Friday, January 30, 2015

I Never Knew You; Depart from Me


I don't know about you, but these words spoken by the Lord Jesus Christ in Matthew 7:21-23 are some of the most horrifying words in Scripture.  As a young girl, I used to be terrified, wondering if I was going to make the cut.  If these guys didn't get in to Heaven, then what chance did I have?  I would constantly measure myself and think well, maybe it's not for us to know until we stand before Him on That Day.  Will we be worthy enough to enter in?

We are told in 2 Corinthians 13:5 to test ourselves to see if we're in the faith.  I've been pondering this verse for a few days and posted on my Facebook page for others to test themselves.  For whatever reason, I recently thought of those in Matthew 7 who cry out, "Lord, Lord!"  What disqualifies them from the Kingdom of God?  And can we compare ourselves to them in order to know if we're in the faith?

Ever since that question took root, I knew I'd have to do a study on these verses.  So with some prayer and contemplation, I want to share what I've learned on the subject.

First, Christ lays out the fact of it - not everyone who calls Him Lord, Lord shall enter the Kingdom, BUT he who does the will of His Father.  What is God's will for believers?  That can be found in John 6:29: "that you believe in Him whom He has sent."

We also know elsewhere in Scripture, that those who do the will of God are part of Christ's family (Mark 3:35). Therefore, some who claim, "Lord, Lord" are not in Christ's family.  They also have no faith in Him.  Because of this, they are not born again.  We know from 1 John 5:12 that only those who have the Son of God have life.  These do not have the Son of God.

Now, Christ expounds further on what He has just laid out.  He gets more specific for a purpose, otherwise true children of God would seriously question their own salvation.  Let's take apart these people's excuses from Christ's example and see why they don't measure up to a true Christian.

They say the word, "Lord, Lord" twice, as if to accentuate to the Lord Himself that they really mean it.  In biblical times, repeating something twice had much significance.  If Christ said, "Truly, truly", it meant, "Hey, listen up, this is important."  They then tell Jesus they have prophesied, cast out demons, and have done mighty works in His name.  Let's outline what these things are, first and foremost.

Prophesying can mean two things - you're either foretelling the future as a prophet of God, or you're giving interpretation of Scripture, such as a pastor exposits verse by verse.  

Casting out demons can mean either demon possession, or someone "driving out" the "demon" of sickness or addiction, etc. 

Mighty works means just that, great things such as a big tent revival, reaching millions on TV, or being a missionary to the nations.

Now, let's contrast all these things against the original statement Christ made, that only those who do the Father's will shall enter the Kingdom of Heaven.  We already know these people do not have the Son and therefore do not have life.  This means whatever "prophesying" they were doing, it was false.  Thus, they are false prophets.  God has some very choice things to say against false prophets in Jeremiah 23.  We know there are no more prophets like Isaiah and Elijah, because God no longer talks to us in that way.  We have been given the full revelation of God in Jesus Christ Himself.  This is proven by Hebrews 1:1-2. So we know out the gate anyone claiming further prophecy of God for the future -- that isn't in chapter and verse -- is a false prophet.  Otherwise, their words would be on par with the Word of God, and we're just not willing to call their prophecies "Scripture".

If these people are pastors or teachers expositing Scripture, then they are either interpreting the Bible in the wrong manner, with the wrong intentions, or with doctrines of demons.

Casting out demons could have been for show, or perhaps deceit on the demons' part to give "validity" to this person's "ministry" to serve their own purpose.  However, Christ told His disciples in Luke 10:20 NOT to rejoice that the demons obeyed them, but to rejoice that their names were written in Heaven.  Because these people bring up the demons obeying them, it would be safe to assume they never rejoiced that their names were written Above.  In other words, pride filled their hearts that demons obeyed them, and they never humbled themselves to rejoice in their salvation.

The mighty works show these people rely on their own strength and righteousness.  They have pride in themselves.  They believe their accomplishments will impress the Lord and get them a pass into the Kingdom - like the Pharisees - banking eternity on themselves instead of surrendering their lives to the finished work of Christ.  Their works have won them much acclaim in life so as to make them comfortable in death, only to find out they weren't saved at all.  These aren't just works, but "mighty" works, assuming big, flashy works hold sway in God's courtroom (1 Corinthians 13:1-3).  This means they have no knowledge of grace.  They underestimated Heaven's currency.  Their "mighty works" are a pittance - filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6).  Their works cannot make them perfect.  They are not covered in Christ's own perfect righteousness. 

