Why? Part 1, the Fundamental Theorem of Our Existence

And Jesus called a little child unto him, and set him in the midst of them, And said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye turn, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of the heavens. (Matt. 18:2-3)

By the time we reach adulthood, asking “why?” has been beaten out of us, either by intent or by circumstance. But of all the characteristics of children, this insatiable questioning forms the basis of entering into the kingdom of God. Why? Look at Isaiah’s prescription of entering God’s favor:

Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool. (Isaiah 1:18)

This is the beginning of the created relationship between creature and Creator, learner and teacher.

In The Beginning

“In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.” THE important fact of this whole story of the creation is found in the account of the temptation of Eve by the Serpent. The temptation to eat of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil is a non-trivial matter, it strikes at the heart of what it means to be created in the image of God. In this temptation we come to understand what it means for the Creator to be our God and what it means to be a creature.

The account begins with the statement:

And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat. But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, you shall not eat of it: for in the day that you eat thereof you shall surely die. (Gen. 2:16-17)


The usual answer is “man died because they disobeyed God.” But there is something more profound here than a wrath filled God dishing out just rewards. If God had said “in the day you step off this cliff you will die,” we would merely observe, “gravity.” At stake is a law just as fundamental as the law of gravity. The serpent’s temptation was not about gaining the knowledge of good and evil. Man had access to this before eating the fruit. Rather the temptation was about becoming Gods in our own eyes.

The profound, non-trivial, fundamental law at issue in this temptation is two fold: (a) our dialogic relationship with God is the only source of experientially knowing good, and (b) without this experiential knowledge we can’t be living beings. When man yielded to the serpent, they turned away from hearing God as the source of knowing good. All else is evil. When they listened to the serpent, they attempted to become Gods in their own eyes, they became their own source of knowing good, which will not support their created condition of living beings. They “stepped off the cliff” and they died.

This is the pit man is in. We don’t know what is good. Without this knowledge, we can’t be righteous, we can’t be living beings. Our own wisdom, our own sense of what is right, cannot make us alive. On the strength of that wisdom and that righteousness, we cannot climb out of the pit. The walls give way beneath our feet and we are back at the bottom.

It is in this scene of trying to climb out of the pit that we need to hear what the Psalmist states:

Be still and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the heathen. I will be exalted in all the earth. (Psalms 46:10)

BE still, stop struggling. BE STILL, stop telling yourself what is good. BE STILL, STOP being your own God.

Much of Christendom’s approach is, and has been, to proffer a solution that gaurantees you a comfortable “pit experience.” George Fox’s thumbnail sketch of the gospel given him to preach, “Christ is come to teach his people himself,” is a message to people in the pit showing the way out. How are we to escape when we can’t climb the walls? How are we to become living beings? Christ is come to teach you. He is the teacher of righteousness, whose teaching comes with the power to obey. He is the teacher, whose words are the creational breath that makes man living beings. He is the Creator, the Word made flesh to dwell among us.

What does it mean to have the Creator as our God?

George Fox wrote:

So here were three states and three teachers. God was the first teacher in paradise; and whilst man kept under his teaching, he was happy. The serpent was the second teacher; and when man followed his teaching he fell into misery, into the fall from the image of God, righteousness, and holiness, and from the power that he had over all that God had made; and came under the serpent whom he had power over before. Christ Jesus was the third teacher; of whom God saith, ‘This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased, hear ye him:’ and who himself saith, ‘Learn of me (i.e. learn from me).’ This is the true gospel-teacher, who bruises the head of the serpent the false teacher, and the head of all false teachers and false religions, false ways, false worships, and false churches. Christ, who said, ‘Learn of me,’ and of whom the Father said, ‘Hear ye him,’ said, ‘I am the way to God, I am the truth, I am the life, and the true light.’ So as man and woman come to God, and are renewed up into his image, righteousness, and holiness by Christ, thereby they come into the paradise of God, the state which man was in before he fell; and into a higher state than that, to sit down in Christ who never fell. Therefore, the Son of God is to be heard in all things, who is the Saviour and the Redeemer; who hath laid down his life, and bought his sheep with his precious blood. (Works of Fox, Vol. II, p. 144)

