The subtlety of the work of the enemy is, in all honesty, a mastermind work. The imperceptible manipulation of truth, and insidious nature of its effect within the body is so interwoven that only the God of power can gather us all to the simple purity of His gospel. I write the words I write here not from a sense of urgency, nor from the need to dispel “heresy” from within the church. I have never trusted God in His ability to lead His body as much as I do inside this revelation! That’s the whole POINT! We can finally rest in His sovereignty, and it has freed me to simply share the journey in writing.
As I’ve gone deeper and deeper into the knowledge of the delectable grace of the good news, I have run across so many errors in my former thinking that kept me from His heart. In this post I want to address how the anti-Christ spirit is working overtime to blind us to who we truly are. His ploy has always been, and still is, to deprive humanity of our identity. As much teaching as I’ve heard on this subject throughout the years, it surprised me when I realized that I was STILL being deceived. I was sure that I’d come into the full knowledge of my “identity in God”. But therein was the problem; that very language spoke to living in awareness of the former separation that was the result of my sin. My “identity in God” was my new identity now that I’d surrendered to His will, and learned to “die daily”. Consequently, when religion and my good efforts were not dynamic enough together to overcome the patterns of death that I attributed to that separation, my only logical conclusion was that I was still in fact separated. Sure, I’d been taught that I had been RESTORED to my edenic identity, and that only God was able to turn sinners into saints. The only problem was that it was STILL, though not explicitly declared, a turning that was conditional on MY performance. Righteous performance; performance that supposedly “leads to life”…but performance none the less.
One of my favorite portions of scripture is Paul’s emphatic heart-spill in Philippians 3: 8-11. It was the heralding call of movements I’d been involved in, and spoke to some longing in my heart for a “sold-out” , all or nothing kind of devotion to the One I love. I’d heard it taught definitively as the ideal declaration of the true christian. I count all else as loss, no matter the cost, I WILL love the Lord my God with every facet of my life. I’d heard it broken down into the way we use our finances, the use of our time, the stewardship of relationships and thought-life. The emotion of the passage drew my heart, and the way it was unpacked for me in every lecture or sermon broke it. It seemed that even as a respected leader in my community, a person people came to for advice, a mentor to many…I still didn’t love God like Paul. I was far from attaining to that moral perfection, and I feared I would always be. My freedom came to me in a moment; in a simple word from the voice of truth Himself. I sat one day speaking to God of all my ill-achievements. I reminded Him how much He had forgiven me for, how much I was coming to Him to be forgiven for, and apologized for all that He would have to forgive me for in the future. In His unfathomable kindness, He broke into my monologue. “LEVI…you are NOT a sinner.”
“But….no…no, yes I am. Don’t You hear all the things I’m saying to You? Aren’t You supposed to be all-knowing?” No answer. The silence was very clear in that moment. He had said all He needed to say, and it rang in my spirit like an empty cavern. The word of the Lord to me that day started me on a journey of discovering a gospel that made the heart-spill of Philippians 3 accessible to me. It gave me hope, and proved to me that Paul and I were not all that different; he just understood it a long time before I did. In silencing and warping the grace of God within the church, the enemy has accomplished a travesty that it’s time received its rectification. In Philippians 3:1-7, I discovered the key to exactly what Paul was speaking of in verses 8-11. The reason God chose paul to preach the good news to the Gentiles was because of what exactly it represented, and how desperately scandalous the messenger needed to appear. In the first portion of Philippians 3, Paul opens by warning the believers in Philippi to beware of those who were still preaching the circumcision (the law) as righteousness, calling them “dogs” and “evil workers”. He then enters into a montage of his achievements as a law-man, saying “If anyone else thinks he may have confidence in the flesh, I more so.” He set the standard for BOTH sides of the argument, proclaiming himself as the most righteous and revered of those keeping the law (which was truth), so that he might speak from authority as the proponent of the gospel of grace. THIS is the context from which he speaks saying “But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord…”. Paul was not speaking of a former life of SIN in that which he counted as loss. He was not talking about all the secular music he had laid down, nor of the indulgence of a non-fasted lifestyle. He was not saying that even the sacrifice required of him in this following after Jesus was counted as rubbish in comparison to knowing Him. HE WAS TALKING ABOUT THE LAW AND HIS SELF-EFFORTS. THAT was what he counted as loss.