Now, notice how these people say they did all these things "in Your name".  We know they're not in the family of God.  Therefore, they have taken the Lord's name in vain.  Only one who is a citizen of the Kingdom of God can actively and productively do things in Jesus' name.

Notice too how these people do not seem to accept the Lord's Judgment upon them, assuming there must be some mistake.  Instead of accepting His will as His child would do, they argue with Christ!  This arguing is very telling.  Perhaps they also "argued" with Scripture or didn't quite believe or teach what it said in full.  Perhaps that is why they are false prophets, because they chase after their own lusts and what they wanted Scripture to say.  Because of this contrary attitude, they prove Jesus is not the King of their hearts, for their argument is surely the correct one.  "Didn't we...?"

Questioning Jesus' Judgment is questioning the Word of God.  This reveals the very first sin of Adam and Eve.  These that stand before Christ at the Judgment have questioned Christ's integrity.  "He must be wrong.  Didn't we do all these things?  There's a mistake!"  This also insinuates they believe He might be fallible.  And it's obvious they have no fear of God if they're willing to argue with the Judge of all the Earth once their sentence has been read.

Then for Christ's rebuttal.  "I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!"

Most people think of these words as relational.  These people didn't have any intimacy with Jesus.  They didn't even have any passing knowledge of Him through the revelation of the Scriptures.  If they did, they would have known that salvation is by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone.  They wouldn't have doubted His judgment.  They wouldn't have had to unravel their laundry list of why they should be granted entrance into Heaven.  Because they didn't know Christ, they had no relationship with Him which means no prayer life, no study life, and were likely led by mystical feelings and their own false prophecy.

"Knew" in this passage is Strong's #1097, which is "ginosko" in the Greek.  It means to become known, to understand, to know, to become acquainted with, or its sometimes used as a Jewish idiom for sexual intercourse.  It is safe to say, then, that the Lord had no familial relationship with them.

However, it also means something much, much deeper.  "I never knew you."  This assumes not EVER, not just within the span of their lives, but in eternity past.  Christ never knew these - He never FOREknew these as outlined in Romans 8:29-30.  This means these were never called by the Spirit, never written in the Lamb's Book of Life, and never known by God.  

WOW. 

Ultimately, when Christ says, "Depart from Me", what He truly means is, "You have had your reward."

Matthew 6:2, Matthew 6:5, Matthew 6:16

These people might have been able to fool men in life, but they cannot fool the One who can search hearts and minds (Proverbs 15:11). 

Therefore, let us review the traits of these who cry out, "Lord, Lord!"

* They had not love.  They were resounding gongs and clanging cymbals.
* They had not the Son, which means...
* They had not the Father (1 John 2:23)
* They relied on their own works of righteousness for salvation.
* They argued with the King of Glory.
* They questioned the Word of God.
* They had no fear of God.
* They had no prayer life.
* They didn't study the Scripture.
* They didn't trust in Christ's finished work.
* They didn't believe in the grace of God.
* They gave no glory to God for their "mighty works" and took the glory for themselves ("Look what we did!") 

All of these are glaring reasons for why Jesus did not know them.  All of these are excellent examples that we can compare ourselves to in order to test ourselves and see if we're in the faith.  Brethren, we do not need to be worried that we'll "accidentally" fall in to the Lord, Lord crowd.  If you do not resemble them, you will not be counted among them.  These words are not for God's true children.  They are for the charlatans and the ones who only pretend at being disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ.  They have fooled others and maybe even fooled themselves, but hopefully God will open their eyes to their deceit and compel them to surrender and rest upon His finished work by His grace alone.

It is my prayer that God opens all our eyes in these trying times to return to our First Love.  And not just because we don't want to go to Hell, but because it is our earnest hope and our greatest desire to be with Him in eternity future as our Beloved Bridegroom and the Lover of our souls.  If the desire of our hearts is to be with Him where He is, no matter the cost to us in this life, then rest assured, we are known of God.

Praise the Lord.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

The God of My Dreams - An Essay in Three Parts

 
For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.  ~~2 Corinthians 4:6


PART ONE

 "The Good Lord's got a soft spot in His heart for this family."  

