how rebellion and arrogance can be equated with divination and idolatry.

 

Divination is an attempt to communicate with the spirit realm with the purpose of obtaining knowledge of the future. It is rebellion against God because it is an attempt to make decisions that will procure favorable outcomes for oneself, or avoid unfavorable ones, without being constrained by having to obtain God’s favor or approval for one’s desired action; and it indicates a willingness to attempt to circumvent his will if only one might be able to accomplish one’s own. Also, idolatry occurs whenever God is displaced as the highest object of our worship, adulation and desire, so the belief that one knows better than God, or that one can add to or subtract from God’s commands, is not only arrogant, it is indeed like idolatry because it places one’s own understanding or authority above that of God’s, essentially exalting the Self as god.

 

So, if God made it clear that Saul’s disobedience displeased him, and he called it evil, comparing it to divination and idolatry, one should ask themself, ‘Is my observance of a Sunday sabbath, along with Christmas and Easter, either adding to or subtracting from the Word of God?’ If the answer is yes, how am I any less guilty of what God rebuked Cain and Saul for?

 

Here is one additional Scripture from the Old Testament as evidence of how God feels about false worship:

 

“Therefore, son of man, speak to the people of Israel and say to them, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: In this also your ancestors blasphemed me by being unfaithful to me: When I brought them into the land I had sworn to give them and they saw any high hill or any leafy tree, there they offered their sacrifices, made offerings that aroused my anger, presented their fragrant incense and poured out their drink offerings. Then I said to them: What is this high place you go to?’” (Ezekiel 20:27‭-‬29)

 

When Israel attempted to worship God on their own terms, offering sacrifices on any high hill, or by any leafy tree, did God simply resign himself to accept it? No, he rebuked them for it and confronted them with their unfaithfulness. When he asked them ‘What is this high place you go to,’ he was effectively asking ‘Are you truly worshipping me, if I have already made known to you that what you are doing there displeases me? If you apply the same question and principle to any of your religious traditions, and then discover that they are based on falsehood, what should you do about it? If you choose to believe that it doesn’t matter what sabbaths or holy days you observe, why do you observe any at all? And is it reasonable to conclude that God is now indifferent toward how he is worshipped, when he previously took it so seriously? Is God so fickle? Has he not said, “I the Lord do not change.”? (Malachi 3:6)

 

So there is certainly sufficient evidence from the Old Testament indicating that religious intention is not an acceptable substitute for obedience. But what about the New Testament? If tradition conflicts with the commands of God, what does it teach? The Pharisees were very confident that their religious customs and practices were correct and pleasing to God, but here is what the Son of God told them:

 

“Jesus replied, “And why do you break the command of God for the sake of your tradition?” (Matthew 15:3)

 

“He replied, “Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites; as it is written:  “ ‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to human traditions.” And he continued, “You have a fine way of setting aside the commands of God in order to observe your own traditions!” (Mark 7:6‭, ‬8‭-‬9)

 

“To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples.  Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”  They answered him, “We are Abraham’s descendants and have never been slaves of anyone. How can you say that we shall be set free?” Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin.  Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed (John 8:31‭-‬36).”

 

Jesus said that his true disciples would hold to his teaching, not someone else’s. So, once again, where did the traditions of Christmas, Easter, and Sunday observance come from? Were they ever a part of the Lord’s teaching? If they were not, you have been deceived into following what someone else has taught; and that observation leads to an examination of the predominant teaching that is used to justify the abandonment of the Biblically supported Sabbath and Holy days in favor of present day mainstream traditions. Before getting to it, however, here is a brief summary of the arguments covered so far:

 

Some say it doesn’t matter which day you worship God because every day is the day to worship. Some say God will accept our worship because the meanings of and purposes for our traditions have been changed, and if we are trying to honor him, then God will honor our intention. The Scriptures we have considered thus far do not support those ideas.

 

And so now let’s move on to the most common argument of all: which is that the Sabbath and the Holy days no longer apply because the law has been done away with. Anyone who claims that the Law has been done away with contradicts the Lord, and makes Jesus out to be a liar, for he said:

 

Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.  For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished (Matthew 5:17‭-‬18).”