The first and foremost effect of the one and only true God being your God is living in this inward, direct teaching. All else flows from here. Living in his teaching is your source of life, your source of holiness within and your source of righteous behavior outwardly. Most of Christendom looks to scripture to provide the necessary rules and regulations for living a life pleasing to God, yet from the beginning God’s mandated order is to be received from this teacher/disciple relationship. God’s first commandment to the newly freed Israelites was:

Now therefore, if you will hear/obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then you shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people… (Exodus 19:5)

And to echo that command, Moses reminded the people saying,

Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God shall man live. (Deut. 8:3)

This refrain, “hear/obey my voice” runs throughout the Old Testament Scriptures. The seriousness of this refrain can be found in Isaiah’s account of the despised, unesteemed Messiah (Isaiah 53).

All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned everyone to his own way; and the Lord hath laid upon him the iniquity of us all. (Isaiah 53:6)

This is the picture of sheep without a shepherd, of humanity without the living God. In turning from the living God, mankind creates a pantheon of other gods–stones, trees, religious institutions, states, and themselves above all else. This is the iniquity of us all that is laid upon the Messiah.

Why “hear my voice?” Why not “these are the statutes of the law, the commandments, do them?” The law does not work on the inside, on the heart. No one is made alive by outward conformity to the law of Moses, the rituals and prescriptions of Christianity, or any other law. Jesus said,

Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life. Verily, verily, I say unto you, The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live. (John 5:24-25)

Paul said that the letter (or the law) kills, the spirit gives life. (See 2 Cor. 3:6) Jesus said “the spirit gives life” and he then proceeded to define “spirit”: “the words I speak to you, these are spirit, these are life.” (See John 6:63)

These passages give a glimpse of what might be called the fundamental theorem of our being. In my next post I will look at how that fundamental theorem operates, or in other words what it means to be a creature.

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Salvation: Part IV

Hear the word of the LORD…give ear unto the law of our God…To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices unto me?…When ye come to appear before me, who hath required this at your hand, to tread my courts?…Your new moons and your appointed feasts my soul hateth…when ye make many prayers, I will not hear: your hands are full of blood. Wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes; cease to do evil; Learn to do well; seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow. Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool. If ye be willing and obedient, ye shall eat the good of the land… (Isiah 1:10-19, much abreviated)

God’s call to council, “come let us reason together,” not particular beliefs about Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection, is where salvation begins. You can ‘believe all the right things’ regarding Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection, but unless you live by hearing his voice speaking to you in your heart, you have no salvation. George Fox’s statement, “Christ is come to teach his people himself,” sums up all Isaiah stated in the above quotation. Take each statement beginning with, “Wash you, make you clean” and ending with, “let us reason together” and ask “How am I to do this? The answer is “Christ is come to teach his people himself.” Can you cease to do evil and learn to do well without Christ’s teaching? No, you only know good from evil by Christ teaching you in your heart. Can you do any of the other things Isaiah admonished his hearers to do without Christ teaching you what is to be done? No, he alone is the judgment, he is the relief that brings release to the oppressed. He is the Word made flesh through whom we reason together with God.

All this portrays God as one who reveals himself to humanity. This is the profound significance of the prologue to the book of John. We are to know him by direct experience rather than by hearsay (or ‘readsay’). The purpose of this experience is that in this relationship of revelation and response we are made living beings, we are taught what to do and what to leave alone, which amounts to being taught how to continue to be living beings. In this relationship we are clothed in the light and life. Apart from this relationship, mankind is compelled to “stitch together fig leaves” in an effort to hide their nakedness, their loss of the garment of the image of God.