I heard those words more than once growing up.  My Dad was fond of saying it.  What's interesting to me is that when he said it, we were struggling financially after his painful divorce.  He never told me how bad off we were, but his words always seemed prophetic when, more than a once, the random two bucks he placed on a KENO game returned a $150 gain.  Despite our lack, the Lord did provide.  Even though my mother left and didn't provide any monetary support, Dad always had a way of looking on the bright side of things.  Thinking back now, he likely did so for my sake. 

Now that I'm grown, I often wonder about our family line.  I wonder, because it really does seem like God has a soft spot for us.  My sister and I came to Christ on very different roads.  Our children all love the Lord.  My life in particular seems almost "sculpted" from the start, and I can see God's hand in a great many things of my youth.  My maiden name is "Goodwin", which I found was the surname of two very prominent Puritans, John & Thomas Goodwin, in 1600's England.  Our family tree can be traced back to Daniel Goodwin, who was born in England in 1620, and later emigrated to America.  He was born in Suffolk, England, and the Puritan Goodwins were born in Norfolk, England, not too far from Suffolk - about 40 miles.  I can only assume the name "Goodwin" wasn't exactly common in those days (it's not common in these days either).  But unless I can find birth records that far back in England, it's only speculation to say Daniel, John, and Thomas Goodwin were related in any way, even though they were contemporaries with the same surname in the same rough area of England.  Perhaps they were distant cousins or maybe the Puritan Goodwins were uncles.

Exciting, all the same, to think that my family might have a Puritan in our line.  I even own one of Thomas' most famous works, "The Heart of Christ".  I often daydream about the Puritan Goodwins, and wonder if they prayed for future generations.  I wonder about my great-grandfather, George K. Goodwin, who was a pastor in Vermont in the late 1800's.  Did he read his own contemporaries, Charles Spurgeon, J.C. Ryle, and D.L. Moody?  Did he pray for future generations?

I do know God blesses those who seek Him individually.  Even if I am vaguely related to the Puritan Goodwins, that doesn't help me in my own salvation or knowledge of God.  I need to accept God for myself.  I need to seek Him for myself.  No one's testimony can lend any weight to my own, even if I was related to the Apostle Paul himself.  

My father's branch of Goodwins ends with him.  He has no sons and my sister and I both married.  After pondering all of this, I have come to the conclusion that for reasons of His own, God is dealing abundantly with me.  Perhaps it's because as the youngest of the two Goodwin sisters, I am the last "fruit" of this branch of the Goodwin line.  Or perhaps it's because He blesses me for seeking Him.  Or perhaps...it's due to His good pleasure.

With that said, now the point of it all: I have amazingly lucid dreams.  Dreams so real that like the Apostle Paul, I sometimes have no idea whether I'm in the body or in the spirit.  This is not to say they are prophetic - I do not believe I am a prophet by any definition of the word.  I do not believe God reveals any more revelation to any one person as He did through Isaiah or Daniel.  The final prophet was Jesus Christ (Hebrews1:1-2).  The dreams I have seem more... for me.  For my own peace of mind and my own edification.  These dreams cannot be asked for, they seem to fall whenever the Lord wills.  I have already told you about my demonic dreams and spiritual warfare.  But I have never told you about my godly dreams.

The one I'm about to share is the most thrilling dream of my life.  I don't know how any other dream can top it.  I don't even know why the Lord allowed me to have it, other than the goodness and mercy of His everlasting grace.  I've kept this dream close to my heart for so long, that it seems as if I'm sharing a glimpse into the most intimate part of me.  All I ask is that you please do not scoff, and know this was a dream, nothing more.  Any speculation is my own.

In this dream, I saw the face of the Lord Jesus Christ.



PART TWO


November, 2013

I have no idea what specific day it was, only that it was late November when I had my dream.  We were preparing for Thanksgiving dinner, and had company visiting for the holiday.  It seems odd to me that the Lord gave me this dream during these days, considering how the busyness of the holidays keeps me from prayer and study much of the time.  Planning, preparation, and visitation with friends and family make it nearly impossible to slip away on my own, and I often feel parched and lean in my soul.

In other words, I had the most amazing dream of Jesus on a day when I barely thought of Christ at all.  Perhaps that was by design.  Like any other night before, I laid down and went to sleep.