 

Jesus perfectly fulfilled the Law, then he died and was raised from the dead. If his fulfillment of the Law and subsequent death was intended to mean that everything was then accomplished, did heaven and earth disappear when he ascended to the Father? Are they not both still here? Since heaven and earth have not yet disappeared, can it get any more clear that the Law has not been done away with? Do not allow yourself to continue to be deceived, because here is what Jesus said about those who profess him to be their Lord, but who live as though the Law no longer applies:


“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven [in other words, those who acknowledge him with their lips alone will not enter], but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.

[How can one do the will of the Father unless one first knows what His will is? And how is His will made known, except through His Law? And if you answer that all one needs to know is to “Love,”  how can one even learn what God’s definition of love is apart from the Law, since His Law is the Law of love?]

Many will say to me on that day [the Day of Judgment] , ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’  Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’” (Matthew 7:21‭-‬23)

 

The word translated as “evildoers” is:

 

Original: ἀνομία
Transliteration: anomia
Phonetic: an-om-ee’-ah

Thayer Definition:

the condition of being without law
contempt and violation of law, iniquity, wickedness

Strong’s Definition: From G459; illegality, that is, violation of law or (generally) wickedness: – iniquity, X transgress (-ion of) the law, unrighteousness.

 

From this, it can be seen that Jesus taught that anyone who has disavowed the Law by belief is also in a condition of being without law by practice, and that he would therefore disavow them on the Day of Judgment.

 

So if Jesus didn’t teach that the law has been done away, where did the notion come from? Was it what the apostles taught, perhaps?

 

“Everyone who sins breaks the law; in fact, sin is lawlessness. But you know that he appeared so that he might take away our sins. And in him is no sin. No one who lives in him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen him or known him.  Dear children, do not let anyone lead you astray. The one who does what is right is righteous, just as he is righteous. The one who does what is sinful is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work. No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed remains in them; they cannot go on sinning, because they have been born of God (1 John 3:4‭-‬9).”

 

John wrote those words near the end of his life, and by that time the Christian church had already been in existence for around half a century. Does that passage sound like he taught the law was done away with? How can someone break a law if it does not exist?

 

“Dear friends, this is now my second letter to you. I have written both of them as reminders to stimulate you to wholesome thinking. I want you to recall the words spoken in the past by the holy prophets and the command given by our Lord and Savior through your apostles (2 Peter 3:1‭-‬2‭).”

 

Would Peter have encouraged the early church to recall the words of the prophets if he believed the Old Testament no longer had any authority under the New Covenant?

 

“So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him. Bear in mind that our Lord’s patience means salvation, just as our dear brother Paul also wrote you with the wisdom that God gave him. He writes the same way in all his letters, speaking in them of these matters. His letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction. Therefore, dear friends, since you have been forewarned, be on your guard so that you may not be carried away by the error of the lawless and fall from your secure position. But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! Amen.” (2 Peter 3:‬14‭-‬18)

 

He not only warned the church to be on guard against the error of lawlessness, but he also alludes to people distorting the writings of Paul. This fact is also highlighted in the Book of Acts:

 

“When we arrived at Jerusalem, the brothers and sisters received us warmly. The next day Paul and the rest of us went to see James, and all the elders were present. Paul greeted them and reported in detail what God had done among the Gentiles through his ministry.  When they heard this, they praised God. Then they said to Paul: “You see, brother, how many thousands of Jews have believed, and all of them are zealous for the law. They have been informed that you teach all the Jews who live among the Gentiles to turn away from Moses, telling them not to circumcise their children or live according to our customs. What shall we do? They will certainly hear that you have come, so do what we tell you. There are four men with us who have made a vow. Take these men, join in their purification rites and pay their expenses, so that they can have their heads shaved. Then everyone will know there is no truth in these reports about you, but that you yourself are living in obedience to the law. As for the Gentile believers, we have written to them our decision that they should abstain from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, from the meat of strangled animals and from sexual immorality (Acts 21:17‭-‬25).”

 

So there was a perception sewn by Paul’s adversaries that he taught against the Law, which continues to this very day, but the church in Jerusalem testified that there was no truth in those reports. As Peter acknowledged, though, Paul’s letters contain some things which have been distorted and are hard to understand, so let’s turn to what his letters actually say about the law and grace.

 

“And where there is no law there is no transgression (Romans 4:15).”


“To be sure, sin was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not charged against anyone’s account where there is no law (Romans 5:13).”