Now, some may object, saying, “What about Jesus’ death on the cross and his resurrection? Aren’t those critical components of God’s plan of salvation?” If Christ is your teacher, can you trust him to teach you what is necessary to know and do concerning salvation? Will he lead you down the wrong theological path? If Christ is not your teacher, what good is acceptance of historical facts? Yes, Jesus was crucified on a Roman cross outside the gates of Jerusalem. Yes, Jesus rose from the dead because through death he overcame him who had the power of death. But these facts will give you no benefit unless you take up your own cross. Can you die to self unless you encounter Christ who calls you to follow him? Here you must either continue to be your own god or willingly yield authority over your life to the Creator. Can you rise to life any other way than to hear his voice and in obedience to that voice, step out of your grave?

There are many who attempt to come to life some other way. Jesus chided those Jews who searched the scriptures thinking that in them they would come to life. The Westminster Confession of Faith, 1647, declared that God does not reveal himself nor give knowledge of his will, necessary for salvation, to people in any other way than through scripture. David F. Watson, Acadamic Dean and professor of New Testament at United Theological Seminary, has stated that apart from Scripture and tradition, “we cannot know who Jesus is. We cannot comprehend how we should properly relate to God, including how we should live, and the kinds of behaviors that separate us from God. We cannot understand what salvation is…Without divine revelation mediated to us through Scripture and tradition, we don’t know who we are.” (See https://davidfwatson.me/2019/01/28/on-the-authority-of-scripture/)

Those words, to which the Jews looked, to which the 1647 assembly of Divines and the 2019 statement of David Watson point, those words are a testimony to Christ come to teach his people and this teaching brings salvation and life.

This is the crux of Psalm 14:1, “The fool has said in his heart there is no God.” This is not talking about the atheist who has examined the evidence put forth by Christendom and declared it to be foolishness. The greater fool is the one who professes belief but neither comes to nor abides in the council of God.

Jesus stated: “Not everyone who says to me ‘Lord, Lord’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven but he who does the will of my Father which is in Heaven.” (Matt. 7:21) This “doing the will of my Father” is made possible by sitting in council with God, by experiencing Christ come to teach you. Reading the Bible and trying to follow its precepts are not the same thing as hearing and obeying Christ speaking to you. A self imposed “taking up your cross” and “dying to self” is nothing more than self deception, self is still god.

Jesus told the Jews who believed in him, “If you abide in my teaching you are truly my disciples, and you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” (John 8:31, my paraphrase). Here is the answer to the question posed in Psalms 15, “Lord, who shall abide in your tabernacle? who shall dwell in your holy hill?” The Psalmist answered, “He that walks uprightly, and works righteousness, and speaks the truth in his heart.” (Psalms 15:1-2) The only way to know the truth, as Jesus pointed out is to abide in his teaching. The only way to speak truth in your heart, is to walk in obedience to Christ teaching you in your heart. Only thus can you abide in the Lord’s tabernacle.

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Salvation: Part III

In Part II I looked at Fox’s exposition concerning three estates and three teachers wherein he declared that by following the serpent’s teaching, mankind entered the fallen estate. By following Jesus Christ’s teaching, we are brought up out of the fall into the state of Adam and Eve before the fall and into a higher state in Christ Jesus who never fell.

In Part III I am continuing to explore the answer to the question, “How are we to encounter this divine influence upon the heart that is reflected in life?” In this section, I am asking “How do we encounter Jesus Christ’s teaching?” In Edward Burrough’s introduction to Vol. III of the Works of George Fox, he specifically points out how we encounter this teaching, and he points to its consequences.

