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Sunday, April 24, 2011

Separation from God = We get to choose because Jesus chose first.

I find it ironic that so many people have a fondness and an earnest desire to attain to something that other people abhor.  There is a choice that we make that sends us to hell or takes us to heaven.   We sort ourselves before our lives are complete.   We seek to be close to God, or we choose to be separate from God.

Are you an Atheist?  Do you know that there is not a God?  Can you prove it?  Of course you cannot, so therefore you must (if you are logical and moderately intelligent) admit that Atheism is a faith.   Atheism is a faith and Christianity is a faith.  Both of them depend upon belief.   We are discussing your belief system, your philosophy of living, your presuppositions, your worldview and it is your free choice.

There are many ways to classify belief systems and worldviews.   One way to do it is by looking at the concept of separation from God.   There are those who long to be as close as possible to God and those who want nothing at all to do with Him.

Separation from God?   Some men proudly proclaim it.   Richard Dawkins and PZ Myers and others like them profess a distaste or hatred for the idea of the Creator God and joyfully proclaim a complete separation from God.   Do they succeed?   Does an Atheopath succeed in true separation from God when one of the thoughts in the forefront of their minds is a hatred for Him?   

Separation from God.   Christopher Hitchens proclaims that he doesn't believe in God.   He doesn't come across as a hater but rather simply one who does not believe.   So it is with many Atheists who choose to believe that there is no Creator God.  What is either amusing or tragic about this, when you think it through, is when they proclaim that this Atheism is not a faith.   Of course it is a faith!   It is a faith in that the adherent must BELIEVE there is no God!

Separation from God.   The bliss and the hope of the Atheopath and the Atheist is the state of being completely separate from God.

Gethsemane

Even massive old olive trees were probably not there at the time of Christ.  In 70 AD Roman soldiers were said to have cut down all the trees when they destroyed Jerusalem.   But the garden has become a mature place of trees and plants and pathways again, near the old East Gate of Jerusalem during the time of Christ.

Come with me to that garden called Gethsemane by the Mount of Olives.  Come with me back almost two thousand years to the evening and early morning time when Jesus was praying fervently to His Father.   Christ knew quite well that He was to be condemned unjustly and beaten savagely and crucified with sinners on a hill named Golgotha.   He had been preparing his entire human life for the day that was to come.  Yet He was praying to the Father God to be freed of an obligation.   Did he fear the cross?    Perhaps, and perhaps He feared the beatings.  Perhaps He knew it would take great courage to fulfill the Mission, to be the Lamb of God, to be slaughtered and shed His blood to atone for the sins of men.   

But Jesus had never wavered in His quest and had never allowed crowds or authorities or threats to cause Him to take one false step.   We draw closer.  His closest friends, called upon to watch and pray on His behalf?   They had fallen asleep.  Jesus prayed in agony alone.


The Prayer in the Garden

Coming out, He went to the Mount of Olives, as He was accustomed, and His disciples also followed Him.  When He came to the place, He said to them, “Pray that you may not enter into temptation.”

And He was withdrawn from them about a stone’s throw, and He knelt down and prayed,  saying, “Father, if it is Your will, take this cup away from Me; nevertheless not My will, but Yours, be done.”  Then an angel appeared to Him from heaven, strengthening Him.  And being in agony, He prayed more earnestly. Then His sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground.

When He rose up from prayer, and had come to His disciples, He found them sleeping from sorrow.  Then He said to them, “Why do you sleep? Rise and pray, lest you enter into temptation.”

How could He have sweated blood?   It is a condition known as hematohidrosis.    Jesus was in agony over something that He specified.  Not the pain, not the suffering, not the jeering crowds or the traitorous companion but "this cup" was on His mind.   I have asked the question before, "why did Jesus suffer" in the Garden and blogged an answer.   But come with me to that question of the cup.   There is an oft-mentioned cup in the Old Testament that is the cup of sin and shame and the wrath of God.  A few examples are listed below:


Psalms 11:6 - Upon the wicked He will rain coals;
         Fire and brimstone and a burning wind
         Shall be the portion of their cup.