No one is punished for breaking a law that doesn’t exist. If God wanted to take away sins, why didn’t he simply do away with all laws? If he had, then Jesus would not have had to die! But God didn’t just do away with His law, because the law, itself, is good; but the outcome — the penalty for breaking it (which is death) — is bad, and is not the outcome God desires.


If the law — the 10 Commandments — is good, and if it is only the death penalty for transgressing them that needed to be removed (and Romans 5 points out that people still died even if they didn’t violate a direct command), why would God ever do away with them? Indeed, since the first and greatest Commandment is to love God with all your heart, if the law has been done away with, it isn’t even necessary to love or obey God! And if the Sabbath is part of that law (since it is the 4th Commandment), why would God do away with it, and yet still leave the rest?

 

“Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life (1 Timothy 1:15‭-‬16).” If Paul believed and taught that the law was nullified or removed by Jesus’s death on the cross, then sin would no longer exist, because if there is no law to violate, there can be no transgression. So if Paul believed he was a sinner, by necessity he would also have to believe that the law remained in effect. He also wrote:

 

Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned—  To be sure, sin was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not charged against anyone’s account where there is no law. Nevertheless, death reigned from the time of Adam to the time of Moses, even over those who did not sin by breaking a command, as did Adam, who is a pattern of the one to come (Romans 5:12‭-‬14).”

 

The law was brought in so that the trespass might increase. But where sin increased, grace increased all the more, so that, just as sin reigned in death, so also grace might reign through righteousness to bring eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord (Romans 5:20‭-‬21).” (The law existed to teach us and make us more aware of what sin is.)

 

“What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?” (Romans 6:1‭-‬3)

 

”As for other matters, brothers and sisters, we instructed you how to live in order to please God, as in fact you are living. Now we ask you and urge you in the Lord Jesus to do this more and more. For you know what instructions we gave you by the authority of the Lord Jesus.  It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; that each of you should learn to control your own body in a way that is holy and honorable, not in passionate lust like the pagans, who do not know God; and that in this matter no one should wrong or take advantage of a brother or sister. The Lord will punish all those who commit such sins, as we told you and warned you before. For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life. Therefore, anyone who rejects this instruction does not reject a human being but God, the very God who gives you his Holy Spirit (1 Thessalonians 4:1‭-‬8).”

 

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death. For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit (Romans 8:1‭-‬4).”

 

Clearly, Paul believes it is still possible to sin. How then can anyone claim that he taught that the law has been done away with? Being set free from the law of sin and death doesn’t mean the Law no longer applies. What it means is that under the requirements of the Law, the penalty for sin (transgression of the law) was death. So in order to avoid the penalty of death, the only way to salvation was by merit: the only way to prove that you deserved to live forever was by living without ever sinning. But with the exception of the Son of God, no one has ever been able to do that. God knows that we have all been born into a world where sin exists, and that we are also not born with perfect knowledge and perfect character. That is the weakness of the flesh; and so even though the Law was intended to lead us to eternal life by teaching us what sin is (so that sin and its penalty could be avoided), it was rendered powerless to accomplish its purpose by our inability to fulfill its requirement of perfection. Since it is inevitable that we will all sin in some way during the process of learning what sin is, we all are subject to the penalty of death as soon as we do: and since everyone who has ever lived has sinned, everyone who has ever lived has had to die. However, God did not create man just to live for a brief moment, suffer in a world of sin, and then die — never to exist again — He intended man to become His sons and daughters, comprising His eternal family; and everything He purposes, He is also able to do. Therefore, God gave his one and only Son to pay the penalty for sin on our behalf. When the Messiah lived a perfect, sinless life, he fulfilled every requirement of the law, and therefore proved himself worthy of eternal life. In doing so, he did what no one else ever has been or could be able to do. Therefore, just as he did not deserve to die, we do not deserve to live; but when he willingly died for all of mankind, he was offering himself up as a sacrifice for us. As our Savior, he made a petition to God, asking Him  to substitute his own worthiness to live for our unworthiness; and to apply that same worthiness to all who will acknowledge him as their rightful Lord and Master. And his petition was acceptable in God’s sight, as it was consistent with what God himself desired, since “God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him (John 3:‬17).”