The dream began in a dry, dusty atmosphere, hot and sticky.  It was about midday and the heat was palpable.  There was commotion all around me, and I didn't know what it was at first.  But like the lens of a camera, everything came into focus.  And like you do in dreams, I simply knew where I was.  Judea.  The time of Christ.  The commotion was a huge crowd, and they were pressing in to see Jesus.

Then I realized I wasn't walking.  I was being carried, and lovingly so, like a groom carries His bride.  There were no biting fingers digging into my side, and no struggle to hold my weight.  The One holding me was expending no effort.  I knew in a heartbeat Jesus carried me.

His right hand was under my shoulders and his left cradled my knees.  He didn't look at me, but He gazed straight ahead, as if He had a destination set in His mind.  He was in no rush, but strode down the dusty street with purpose.  The crowds parted for Him, like I imagine the Red Sea had parted for Moses.  They surrounded us and closed in behind Jesus as He passed.  But while they jostled each other, no one in the crowd jostled Christ, and therefore I was not jostled.

As I lay prone in Jesus' arms, I took a good, long look at His profile.  His face was tanned.  Dirty.  Sweaty.  I couldn't get a good look at His eyes because He wasn't looking at me, but they were squinting in the bright sun.  I saw His beard; it was dark, but unremarkable.  Not short-cropped, but not long either.  I don't remember much about His hair.  It might have been under a shawl.  I remember thinking He wasn't strikingly handsome, nor was He ugly.  He was...normal.  Like any other face in the crowd.  

What I found myself staring at, rather, transfixed by, was a small, but prominent, dark freckle on His right cheek.  It was high up on His cheek bone, about halfway between His cheek and His hairline.  I marveled at it.  "The Lord has a freckle!" I shouted in my thoughts.  I couldn't believe it.  For whatever reason, like a dream sometimes does, my entire field of vision and concentration centered around that freckle.  Even in my dream, I knew the Lord was sharing a part of Himself with me that isn't common knowledge and it blew me away.

Without another thought, I hooked my hands behind Jesus' neck and leaned up in His arms.  I don't know why, it was spontaneous and shocked even me.  Perhaps I wished to show Him my appreciation for what He'd shared with me.  Ever-so-gently, I gave Him a soft, lingering kiss on His freckle.  



PART THREE


The dream changed.  No longer was it hot, oppressive day, now it was cool, dark night.  While the scene was drastically different, I knew it was the same dream.  Only this time, I wasn't in Judea, I was...in space...on a ladder looking down upon the earth.  The sun was to my back, and what I could see of the planet was in the shadow of night.  The ladder itself was somehow grounded on the land far, far below, yet it was leaning against white, puffy clouds that couldn't possibly be part of earth's atmosphere.  It was the kind of ladder you lean against a house rather than an A frame.  I was standing on the second to last rung at the very top.

The ladder was wobbly.  I don't know if it was due to the rotation of the earth or my own minute movements, but I was scared of falling.  My awareness kicked in, and I realized I was hugging Jesus this time rather than being carried by Him.  My arms were around His waist and my head was on His chest.  I was scared that if I let go of Him, I would surely fall.

Then, for the first time, I heard His voice.  

"LOOK AT ME."

It was kind.  It was soft.  It was loving.  It was a command.

I didn't want to look at Him - not because I didn't WANT to see Him, but because the ladder wobbled too much.  I was too afraid of falling.  But I couldn't disobey.  I didn't want to disobey.  So overcoming my fear, I looked up.  And the moment I did, I forgot about the ladder.  I looked full into the face of Jesus Christ Himself.

Many things went through my mind in that moment.  I stared at first, as if trying to get my eyes to focus.  My thoughts were cloudy and confusion set in.  My spirit told me this was Christ!  But my eyes couldn't believe it.  I had seen Him on that dusty road.  He was dirty.  Sweaty.  And yet the Christ before me was porcelain.  Perfect.  His clothing was not coarse and threadbare, but gleaming white - so white I could see no shadows in the way the fabric draped and folded around itself.  The clouds surrounding Him emanated light, as if specks of silver floated within.  How could this be the same man I had seen on the dusty road?

And then, just as before, the dream honed in on one physical feature - the freckle high up on His right cheek.  I knew in a heartbeat this was the Lord.  "It is You!" I mentally cried.  My thoughts raced as I took it all in.  It was overwhelming to see Him like this, but I never thought to look away.  He smiled at me, as if pleased I knew Him and recognized Him.  His smile hit my heart like a freight train, and if I had been awake, I would have surely swooned.  After my revelation, I marveled at many things about Him.