Psalms 75: 8 - For in the hand of the LORD there is a cup,
         And the wine is red;
         It is fully mixed, and He pours it out;
         Surely its dregs shall all the wicked of the earth
         Drain and drink down.

Isaiah 51:17 - Awake, awake!
      Stand up, O Jerusalem,
      You who have drunk at the hand of the LORD
      The cup of His fury;
      You have drunk the dregs of the cup of trembling,
      And drained it out.

Habakkuk 2:16 - You are filled with shame instead of glory.
You also—drink! And be exposed as uncircumcised!
The cup of the LORD’s right hand will be turned against you,
And utter shame will be on your glory.



Jesus knew about the cup of shame and sin and fury and trembling and wrath - He knew that on the cross He would be forced to drink that cup.  He would take upon Himself all the sins and all the shame of all men for all time and God would turn His face away from His Son and...Jesus would experience separation from God.

Separation from God.   It was the one thing above all things that was unthinkable.   For all time and before all time the Son the Father the Spirit were in constant harmony and companionship and had been Love and Light and nothing but Good and Truth.    Now Jesus would have to become the very thing He detested above all else - Sin - and because He would become sin the Father would turn away and the Holy Spirit of God would leave Him and Jesus the Son of God would be alone.  I believe it was this cup that Jesus sought to avoid and not the pain and suffering and death.   I believe that Jesus would die a thousand deaths and suffer thousands of beatings rather than to become sin and be separate from God.

But He was obedient and did as the 22nd Psalms had predicted:


Psalms 22: 1 & 2 -My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?
         Why are You so far from helping Me,
         And from the words of My groaning?
  O My God, I cry in the daytime, but You do not hear;
         And in the night season, and am not silent.

On the cross the cry of Jesus Christ?   It was the most agonizing aspect of His experience on earth as a man.   Jesus was abandoned by God and upon Him was laid the sins and shame of us all.  He had been forsaken by all He had known and had become all He detested.   One Who had always dwelt within the Love and Presence of God knew only God's Wrath and experienced for the first and last time separation from God!

Mark 15:34 - And at the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying,
“Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?” which is translated,  
“My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”

John 19:28-30 - After this, Jesus, knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the Scripture might be fulfilled, said, “I thirst!”  Now a vessel full of sour wine was sitting there; and they filled a sponge with sour wine, put it on hyssop, and put it to His mouth.  So when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, “It is finished!” And bowing His head, He gave up His spirit.

When Jesus cried out and breathed His last, the temple veil was rent in two from the top down.   The Centurion in charge of the deed cried out that surely this man was the Son of God.   It signaled the end of the Mosaic Covenant and the New Covenant of Christ was written in the blood shed upon the cross.  Jesus had done the unthinkable to make the impossible happen - mankind could be redeemed from sin and death!

Of course to believe in God is also a faith.   My worldview is that of a Christian.   I most definitely believe in the Creator God, the Jehovah of Genesis that told Moses "I AM THAT I AM" and He that in the beginning created the heavens and the earth.   I believe that He came as Jesus Christ, the Messiah who was the prophesied Passover Lamb of God for whom the Jews longed.   He announced his ministry by reading from Isaiah 61 but stopped reading just before the words, "...and the day of vengeance of our God?"   I say it is because Jesus had not come to judge the world, He had come to bring freedom from the bondage of sin and provide an end to separation from God.

Did you know that Judaism split in two over Jesus Christ?   The Jews who trusted in Jesus and believed on Him continued to worship that same God and rejoiced that the Lamb of God had come to wash away all sins.  The Jews who did not trust in Jesus did not understand His teachings and did not understand that He foretold the destruction of the Temple.   When Jesus Christ was crucified, the Temple veil that separated the Holy of Holies from man was split in two from the top down.  Within a generation's time of the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ, Jerusalem would be smashed, most of the population slaughtered and the Temple torn apart stone by stone just as Jesus had said.   The Mosaic Judasism no longer existed.  No temple, no tabernacle, no sacrifices and therefore no more classic Judaism.   