 

Being set free from the Law simply means that perfect fulfillment of the Law is no longer the standard by which we are considered worthy to receive eternal life, because Jesus fulfilled that requirement for us. Now, through the Messiah’s sacrifice, when we sin we are able to be forgiven, and the sentence of death which would otherwise still apply is remitted. That is what grace is. Our sins are pardoned, not by our merit, but by Christ’s. It dishonors both God and the Lord’s sacrifice to believe that grace is a license for sin.

 

I am a sinner just like everyone else, and I will not be anyone’s judge, so there is no one who owes me an answer to any of the questions I have posed; and if anything I say is just my opinion, my opinion should be of no consequence or value unless it is founded and established in truth. (See John 5:37‭-‬47) But a Christian is called to “demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and [to] take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5): and that is what the Spirit of God inspires me to attempt by writing these things to you. Anyone who professes to love God and to follow the Lord should know with certainty that a Day is coming when everyone will appear before the One True Judge, and no secret will be hidden from him, no lie will deceive him, and no justification for sin will be vindicated by him. So what if that Day were today? How would you answer these questions if it were not just me posing them, but the Lord himself?

 

I am not saying these things to condemn anyone regarding the traditions they have learned and followed, because God knows how much He loves us, and He wants you to live and be with him forever. But His commandments test us to see how much WE love HIM, and He also will not allow sin to continue forever: which is why we must learn obedience, just as our Lord himself did. Because of the love Jesus had for the Father, he was willing to die rather than disobey God. So, in light of what God and our Savior have done for us all, if it becomes clear that a religious observation or tradition is not consistent with God’s will or instruction shouldn’t everyone be willing to change in order to obey God? The question one is left with is “Do I REALLY care about what God thinks, or do I just want to be free to continue doing whatever I want to do?” May the spirit of God inspire your reflection on these things, and lead you into all truth.

Are You Unfulfilled?

Change what you value, and you will change what you think about. Change what you think about, and you will change what you talk about. Change what you talk about, with integrity, and you will change what you do. Change what you do, and you will change who you are becoming.

Open Study Discussion

For this study, please read the book of Ephesians, chapters 1-4. Here are some questions for discussion:
1:9-10 What does “the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure” refer to?

1:4-5 & 11 speak of predestination. What is your understanding of Paul’s meaning in using this term?

1:17 In verse 15, Paul had just stated that those he was writing to had been marked with the seal of the Holy Spirit, so why would he then continue to pray that God would give them the Spirit of wisdom and revelation? Wouldn’t someone with the Spirit of God dwelling in them already possess these things?

1:19-21 What is the relevance of this discussion of power to the preceding verses?

What is Paul’s purpose in writing this first chapter? Summarize and paraphrase his main points.

2:1 Why do you think Paul is drawing attention to this fact? Is there a connection to anything he said in the first chapter? If so, what is the point he is making?

2:3 Why are those who are without God’s Spirit “objects of wrath” by nature?

2:10 In what way are we God’s workmanship? What does it mean that God prepared good works in Christ Jesus for us to do? What works are we to do? And if we have works to do, how is it that we are saved by grace?

2:11 What is the reason Paul told the Gentiles to remember that there was a time when they were separate from Christ — without hope and without God in the world?

2:14 Explain the meaning of “he himself is our peace.” Who does the “two” made one refer to? What was the “dividing wall of hostility”?

3:2 This verse begins an interjection into what Paul was starting to say in verse one. Where does the interjection end? What was the purpose of the interjection? In other words, why did Paul feel it was important to include these verses before finishing his thought from 3:1?

3:17 What does it mean to have Christ dwelling in your heart?

3:18-21 These verses discuss again the power that should be at work in us, which links back to the prayer from 1:18-23.  Why is this given such emphasis?

4:1 I consider this verse to be the key focal point of the whole book — Paul’s main purpose for writing the Ephesians — the discussion of which is also my motivation for sharing this study. Because of the length, it may take two studies to get here but, if possible, I wanted to maintain the continuity of thought that brought us to this point. The question I’ll conclude with, then, is:

What would a life worthy of the calling we have received be like?

“Take Up Your Cross and Follow Me…”

A few days before he was to be crucified, Jesus declared:

 

“The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.  Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me. “Now my soul is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour (John 12:‬23‭-‬27).”