And after our long seeking the Lord appeared to us, and revealed his glory in us, and gave us of his spirit from heaven, and poured it upon us, and gave us of his wisdom to guide us, whereby we saw all the world, and the true state of things, and the true condition of the church in her present estate. First the Lord brought us by his power and wisdom, and the word by which all things were made, to know and understand, and see perfectly, that God had given to us, every one of us in particular, a light from himself shining in our hearts and consciences; which light, Christ his son, the saviour of the world, had lighted every man withal; which light in us we found sufficient to reprove us, and convince us of every evil deed, word, and thought, and by it, in us, we came to know good from evil, right from wrong, and whatsoever is of God, and according to him, from what is of the devil, and what was contrary to God in motion, word, and works. (Works of George Fox, 1831, Vol. III:11-12)

The realization of Burrough’s statement was seen as impossible, absolutely out of the question. Burrough wrote this introduction sometime around 1659. As early as 1647, with the publication of the Westminster Confession of Faith, the established church had gone on record saying:

Although the light of nature, and the works of creation and providence do so far manifest the goodness, wisdom, and power of God, as to leave men unexcusable; yet are they not sufficient to give that knowledge of God, and of His will, which is necessary unto salvation. Therefore it pleased the Lord, at sundry times, and in divers manners, to reveal Himself, and to declare…His will unto His Church; and afterwards, for the better preserving and propagating of the truth, and for the more sure establishment and comfort of the Church against the corruption of the flesh, and the malice of Satan and of the world, to commit the same wholly unto writing: which maketh the Holy Scripture to be most necessary; those former ways of God’s revealing His will unto His people being now ceased. (Opening paragraph of the Westminster Confession of Faith, 1647)

Not only was Edward Burrough declaring the Westminster Confession of Faith to be false, he portrayed a group of people living this testimony that Christ Jesus speaks directly to people, giving them life, and making them conformable to his will.

And this light gave us to discern between truth and error, between every false and right way, and it perfectly discovered to us the true state of all things; and we thereby came to know man, what he was in his creation before transgression, and how he was deceived and overcome by the devil, and his estate in transgression, and in disobedience, and how he is driven and banished from the presence of the Lord…And also by the light in us, we perfectly came to know the way of restoration, and the means by which to be restored, and the state of man when come out of transgression and restored. (Fox, Vol. III:12.)

The usual answer for how we are to know about “restoration and the means by which to be restored” is “read the Bible.” Look again at Edward Burrough’s statement, “by the light in us, we perfectly came to know the way of restoration.” He is not saying “we came to know about restoration.” “We perfectly came to know the WAY of restoration” is a statement of experience. They came to be restored and they knew the means by which that was accomplished and will be accomplished.

These things to us were revealed by the light within us, which Christ had given us, and lighted us withal…And also as our minds became turned, and our hearts inclined to the light which shined in every one of us, the perfect estate of the church we came to know…So that all these things concerning man, and concerning the times and seasons, and the changing and renewing of times, and all things that pertain to salvation, and redemption, and eternal life, needful for man to know, all these were revealed, discovered, and made known to us, by the light which was in us, which Christ had lighted us withal. (ibid.)

And we found this light to be a sufficient teacher, to lead us to Christ, from whence this light came, and thereby it gave us to receive Christ, and to witness him to dwell in us; and through it the new covenant we came to enter into, to be made heirs of life and salvation. And in all things we found the light which we were enlightened withal, (which is Christ,) to be alone and only sufficient to bring to life and eternal salvation; and that all who did own the light in them which Christ hath enlightened every man withal, they needed no man to teach them, but the Lord was their teacher, by his light in their own consciences, and they received the holy anointing. (ibid. 12-13

The consequences of turning to Christ’s light within as their only teacher was that they gathered for the express purpose of experiencing Christ Jesus in their midst to teach and lead them. A partial listing of what happened includes:

  • We ceased from the teachings of all men, their words, their worships, their temples, their baptisms and churches
  • We ceased from our own words, professions, practices in religion
  • We were led out of all false ways, false preachings, from false ministers
  • We met together often, and waited upon the Lord in pure silence, hearkened to the voice of the Lord, felt his word in our hearts to burn up and beat down all that was contrary to God
  • We obeyed the light of Christ in us, and followed the motions of the Lord’s pure Spirit
  • We took up the cross to all earthly glories, crowns, and ways, and denied ourselves, our relations, and all that stood in the way betwixt us and the Lord
  • We chose to suffer with and for the name of Christ, rather than enjoy all the pleasures upon earth, or all our former zealous professions and practices in religion without the power and spirit of God, which the world yet lives in. And while waiting upon the Lord in silence, as often we did for many hours together:

We received often the pouring down of … God’s holy eternal spirit as in the days of old, and our hearts were made glad, and our tongues loosed, and our mouths opened, and we spake with new tongues, as the Lord gave us utterance, and as his spirit led us, which was poured down upon us, on sons and daughters. And to us hereby were the deep things of God revealed, and things unutterable were known and made manifest; and the glory of the Father was revealed, and then began we to sing praises to the Lord God Almighty, and to the Lamb for ever, who had redeemed us to God, and brought us out of the captivity and bondage of the world, and put an end to sin and death; and all this was by and through, and in the light of Christ within us. (ibid.)

Salvation begins and ends in hearing and obeying the voice of Christ Jesus as he speaks to us in his light within. It is not an event that happens in a moment, such that you can write a date on a piece of paper stating “I was saved on __ date. Rather it is a lifetime of living in dialogue with our Creator.

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Salvation: Part II

In Part I, I looked at some of the writings of Paul and considered what they had to say concerning man’s problem and God’s solution (salvation) to that problem. I noted Paul’s statement that man’s problem is death and God’s solution is an influence on the heart that brings life. I asked the question, “How are we to encounter this divine influence upon the heart (i.e. God’s grace)?

In part II, I want to examine a passage from the Works of Fox, which pertains to the answer to this question.

…I was moved to declare of three estates and three teachers, viz. ‘God was the first teacher of man and woman in paradise; and as long as they kept to and under his teaching, they kept in the image of God, in his likeness, in righteousness and holiness, and in dominion over all that God had made; in the blessed state, in the paradise of God. But when they hearkened to the serpent’s false teaching, (who was out of truth,) disobeyed God, and obeyed the serpent, in feeding upon that which God forbade; they lost the image of God, the righteousness and holiness, came under the power of satan, and were turned out of paradise, out of the blessed into the cursed state. Then the promise of God was, “That the seed of the woman should bruise the serpent’s head,” break his power that man and woman were under, and destroy his works. So here were three states and three teachers. God was the first teacher in paradise; and whilst man kept under his teaching, he was happy. The serpent was the second teacher; and when man followed his teaching he fell into misery, into the fall from the image of God, righteousness, and holiness, and from the power that he had over all that God had made; and came under the serpent whom he had power over before. Christ Jesus was the third teacher; of whom God saith, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased, hear ye him:” and who himself saith, “Learn of me.” This is the true gospel-teacher, who bruises the head of the serpent the false teacher, and the head of all false teachers and false religions, false ways, false worships, and false churches. Christ, who said, “Learn of me,” and of whom the Father said, “Hear ye him,” said, “I am the way to God, I am the truth, I am the life, and the true light.”

Pause a moment and remember what Jesus told the people who believed what he spoke in the temple, “If you abide in my word [or in my teaching] then you are indeed my disciples; you shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free.” (See John 8:31-32) I have had people tell me: “…Christ died on the cross to make them [man] right with God rather than the idea in religion that man is acceptable to God purely by obeying the commandments or even of listening to Christ within and doing what He says.” If you can’t trust what Jesus teaches you to make you “right with God”, then you can’t say you believe in him. Your belief is in something else: a body of doctrine, a theological framework, the “wisdom of the ancients” (Moses in this case), or whatever it may be. God has ceased to be your source of knowledge of good and evil, and you have become your own god. The antidote, as Fox described is:

So as man and woman come to God, and are renewed up into his image, righteousness, and holiness by Christ, thereby they come into the paradise of God, the state which man was in before he fell; and into a higher state than that, to sit down in Christ who never fell. Therefore, the Son of God is to be heard in all things, who is the Saviour and the Redeemer; who hath laid down his life, and bought his sheep with his precious blood.

If you have ever had a course in chemistry, you will perhaps recall how certain chemical reactions are reversible. A + B yields C plus a certain amount of energy. The process can be reversed by taking C and adding energy getting a return to A and B.