I’m not sure how we missed this. Verse 9 is very clear, saying “…not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith…”. He prescribes the loss of self-effort as the ONLY WAY through which we come into the saving knowledge of Christ! (“…that I may gain Christ, and be found in Him…”) Once again, the context of scripture proves itself, and the grace of God triumphs. However, most of us would wonder about verses 12-14 of this same chapter in light of these statements. It would SEEM that paul was saying that he DOES still have to fight the flesh, and strive toward the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. This is most certainly how I’ve heard these verses taught the majority of my life. However, looking at verses 10-11 that directly precede this passage, it becomes more clear. In the original greek text of the word, the separation of headings and sections DO NOT exist. These were personal letters to the believers of individual cities with whom Paul had personal relationship. Verses 12-14 are the response to the subject matter of verses 10-11, and there is no separation between them. The entirety of those four verses reads “…that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has laid hold of me. Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended, but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ jesus.” Paul was speaking of the LITERAL death of Christ. He was not saying that he pressed toward the “fellowship of His sufferings” as we have been taught. I wholeheartedly disagree with the doctrine that tells you that God expects you to walk through suffering so that you may know Him; to sacrifice anything that you might experience His life in you. That is EXACTLY what Paul said he counted as loss! Jesus died so that you do not have to. He was speaking of ACTUALLY sharing in the physical sufferings of Christ, and dying a martyr’s death, that he might ACTUALLY be raised from the dead as Christ was. It was HIS longing, and call, to die for the sake of the gospel and to experience the resurrection from the dead…which he will. (1 Thessalonians 4:16)
Now, what of the portion in which he says “Not that I…am already perfected”? That does seem to say that he is speaking of pressing toward a moral perfection to which he had not attained. However, the word used here for “perfected” in the original greek is the same word they used for a person who completed a race, and is the root from which we get the word “martyr”. Often these people would literally push their bodies to their physical limit, completing the race, but forfeiting their life as the consequence. Paul was speaking to greek christians in the city of Philippi, who all well understood the olympic language of the day. Even “pressing toward the goal of the prize” was pointing to the same athletic imagery. He was assuring them as the apostle they revered that he had not been shown of God that he would die the martyr’s death soon. He was not pressing toward a moral perfection, because he believed it had already been done in him by the one sacrifice of Jesus. In polluting passages of scripture like this one, Satan has been relatively successful in divorcing the church from the truth of the cross, and subsequently keeping them bound to a false identity. If we BELIEVED we were not sinners, and that sin had REALLY lost its dominion, the church of God would look a lot more like the bride He gave His son to marry.
The anti-Christ spirit has always been about using lines of delineation; the tree of the knowledge of good and evil; jew or gentile; sinner or saint, etc. It is his most effective way of destroying the family of God, because he knows that a house divided cannot stand. When one is good and the other is bad, it makes room for those who identify with either side to be at odds with the other. The righteous are better than the wicked because WE please God. The Jew is better than the Gentile because WE have the law. It, without exception, creates division. It is the very REASON God told Adam and Eve not to eat of the tree in the middle of the garden, and it is how they forfeited the innocence of ignorance. The glory of the cross of Christ is that it did away with ALL the contradictions…and I mean ALL of them. It gave us permission to come back into our TRUE edenic identity; to live according to its finished work; to be guiltless; to have no more shame; to be equal with one another, and ONE with God. To eat of the tree of life, whose fruit produces immortality, and be in our intended state of pleasure forever. Let’s explore this reality and its implications a little further.