The early Christians were at first surprised when they came to understand that Jesus Christ had died for the sins of all men, even Gentiles.  At first all Christians were Jews.  All the apostles were Jews.  God had to appear in visions to Peter and Paul to make them see and understand and He inspired them to write in the New Testament that Christianity was for all who would believe, even Gentiles.   So Judaism had become Christianity but Christianity was open to all who would believe, not just Jews!

Today Rabbinical Judaism is practiced by Jews who have not received Christ.   My heart goes out to them more than anyone else among the non-Christians, for God's chosen people kept the Torah and the Prophets and the Wisdom/Poetry books by diligence and through much suffering and many sorrows.   More than any, Paul especially prayed for his fellow Jews who had not yet come to belief in Christ, Paul who was a Jew of Jews, a respected man of letters and law who had been the student of Gamaliel the great Jewish Rabbi.   Paul grieved for his fellow Jews who had not been able to see that Jesus was indeed the Messiah and His Kingdom was established in the hearts of men rather than on earth.   

The Kingdom of Jesus Christ is established in the hearts of all who believe and receive him and then the Spirit of God comes to live within just as He once dwelled amongst men in the Temple, in the Holy of Holies.   You see, the heart of the believer is the Holy of Holies now and that is why I am now a temple of God and a Priest who can directly come to the throne of God and bring my pleas and my praises.

From the day that I became a Christian I have known the presence of God.   God knows me, every thought and every action and I know He is with me at all times.   Better still, because I have received Christ and His gift of salvation, the Holy Spirit of God dwells within me and has made me a new creature who actually would prefer to please God rather than my basest desires.    As long as I live in this body of flesh I shall have to fight off evil desires but because God dwells within me and has ownership of my heart, He always gives me the power to resist and the power to do the right thing rather than the wrong.

Jesus was a Jew who celebrated Passover with His Jewish companions.    He then became the Lamb of God who did away with all other Passover lambs, all other bulls and goats and doves...Jesus fulfilled the Law, paid the price of original sin and that of all sins of all men.  

Hebrews 9:11-15 - But Christ came as High Priest of the good things to come, with the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made with hands, that is, not of this creation.  Not with the blood of goats and calves, but with His own blood He entered the Most Holy Place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption.  For if the blood of bulls and goats and the ashes of a heifer, sprinkling the unclean, sanctifies for the purifying of the flesh,  how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?  And for this reason He is the Mediator of the new covenant, by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions under the first covenant, that those who are called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance.

There will be a day when those who thought they were separate from God will realize to their horror that God was beside them at every hand, that He knew their every thought and plan and that He knew every purpose and motivation.   Then they will realize their mistake, for they who once reveled in separation from God will truly experience separation from both God and hope in eternal torment in Hell.   They will have willingly thrown themselves into Hell.   For you see, God is always seeking to bring us to His side so we cannot be separated from Him.   And those of us who choose to be separate now will have also chosen to be separate for all eternity. 
  
I pray that we will all celebrate in the presence of the God of Abraham and Moses and also of Paul and Peter in the New Jerusalem when God has come to put an end to old things and begin the New Heaven and the New Earth and we will be able to see Him as He is.   An eternity with a God who is greater than my imagination and beyond my comprehension?   I want to see my kids grow old and my grandkids grow up and marry but it is true that I can hardly wait to awake in the presence of the Living God. 

My Jewish friends, I believe with all my heart that Jesus Christ is the Messiah, the Anointed One of whom the prophets wrote and the Second Adam to undo the mistake of the First Adam, the Fulfillment of the promises to Abraham and Isaac and all children of Israel.   The Consolation of Israel is Jesus of Nazareth, born to a virgin in Bethlehem, Son of Man and Son of God, the Light of the World and the Lamb of God.  To trust in Christ is not to deny your heritage or your God, it is to fulfill your heritage and have fellowship with your God. Jesus said, "before Abraham was, I AM" and in doing so He declared His Deity.  Do you still wait for a Messiah?   I tell you, He is Risen! He is Risen Indeed!!! 
 


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