In like manner, Fox is detailing how mankind is to be returned to our state before the fall and to a state more stable than that. Man enters the fallen state by listening to the wrong teacher. We are returned to the image of God by following Christ, the teacher whose voice we are to hear in all things. These “all things” include Jesus Christ’s various functions or offices within and among us.

Who hath any thing to say against our way? our Saviour? our Redeemer? our prophet, whom God hath raised up that we may hear, and whom we must hear in all things? who hath any thing against our shepherd Christ Jesus, who leads and feeds us, and we know his heavenly voice? who hath any thing against our bishop, in whose mouth was never guile found, who doth oversee us in his pasture of life, that we do not go astray out of his fold? who hath any thing against our priest, Christ Jesus, made higher than the heavens, who gives us freely, and commands us to give freely? who hath any thing to say against our leader and counsellor, Christ Jesus, who never sinned, but is holy, harmless, and separate from sinners? God hath commanded us to hear him, and he saith, “Learn of me;” and if we should disobey God’s and Christ’s command, we should be like our father Adam and mother Eve, who disobeyed God’s command, and hearkened to the serpent’s teaching…

John 3:16 is often quoted as a key to understanding salvation: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life.” (See John 3:16) However, these quoters seldom clarify what that “belief” is. Is it merely mental acknowledgment of his life on Earth, his death on the cross, and his resurrection?

And whereas, some have objected, “That although Christ did speak both to his disciples and to the Jews in the days of his flesh, yet since his resurrection and ascension he doth not speak now;” the answer is, as God did then speak by his Son in the days of his flesh, so the Son, Christ Jesus, doth now speak by his spirit. Wherefore, John saith in the Revelations, “He that hath an ear, let him hear what the spirit saith to the churches.” Rev. ii. “And Christ is said to speak from heaven.” Heb. xii. 25. “See that ye refuse not him that speaketh; for if they escaped not who refused him that spake on earth, much more shall not we escape if we turn away from him that speaketh from heaven.” They that resisted Moses’ law (who spake on earth,) died for it without mercy, which was a natural death; but they that refuse him that speaks from heaven, neglect and slight their own salvation, and so die a spiritual death through unbelief and hardness of heart.

Many who quote the John 3:16 passage are referring to Jesus’ death on the cross. Their “belief” does not encompass a living, present teacher, whose salvation is based on today hearing his voice. Belief that results in life flows from the experience of being taught, of encountering Christ Jesus in these offices Fox is pointing at.

Therefore was the exhortation given of old, “To-day, if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts, as in the provocation,” &c. Heb. iii. 15, &c. They, who neglect or refuse to hear the voice of Christ now speaking from heaven in this his gospel-day, harden their hearts. Therefore let all mark well these three states and teachers: the God of truth was the first teacher, while man was in paradise and in innocence. The serpent was the second teacher, the false teacher, who by his false teaching came to be the god of the world which lies in wickedness. Christ Jesus, that bruises the serpent’s head, is the third teacher, who saith, “Learn of me;” of whom God saith, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased, hear ye him;” and of whom the testimony of the saints of old was, “That God hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son.” Thus they, that come to be renewed up again into the divine heavenly image in which man was at first made, will know the same God, that was the first teacher of Adam and Eve in paradise, to speak to them now by his Son, who changes not; glory be to his name for ever!’ (All the above quotations from Fox are taken from Fox’s Works, Vol. II, pp. 144-146)

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Salvation: Part I

In his recent post, The Felt Need Of Salvation That Drives Many To Seek A Savior, John Jeremiah Edminster opened a subject that is replete with contradiction. If you browse the shelves of bookstores or look on the internet, you will find a widely varying body of theologies purporting to be supported by cited scripture, the texts of which often have little or no connection to their argument.

One of the most used portions of scripture is from Romans 3:10-18, quoted below.