The contrast of the cross, in comparison to what we’ve tragically believed for so long, is concentrated for the most part in one word: inclusion. In past posts, I’ve discussed the problem with believing that verses which reference carrying your cross mean to “die to yourself” in order to attain to the will of God for us in our character, morality, and holiness in general (Taking up the cross). John Crowder says this: “Let’s never water down the completeness of the cross by saying that Jesus’ work was not enough to perfect you, and now you’ve got to perfect yourself.” We were INCLUDED in the cross of Christ, co-crucified and co-resurrected. There is no more dying to be done for someone who is already dead. We ARE a new creation, not becoming one. Another of my favorite verses in scripture is Hebrews 10:14, which reads as follows in most translations: “For by one sacrifice He has perfected forever those who are being sanctified.” The only problem with this translation is that in the original text, “those who are being” is not there. It reads, translated exactly, “By one offering indeed He has perfected forever the sanctified“. In the Mirror Translation, it reads “By that one perfect sacrifice He has perfectly sanctified sinful man forever.” The tense of the verb used for “sanctified”, in combination with the word used for “perfectly” in the original greek, suggest an action completed in the past; the effects of which continue into the present and eternity. He was the lamb slain before the foundations of the world, outside of time, who stepped into time to prove it within our frame of reference. According to this verse from Hebrews 10, there is no delineation between who is sanctified and who is not, and there is no implication toward a further cleansing or “process” in which a person becomes more like Him.
If the anti-Christ spirit can prevent us from understanding the ultimacy and totality of the cross, he will effectively prevent us from ever knowing who we truly are. The challenge then is finding it within ourselves to lay down agendas and the doctrinal pillars we “stand” on, fully trusting that the God of the universe is faithful to lead us into all truth. The fear of “heretical teaching” never set any man free, and hardly speaks of trust in a good and omnipotent God. That being said, I’d like to address another powerfully controversial subject of scripture. Before I get into it, I want to say that I do NOT associate myself with any “camp” of doctrine or denomination. I am not a Protestant, a Universalist, a Baptist, a Trinitarian, a Methodist, or a Charismatic. I will not be linked to any title that could in any way denote a devotion to a SINGLE set of ideologies wherein I am unwilling to hear another view, and “immovable” in my convictions because I am convinced no one else could POSSIBLY have it more right. God has transformed my perspective enough times in my life that it would be asinine to call myself anything other than a Son and a Lover. Period. Since I’ve abandoned my rigidity as a believer, the Lord has opened my eyes to things I NEVER thought could be true…which is how I know it was God. In 1 John 2:2 it says “And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world.”(emphasis added) The brevity of this statement is paradigm shifting. Most would say “YES…He died for the whole world, but the whole world will not be saved because they will not turn to Him.” I can see how that is very possibly the reality, and I am not proclaiming that I am taking a final stand on either point of view. However, when you look at scripture as a whole, I would like to propose that the opposite is just as probable, if not more.
Isaiah 45: 22-23 says “Look to Me, and be saved, all you ends of the earth! For I am God, and there is no other. I have sworn by Myself; the word has gone out of My mouth in righteousness, and shall not return, that to Me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall take an oath.” Because of the nature of God, the reality that He IS truth, He literally BINDS Himself to His words in swearing by His own existence. If He was NOT to keep them, in their exactness and totality, He would cease to be the God He claims to be. If He violates His nature, He violates His deity. So what do statements like this one from Isaiah 45 really mean? Looking a second time at 1 John 2:2, a widely known verse, some of its original language can help with bringing clarity. The word used in 1 John 2:2 for “propitiation” in the greek is “hilasmos” (“hilasterion”), and is the greek rendering of the hebrew word “kapporeth”, which refers to the Mercy Seat of the Ark of the Covenant. Hilasterion can be translated either as “propitiation” or “expiation”. While both terms accomplish the same reality as far as the purpose of the verse, the one most commonly used is a perfect example of perspective OF God that influences life IN God. While propitiation (being acquitted from the wrath of a judge by way of an atoning sacrifice) utilizes expiation as its means, it most directly points at the wrath of God as its motivation. One propitiates a person (makes them favorable), and one expiates a problem (removes it). Expiation speaks primarily to restoration, a tragedy resolved within the rescue, not the deferment of punishment. I believe it is the more accurate term of the two concerning translation. Now, if I were to say that a primary goal of the cross was to restore mankind to our edenic state, most would agree with me. If I were to say that a primary goal of the cross was to defer the wrath of God from human kind, most would agree with me there as well. The problem is, those two statements are contradictory.