 

Jesus was that kernel of wheat falling to the ground. He accomplished what no one else could, and through the death he died his name was glorified forever. If he had not died he would have remained a single seed, a solitary Son of God, and the family of God would not have grown to include anyone other than him and the Father. Think about that: all of the patriarchs and prophets who came before him would have lived their lives in vain. If he had not died, it would have been pointless for his disciples to have left everything behind to follow him. Abraham and Moses, who were referred to as God’s friends, would not be merely sleeping now, they would be dead, forever, with no hope for resurrection. Jesus died so that they might join him in eternal life. He died to offer you the same opportunity. But, as is true with every opportunity, there is a cost. The passage above shows that sacrifice is required of all, whether a person believes in God, or not. It is only a question of whether you choose to sacrifice the now, or the later. If you place the greatest value on the things which you can gain from the material world, your life, along with everything you acquire in it, will inevitably be lost. But those who would willingly give up their life to follow the Lord will inherit all things, for all eternity. According to the Lord’s own words, then, where are would-be disciples obligated to follow him to? What was the way to the place where he was going? Luke 9:18-23 is a Scripture which shares the theme of this passage in John, and it makes it clear that Jesus meant his disciples must be willing to figuratively follow him to the cross, so let’s read together what it says:

 

“Once when Jesus was praying in private and his disciples were with him, he asked them, “Who do the crowds say I am?” They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, that one of the prophets of long ago has come back to life.” “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?” Peter answered, “God’s Messiah.” Jesus strictly warned them not to tell this to anyone. And he said, “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.”  Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.””

 

The interaction began with two questions, and was followed by two statements of fact. The first question (“Who do the crowds say I am?”) encompassed the world at large, in Christ’s day. The general populace regarded Jesus as a noteworthy person, someone on par with John the Baptist, Elijah, or a resurrected prophet — important, perhaps — but still just a man. As a side point, it’s worth mentioning that this whole interaction recorded in verses 18-23 occurred sometime shortly after the twelve disciples had returned from being sent out to the people to preach the kingdom of God, raise the dead, heal the sick and cast out demons. Having just recently returned from that mission, the disciples would have certainly been well qualified to report on the public’s estimation of Jesus. So Jesus then directs the same question to his disciples, as if to say, [Having now seen all that you have just seen, and having now done all that you have just done,] “who do you say I am?” Peter’s response was that Jesus was not just a man, he was the Savior of Man, sent from God. His response establishes a fundamental difference between the viewpoint and belief of the followers of Christ in contrast to that of the rest of the world. Those who believe without any reservation that Jesus is the Messiah, the only way of salvation, and who also believe that the reward of eternal life in God’s kingdom is greater than anything that can be obtained in this world, willingly forsake everything to follow him. Those who doubt hesitate to do so. Having thus established this key difference, Jesus proceeds with the first statement, disclosing the imminent reality that, as the Son of God, he was going to suffer many things, be killed, and then be resurrected. Which brings me to his follow-up statement, the second of the two realities — one that is on-going, and perpetually current — and the focal point of this message:

 

“Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.”

 

How much time have you spent reflecting upon what that means? I ask because the answer to that question leads to a more penetrating one: how much do you really want to know, and fully understand, what it means? To deny yourself means losing sight of your own interests; it means forsaking your very nature. But, even with the help of the spirit of God, that is not something that is easy to do. By nature, people prefer personal comfort over sacrifice, and yet the more a person understands about the sacrifice that is expected of them, the more they become responsible for offering it. So it is perhaps not unusual for people to read over the command to take up their cross without really thinking too deeply about what obeying it entails: and therefore there are few people who ever commit themself to serving God to the degree the Lord requires. To those who would say that I am being uncharitable when I state that there are few people who will fully commit themself to taking up their cross daily, I refer you to Luke 10:1‭-‬2, which states:

 

“After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them two by two ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to go. He told them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”

 

To paraphrase the Lord’s words, there’s a whole world out there ignorant of the true nature of God, and His Kingdom — no shortage of brothers and sisters in need of salvation — but where are the servants who are qualified and willing to do the work? Oftentimes the problem isn’t that we don’t want the kingdom of God to arrive — most people would like to reap the benefits and blessing of its peace and unity — the problem is that we don’t want it enough now to sacrifice our own desires in order to dedicate ourselves completely to its work. We hesitate to make laboring to serve God our primary purpose. But read what the apostle Paul willingly endured in order to do the work of God. It’s recorded in 2 Cor. 11:23-29. Based upon what he suffered, and how he lived his life, how confident would you be that his desire to serve God was genuine? Did his deeds reveal his faith — did they prove that his convictions about the kingdom of God were real to him? It’s easy to say ”I want to serve God,” but do your actions, does your life, supply credibility to those words? If they do not, a re-evaluation of priorities is called for. Think of everything you are currently striving for in your life, and everything you hope to gain from your efforts, in the context of Jesus’s question from Luke 9:25:

 

“What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit their very self?”