As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one: There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one. [Psalms 14:3] Their throat is an open sepulchre; with their tongues they have used deceit; [Psalms 5:9] the poison of asps is under their lips [Psalms 140:3]: Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness [Psalms 10:7]: Their feet are swift to shed blood [Proverbs 1:16]: Destruction and misery are in their ways: And the way of peace have they not known [Isaiah 59:7-8]: There is no fear of God before their eyes [Psalms 36:1].

This scripture contains phrases that Paul pulled from various portions of the old testament [see my bracketed citations] to make his point that mankind can only find righteousness in a dynamic relationship with Jesus, the Christ. Often this Romans 3 passage is used to establish the doctrine of the total depravity of humans, but it will not serve their purpose. If you look at all the passages Paul quotes, they all are used to distinguish the righteous from the unrighteous. Take, for example, the passage from Psalms 14. It begins with the statement that “The fool has said in his heart, ‘there is no God.'” It continues with the description of the fool’s condition. Then we come to this: “Have all the workers of iniquity no knowledge? who eat up my people as they eat bread, and call not upon the LORD. There were they in great fear: for God is in the generation of the righteous.” (verses 4-5) If, as some contend, there are no righteous people, then the psalmist could not have referred to the wicked eating the Lord’s people nor God being in the generation of the righteous.

Paul’s point has nothing to do with depravity or degeneration. Rather it is a fundamental statement concerning humanity. Righteousness is, always has been, and always will be a condition dependent upon hearing and following the voice of our creator. The fool who says in his heart, “There is no God,” is the one who behaves independent of or indifferent to this relationship of dialog regardless of what professions come out of the mouth.

Our idea of salvation depends upon our concept of what we need to be saved from. So our first task must be to define humanity’s overarching problem. Then we can understand God’s solution. Another often quoted text comes from Paul’s letter to the Ephesians:

Wherefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus…Cease not to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers; That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him: The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints, And what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power, Which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places, Far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come: And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church, Which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all. And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins; Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience…But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: (Eph. 1:15-2:6)

First, note the malady Paul names: “who were dead in trespasses and sins…ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience.” Humanity’s problem is that we are dead because we walked according to the course of this world according to the price of the power of the air. Much of what you hear and read from Christianity focuses on Christ being able to pardon our sins. But our problem is that we are dead and a posthumous pardon will not make us alive.

What is the solution to which Paul pointed the Ephesians? Through the mighty power of Jesus Christ’s resurrection we are quickened (made alive). Then comes this parenthetical phrase “by grace ye are saved.” This phrase is bandied about quite a lot, but what does it mean? Many places state that grace is God’s unmerited favor. But according to Strong’s Greek dictionary that phrase should read “by the divine influence upon the heart, and its reflection in the life, ye are saved.” The “exceeding greatness of his power” is this divine influence we encounter in the heart. That divine influence comes by the power of Christ Jesus’ resurrection. When we were dead in sin, Christ entered into death, overcame him who had the power of death, and preached deliverance to us captives of death. Those who receive his reproofs and guidance are quickened together with Christ, for by his influence upon our heart we are saved. We are raised up together with Christ and made to sit with him in heavenly places. This is Paul’s prescription of salvation to the Ephesians.

Consider Paul’s statement to Titus:

For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world; Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ; Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works. (Titus 2:11-14)

Again Paul brings us to this divine influence upon the heart that is reflected in life which brings salvation to all who will hear and follow its teaching.

So the question comes, and this is one of the most important questions one can ask: How are we to encounter this divine influence upon the heart?

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The Bush Is Still Burning

The following first appeared on Reddit . This post has been slightly revised, incorporating some of the comments. To see the original, follow the link above.