He was so young!  Impossibly young, younger than any of the movies portrayed Him to be.  He seemed to be full of youth - not a child, obviously a man, but I couldn't reconcile the Ancient of Days with such a youthful gleam - it seemed a contradiction, and therefore I continued to stare.  His hair and beard were black and wavy, yet again, much shorter than movies portray.  His hair was no longer than His ears or the nape of His neck, not down over His shoulders.  Again, my perception of what I imagined He looked like was caught up in what I was seeing.  He looked nothing like I'd always thought!

Despite being unremarkable on earth while carrying me, here in this second half of my dream, He was absolutely glorious - the Chiefest among ten thousand - the most handsome and desirable man I'd ever laid my eyes on.  And yet, He had the same face.  But His face was different.  Yet it was the same.  It's hard to describe and maybe that's why the disciples had a hard time recognizing Him after His resurrection.  He was breathtaking.  The more I stared, however, the farther He seemed to become.  Even though I still held Him by His waist, it seemed as if He was getting farther away.

I knew His magnified beauty only shed the light on my repugnant sin.  The longer I stared, the more I became aware of the weight of His holiness.  I could feel the gulf between us, yet I still held fast to Him.

The one thing I'll never forget about Christ are His eyes.  I have no idea what their color was on earth, probably brown being that He was a Jew, but in Glory, it was as if His eyes could not decide whether they wanted to be blue or green.  The colors swirled together like sunlight on water.  Green-blue-greenblue-green-bluegreen-blue.  Perhaps that's why I stared - just to watch the wonder of His eyes, so young yet so old, gazing back at me with love and tenderness.  

I have no idea how long I stared at Yeshua.  He was obviously in His glorified state, but likely holding back most of His glory so I could look at Him.  He appeared as He might have to the eleven after His resurrection rather than to the Apostle John on the Isle of Patmos.  He didn't say another word, He simply smiled and allowed me to hold Him.  The moment I gazed upon Him, the scene of the ladder and of the earth seemed to slip away into nothingness.  It no longer existed.  It was as if He and I were all that existed in the universe.  There was no more threat of falling.  I felt rock-solid.

I have thought of this dream often in the year since I had it.  There seems to be many symbolic things happening at once.  The day, the night, Him carrying me, me holding Him, in the world, out of the world, in the flesh, and glorified.  I have wondered why the Lord gave me this dream unless He merely wanted to show me His face.  Obviously there is no way of knowing if Jesus actually has a freckle on His right cheek.  Maybe He does; maybe He doesn't.  But the dream used the familiarity of the freckle for me to recognize Him the second time I saw Him in the clouds.  Without that grounding, I might have continued to be confused about who He truly was.

His youth and His hair and His eyes have captivated me ever since.  I know He was only 33 in life when He was crucified.  But His perfection erased any wrinkles or pores or crow's feet He may have gained in the flesh, adding to the look of His youth.  It was as if He had perfect baby skin.  I have never thought of Jesus with black hair, usually because most movies and paintings have chosen European-looking brown-haired men.  And the length of it surprised me - I had always assumed it was longer.  It would seem the Gospel According to Matthew got it right:


I know in life, Christ's eyes were probably not blue or green.  But what fascinates me are accounts of others who've claimed to have seen Jesus, who testify of the same - such as child painter prodigy Akiane Kramarik and Colton Burpo's account in "Heaven is for Real".  I hadn't been influenced by these children before my dream, however, as I didn't have much interest into the color of the Lord's eyes until AFTER my dream.  I remember watching Burpo's movie randomly and getting chills when Colton described Christ's eyes.  Some people find these testimonies to be controversial.  I can't say whether or not either of these children have truly seen Jesus.  Like myself, I can only acknowledge that whatever they saw, it's between them and God.

I suppose I'll never truly know until I pass into Glory myself.  But until then, I can cherish this dream in my heart, even if my subconscious made it all up.  Whether it was only a dream or the reality of Christ, I have been blessed by what I saw, and the memory of it only serves to make me long for Heaven all the more.

In the words of Job, "I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees You." Job 42:5 

Praise the Lord.  Thank You, Jesus.  Whether real or a dream, I know You are Sovereign, and therefore it was Your will for me to experience it.  I pray this blesses others and inspires them to live for You.  

In Jesus' name,
Amen.