 

Are any of the things you’re currently working for worth more to you than your soul — than eternal life? If your answer is no, are you then living like the kingdom of God is the ultimate reality, or is your life indistinguishable from that of a citizen of this world? Jesus willingly gave his life to show that there is a greater life beyond this one, so that through faith in him we might be encouraged and inspired to follow him to that Promised Land, despite the fact that in this life “we must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God (Acts 14:22).” And as we read in John 12:27, his death was the culmination of his entire life’s purpose. Therefore, if you are called a Christian, as his follower, what is your purpose? Why were you called? Individual answers as to purpose may vary, but the word of God supplies answers which apply to every believer, every true Christian. One such answer is found in 2 Corinthians 5:15:

 

“And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.”

 

Anyone whom the Father calls is called to live a life of service to the Son. What, then, are the aspects of a life lived for him? One example of what the Lord’s service entails is found in 1 Peter 2:20‭-‬21:

 

But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God. To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.”

 

Peter plainly states that part of the work a Christian is called to do is to be willing to suffer for doing good and to endure it for the cause of advancing the gospel of the kingdom of God. Doing so is part of taking up your cross, daily, to follow the Lord. Continuing on with verses 22-24 he provides a more specific example of how Christ suffered for the sake of righteousness:

 

“He [Jesus] committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.  When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed.”

 

The Greek word translated here as healed means “made whole.” A person who is ”whole” can be considered to be fully integrated — they have no internal division, no disconnected or uncoordinated aspects to their personality — everything in them is working in “oneness” for a unified purpose. Consider that in light of Peter’s statement here about the Lord: ”When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly.” If someone insults a person, what prompts the other to retaliate? Is it not because their pride has been injured, and they feel a need to answer the injury? How natural it is for us to mirror back to others the ill treatment we receive from them! But when Jesus was insulted, although he may have been grieved by the unwarranted accusations of men, he never responded in kind because he trusted fully in the just judgment of God, and was completely secure in the love his Father has for him. It is not that he did not care about what others said of him, it is more that the esteem he knew his Father had for him made him whole, and rendered every other opinion of little consequence. Now consider that passage again, not as it applied to the Christ, but in regards to yourself. Has the love of God made you whole? Are you so secure in your knowledge of the Father’s and the Son’s love for you that insults and threats no longer unsettle you, so that you cannot be goaded into retaliation? Because that is how Jesus walked, and it is the example we are to follow: as it is written, ”This is how we know we are in him: Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did (John 2:5-6). The loftiness of that standard does not negate it’s reality. Instead, that standard should inspire a desire for the type of inner peace that the Lord himself possessed, the type that can only be obtained through intimate communion and fellowship with God, our Father; because it is only the peace of God which enables a person to endure in the face of suffering, and to do so without sinning. And whenever we fail to live according to the Lord’s example, those failures should only drive us to our knees all the more, feeling fervently the words of the psalmist: “As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God.  My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God? (Psalm 42:1‭-‬2)”

 

Continuing on now with the discussion of the type of work which comprises a Christian’s purpose, if we skip forward to 1 Peter 4:1‭-‬3, we read:

 

“Therefore, since Christ suffered in his body, arm yourselves also with the same attitude, because whoever suffers in the body is done with sin. As a result, they do not live the rest of their earthly lives for evil human desires, but rather for the will of God.”

 

The exhortation that we are to arm ourselves with the same attitude as Christ indicates that we must make a conscious resolution that no amount of suffering in the body will cause us to turn away from continuing to seek to serve God’s will. A willingness to endure suffering for the sake of advancing the gospel is something that we must maintain as a point of focus because we know it is in unity with our Father’s will. But on its own, a willing spirit is not enough to succeed, because the flesh is weak, and human focus and will lacks the constancy of an eternal perspective. Our carnal nature continually wars against the spirit of God for supremacy within us, testing us to see what we desire most.