To accurately grasp the picture I am about to paint, we have to abandon the “well my preacher said…” spirit, and allow the simplicity of truth to lead us forward. I am in NO WAY saying the wrath of God was not poured out on the cross; that reality is clear as day in scripture. What I AM saying, is that the wrath poured out was not originally pointed at us. God was there (omnipresent) in the garden of Eden when sin was imposed on man. Sin originated in the heart of the liar, and when he deceived Eve, he gave her the capacity to allow its emptiness to reign in her heart. Reaching for the fruit was an outward manifestation of an inward state that is sin…not the sin itself. The anti-Christ spirit shared itself with Eve, and she partook, and sin came in. THEY WERE INNOCENT. God did not come looking for them in anger, even as He knew full well what they had done. His words were “where are you?”…like a daddy looking for his kids. He blamed the liar, not the children.
My brother gives a very simple analogy that speaks to the heart of the issue. It goes as follows:
Perhaps I tell my little girl that she is not allowed to take candy from strangers on the playground. I tell her that the consequences will be dire, and it will hurt her badly. One day, she’s playing by herself and enjoying the monkey bars. An unmarked white van pulls up, and a strange man rolls down the window to offer her some candy. She says, “No, my daddy told me I can’t take candy from strangers”. The strange man then proceeds to tell her “But look how good it is! And your daddy just doesn’t want you to taste the GOOD candy…the candy that the ADULTS get to eat.” In my daughters innocence and wonder, she wholeheartedly believes the man. She doesn’t stop to think about how her daddy wouldn’t lie to her like that because she is too overcome with the possibility that THIS candy might be the best on the earth…and she isn’t allowed to have it. So, she takes it. The candy contains a chemical that knocks her unconscious, and the kidnapper takes her limp body into his vehicle. He takes her to his basement, chains her up, and does unspeakable things to her. Then, he proceeds to tell her that she’s in the basement, going through what she’s going through, because SHE took the candy. She was told not to, but she did anyway. She knew better. It’s HER fault that she’s alone, and her daddy is mad at her…thats why he hasn’t come to get her. THIS IS HOW WE TEACH THE CHARACTER OF GOD.
When God came as a man to die on a cross, He wasn’t coming because someone had to pay. YES, an atoning sacrifice was required, because the WAGES OF SIN IS DEATH. But Jesus did not block the arrow that the Father had pointed at our spine, dipped in poison. He didn’t take punishment…He bore our iniquities. What does that mean? It means He became sin (the governing entity of emptiness) and died, so that we could live governed by the spirit of Life. HE CONDEMNED SIN AND SATAN, not humanity. He included humanity in His death and resurrection…ALL of humanity. In John 12:28-33, it says “‘Father, glorify Your name.’ Then a voice came from heaven, saying, ‘I have both glorified it and will glorify it again.’ Therefore the people who stood by and heard it said that it had thundered. Others said, ‘An angel has spoken to Him.’ Jesus answered and said, ‘This voice did not come because of Me, but for your sake. Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be cast out. And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all peoples to Myself.’ This He said signifying by what death He would die.” Jesus, echoing the thundering voice of His Father, declared that AT THE CROSS the world was judged, and the one who took authority over it in the garden was cast out. The word for “world” in the greek is “kosmou”, from the root “kosmos”. It is where we derive the term cosmos, and it entails the entirety of all that exists. And what was the judgement of this world? “And I, if I am lifted up from the earth (resurrection and ascension), WILL DRAW ALL PEOPLE TO MYSELF.” Merely concerning the reasoning of the sovereignty and ultimacy of God, the ultimate salvation of mankind makes the most sense. It is the refusal to approach this possibility within the church which the anti-Christ spirit utilizes to produce yet ANOTHER line of delineation that divides the house, and the house is divided if ALL the kids think they aren’t in the family.