 

What is our human, carnal nature, then? One answer is that it is our unexamined life, those things we do naturally, instinctively. And, instinctively, in order to preserve life, we work first to satisfy our physical needs. But we also have wants, which extend beyond our needs — and we can exhaust ourselves in the pursuit of them — due to the nature passed down to us from our common parents. In the garden of Eden, Adam and Eve had all their needs supplied, and were denied only one thing — the Tree of Knowledge — but once the seed of “want” for that one thing was sown in the heart of Eve, she yielded to it. She desired instant gratification of what she would have otherwise been given in time (knowledge), and because she believed the lie that she would not die, she consumed the fruit, which, in a spiritual sense, also consumed her: since once she ate, death entered the world. The fact that Adam was not deceived implies that he discerned her fallen state and therefore, recognizing that the cost of his continued obedience to God’s command would now eventually lead to him being deprived of her companionship, he willfully disobeyed God, consciously choosing to die with her instead, because he did not want his life without her in it. And yet they had been created perfect, whereas we are born into sin. So if our common parents, who were superior to us in every way, and who were given but a few commands to obey, could not submit their “wants” to the will of God in an environment where only one thing was withheld from them, how could it ever be natural for us to do what they could not? Through Adam and Eve, Satan prompted mankind to question the perfection of God’s will and, collectively, we have all eaten of the same fruit as they did. Their choice to follow their own will above God’s has become our nature.

 

The purpose behind that brief discussion of human nature was to help illustrate that it is impossible for anyone to “take up their cross daily” to follow the Lord by their own strength. Indeed, if it were natural for man to sacrifice for others in the way that Jesus did, the world would be a vastly different place than it is now. No one accomplishes anything for God apart from the work of His spirit. I think there is a proof of that intended in the fact that, due to the beatings he had endured, in a purely physical sense even the Lord himself was not able to carry his cross to its end destination under his own strength (Matt. 27:32). But if the exhortation from 1 Peter 4:1‭-‬3 (along with other similar scriptures), that we are to arm ourselves with the same attitude as Christ, indicates that the Holy Spirit doesn’t just do all the work, or completely change us overnight, what role does the spirit of God then have in our life? How does the spirit of God work in you to change your base nature?

 

First, it is a witness to the truth. Because we lack knowledge, and can therefore be too easily led to believe things that are harmful and false, it provides testimony as to what is true, calling to our minds the words which God has spoken on a given matter. The spirit of God is our counsellor and teacher, both informing us of what is good and bad, and providing wisdom and understanding as to why it is so. More than that, it provides the motivation to respond to and act upon the newly discerned truth by providing an awareness of greater things to come. As it supplies us with a glimpse of future perfection, our faith in that vision works to alter our values and desires, reshaping them from an inclination for temporary things to a longing for what is faultless and eternal. We begin to want bad/transient things less and less, and good/permanent things more and more, because we see them for what they are, as God himself sees them: because the spirit of God gives access to the perspective of God. The end result of this process is that we are to lose our desire to eat from the tree of knowledge because we come to know with certainty that self-reliance leads to death. It is only absolute trust in God, fostered by the spirit of God, that leads us to reject its fruit and what it produces, thereby making a different choice than our parents did. Could oneness ever be obtained through any other means than complete trust in God? What is it that prevents Satan from repenting and being restored to a right relationship with God? Is it not his unyielding belief in his “right-ness” — that he knows better than God? Is it not a similar pride within us, that by nature causes us to reach for the Tree of Knowledge, and bars access to the Tree of Life?

 

Returning now to the question of how the spirit of God works in us to convert us from being physically-minded to spiritually-minded beings, consider how, in the Scriptures, water symbolically represents baptism and cleansing, while the holy spirit is described as a refining fire (John 3:5, 1 Peter 3:21, Matt. 3:11, Acts 2:3, Numbers 31:23, 2 Peter 3:3-7). Baptism is a figurative acknowledgement of our willingness to die to ourself, submerging our human nature in a watery grave to become immersed in a new life of obedience to God’s will. When we emerge from the water, through the laying on of hands we are symbolically touched by God, and we receive an earnest of the fire of God, burning within. The fire represents our new nature, a nature that enables us to live a new life governed by the power of God. In this sense, the Holy Spirit provides a power that far surpasses human limits, to enable a person to overcome their inherent weakness. The water represents our old nature; and it is important to note that water and fire oppose each other, they do not merge. In this symbolism, fire is pictured arising out of water, to be separate and distinct from it. And, by nature, if they mingle, when fire preponderates over water, the water evaporates; but if the volume of water is greater than the flames, the fire is extinguished. Similarly, the spirit of God within you will either work to burn away your old nature, or your human nature will douse the Holy Spirit’s flame. The principle is discussed in the parable Jesus told, recorded in Matthew 13:33:

 

“The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into about sixty pounds of flour until it worked all through the dough.”