Another passage in scripture that has been rightly taught, but unfortunately ill-applied, is Peter’s vision in Acts 10. Verses 10-15 read, “Then he became very hungry and wanted to eat; but while they made ready, he fell into a trance and saw heaven opened and an object like a great sheet bound at the four corners, descending to him and let down to the earth. In it were all kinds of four-footed animals of the earth, wild beasts, creeping things, and birds of the air. And a voice came to him, ‘Rise, Peter; kill and eat’. But Peter said, ‘Not so, Lord! For I have never eaten anything common or unclean.’ And a voice spoke to him again the second time, ‘What God has cleansed you must not call common.'” Peter goes on to explain the vision in verse 28; “Then he said to them, ‘You know how unlawful it is for a Jewish man to keep company with or go to one of another nation. But God has shown me that I should not call any man common or unclean.” We have been taught this passage as the beginning of the inclusion of the gentiles into the plan of God, and that is indeed what is being said. However, in the stupor of religion (anti-Christ spirit), we have misread the breadth of what God actually accomplished in the cross. You see, the Jews KNEW they were the people of God. They had been engrained since the dawn of their culture with the covenant of Abraham, knowing that God had ordained them the chosen people. THEY kept the law, the prophets came from THEIR blood…only they knew God. For Peter, a good little torah-keeping Jewish boy, the vision of the sheet was a LIFE CHANGING revelation. God was not simply saying that the gentiles had the option to be included because of the cross; they had always had that option. There are, in fact, several accounts in old testament scripture of gentile people joining the Jewish Nation and keeping the law; doing the “things” required of a human to know and follow God. NO…God was saying that they WERE now included. That the cross of Christ had accomplished the salvation (rescue) of humanity, ENTIRELY APART from the law (“doing” to be righteous). If God told Peter to call no man common or unclean, then how is it that we have adopted the concept of “saved and unsaved”? Because we have been cataclysmically influenced by the anti-Christ spirit, and lied to so that we have to keep doing it for ourselves. In my humble opinion, maintaining the vernacular of “saved; unsaved” is entirely unbiblical. Rather, there are those of us who know, and those who don’t know yet. They’re already included, just like we were when we were yet sinners (Romans 5:6-8)…THEY JUST DON’T KNOW.
Romans 5:18 says, in the Phillips Translation, “We see then, that as one act of sin exposed the whole race of men to condemnation, so one act of perfect righteousness presents all men freely acquitted in the sight of God”. And again, in 1 Corinthians 15:22-23, it reads in the Mirror Translation “In Adam all died; in Christ all are made alive. All are individually made alive in the order of Christ; He is the first fruit and in His immediate presence we are personally revealed as His own.” In both passages, ALL MEANS ALL. Even in the greek. I find it funny that as humans we have no problem at all condemning everyone in the human race because of what Adam and Eve chose in the garden, but that we do not operate by the same tenacity when deciding who gets included in the cross of Christ. The anti-Christ spirit wants to keep the church in a “holier-than-though-but-humble-about-it” sense of nobility, when we are just as included in Jesus as the other people who fell short. The anti-Christ spirit robs us of our true identity in giving us a false one, just like he did in the garden. It is from that place that we make decisions, and form opinions, that are inconsistent with our TRUE identity as partakers of the divine nature. Simply put, we start TRYING to be like God (good behavior, “righteous” actions, etc..), instead of realizing we ARE like Him. The anti-Christ spirit puts requirements on the “unsaved” before they get to be “saved”, and enforces them through the voice of the church across the earth; even though we were all rescued from the kidnapper without requirement placed on us by the God Himself. Then, it takes those salvation requirements and attributes them to (lies about) the character of God…JUST LIKE IN THE GARDEN. The anti-Christ spirit isn’t doing anything new, we just never really knew what he was doing.
The root of condition-oriented faith, “saved; unsaved”, right or wrong, is shame. Adam and Eve hid from the God who loved and breathed life in them as soon as they saw their nakedness. Not because they were naked, because they knew it was the consequence of choosing the wrong tree. As long as we feel responsible for what happened to us in the garden we will NOT be able to receive the cross, to receive the good news, for what it truly is. We will live fulfilling the will of the accuser of the brethren, who creates dividing lines, and makes up prerequisites to our faith calling them “standards of holiness”. If we don’t begin to understand the absolute absurdity of the grace of God, and if our hearts are not allowed to revel in it, we will never know who we are.
But therein lies the good news. He is the head, we are the body. He knows what He’s doing. He IS grace, not just extends it. Now that, my friends, is the gospel we were saved unto.
NEXT POST: ANTI-CHRIST: ANTI-PURITY 1 John 4:19