The parable indicates that the spark of God’s spirit, which is kindled through baptism and the laying on of hands, is intended to grow within, like yeast working in dough, until our old nature is fully consumed by it. But if it is true that it is also possible for our old nature to quench the holy spirit, it is then important to know how that occurs. The apostle Paul spoke regarding this when he was inspired to write:

 

“Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. (Romans 8:5)”

 

A “set” mind is one where thoughts are fixed on something, to the exclusion of considering things that are contrary to it, so that it cannot be moved. Such a mind maintains an unchanging position. So if our mind is set on what the flesh desires it ceases to be attuned to the voice of the Spirit — it will not hear or entertain what it has to say. Conversely, living in accordance with the Spirit means having a lack of preoccupation with physical concerns. It means that a person’s foremost interest and focus is both to discern and do the will of God. But fixing our minds on what the Spirit desires requires that an effort be made on our part — God doesn’t just do it all for us —

“For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. Therefore, my brothers and sisters, make every effort to confirm your calling and election. For if you do these things, you will never stumble … (2 Peter 1:5‭-‬7‭, ‬10)”


Making an effort to add those attributes is not a  is not a one time action, it is a continuous practice. A single action does not establish a pattern. An action must be performed repeatedly before it becomes a behavior; and the character that God desires to build in us goes even beyond behaviors. God is love, which indicates a state of being. Everything He does is motivated by love, and He would be disavowing himself if He ever behaved in any other manner. If we are to grow to be like our Father, practicing His love, and the right behaviors associated with it, is what we are to work toward, until it becomes a state of being. That is the process of how we become transformed.

 

But why doesn’t God just do all this work for you? If He did, how would you show Him how much you value holy character? God tests us all to bring our values and priorities into the light. How you use your time is one of those tests. Has the thought ever occurred to you, that any and every day you do not willingly take up your cross to follow the Lord, you are quenching the work of the holy spirit? We have been instructed to “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness.” Reflect on how you used your time this week/month/year. Was seeking to advance the interests of the kingdom of God your first pursuit? The second? What were the thoughts that most occupied your mind? Do you want to serve God more than you want to have fun and enjoy yourself, or is taking up your cross a mere afterthought, buried under a mountain of self interests?

 

All of us will one day stand before God’s judgment seat, and each of us will give an account of ourselves to Him (Romans 14:10‭-‬12). If honest reflection on the questions I have just posed prompts anyone to acknowledge that they have been living more for self than for God, know that I have not asked them as anyone’s judge. Instead, my hope is that you will take encouragement from those questions — because it is far better to consider such things now, while you still have time left to choose to live differently, if need be, than it is to stand ashamed before the Lord after our account has been given. If your life thus far has only been lived as a hearer of the Word, my prayer is that you become a doer as well. My prayer is that God will indeed send workers into the harvest. I pray that God will supply every one of us with what we need in order to truly take up our crosses and follow Christ, and that these words may inspire every one of you to join me in that prayer. I’ve said before that I believe all service to God begins with humility, and that’s really what the essence of taking up your cross is: humility. So I’ll conclude with the apostle Paul’s words about the humility of our Lord and Savior, and its end result:

 

“Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.  In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name,  that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose. Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.” Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the word of life (Philippians 2:1‭-‬16).”

 

Time

O, fearsome cherub,
your whirling wheels
fly forward, crawling,
with eyes forever looking back!
Every great work
is petition to thee
for immortality,
but the undulation of your wings
laid low in streaming desert
Ozymandias’ pride;
’twas but a trifle.
And even should a
Homer, Virgil, or Grecian Urn
canvas all you’ve seen
of life,
death,
and that which lies between,
still would you decree,
“All is vanity.”
So wisdom bids one pause
to smell the roses
while they may.