One of the enduring Bible stories of my youth is the story of Moses and the burning bush. That story came to me again as Dan Davenport and I sat “together” in worship via conference phone call. You may recall how Moses was herding sheep when he saw a bush burning but not being consumed. When he came near, God spoke to him out of the bush saying, “Moses, put off your shoes. The ground you are standing on is holy ground.” The story goes on with God sending Moses back to Egypt to bring about the liberation of the Israelite slaves and their subsequent journey to the land of Caanan. Because most of the Israelites refused to go into Canaan when they got there (basically saying, “There are giants in the land. Why did God send us here to perish at the hands of giants?”), Moses led them in the wilderness for 40 years until that generation had perished. The remarkable statement that during that 40 years their shoes did not wear out, has been something that has stayed in my mind for as long as I can remember.

Now that statement has a different significance looked at in the light of the burning bush and God commanding Moses, “Take off your shoes…” For 40 years this people’s shoes protected them from standing barefoot on God’s holy ground. When you stand barefoot on God’s holy ground there is no insulation, no barrier, between you and the effects of meeting God on his turf. Moses is looked at as one of the great men of history because of all that he did. But what he really did was to take off his shoes. The rest is the work of God through him.

The bush is still burning. Can you see it? The bush is still burning and the voice of God is still calling. Are your shoes on or off?

What is it in today’s society, in everyday life, that represents shoes? Sin?

‘Shoes’ are whatever it is that keeps us from being willing, first and foremost, to listen for and follow the light of Christ within. That could be what Christianity calls sin. It could also be all the trappings of the Christian religion. Taking off our shoes is equivalent to saying “not my will but yours be done.” Living without shoes is a life of dynamic consultation with Christ. When Moses left the burning bush, he did not leave the holy ground behind him. Having removed our shoes, the holy ground now comes to be within.

What can be done to ‘take of our shoes’?

The LORD said unto my Lord, Sit thou at my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool. The LORD shall send the rod of thy strength out of Zion: rule thou in the midst of thine enemies. Thy people shall be willing in the day of thy power, in the beauties of holiness from the womb of the morning: thou hast the dew of thy youth. (Psalms 110:1-3, KJV)

“Thy people shall be willing in the day of thy power…” The day of the Lord’s power comes in the light of Christ within us that would teach us the right way to live and will reprove us when we ignore it. When George Fox began preaching this message in the late 1640s, that the light of Christ is indeed the power of God, the priests and people scoffed saying the light was insignificant, natural, weak, etc. (read the opening paragraph of the 1647 Westminster Confession of Faith, which most of modern Christendom considers foundational). However, those who accepted what Fox had to say and followed the dictates of Christ’s light were thereby made into the people of God against which the gates of Hell could not stand.

The key to ‘taking off your shoes’ is not a matter of gritting your teeth, resolving “I am going to do this right.” Rather it begins in the encounter with the light that leads to the life that is in the Word who was in the beginning (see John 1:1). Saying “yes” to those promptings and reproofs brings us out of acting in our own strength and our own wisdom, which I have found to be insufficient. Saying “yes” to the light enables us to stand when our own legs would collapse, because then we are acting under the power of the Lord. This, also, I have found to be true.

For further information, look at Fox’s To All That Would Know the Way to the Kingdom and Edward Burrough’s introduction to Vol. III of Fox’s Works for further insights.

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Through the Lens of Passover: Part 11

We now reach a dividing line that separates two opposite flowing theologies. These both center on who Jesus is AND how he saves man. The dividing line is between the necessity, or not, of a present Christ.

When we look at most of Christendom’s theology concerning the crucifixion and resurrection we see that it comes from their understanding of the writings ascribed to Paul. With that understanding comes the concept of salvation I quoted in post # 2 of this series, which is based entirely on Jesus’ crucifixion:

Salvation is the result of confessing one’s belief that Jesus is the Son of God, that He died so that our sins are forgiven, thereby reconciling us to God, the Father. We believe, we confess, that’s it. Salvation resides in Jesus plus nothing. That is, we need nothing except to believe in Jesus Christ and our fellowship with God is restored. What follows is an intimate life with God forever. If hearing His voice is a necessary condition of salvation, then the Jesus plus nothing statement becomes Jesus plus something, i.e. hearing His voice.

You will note that this concept of salvation is based on the power of death. Contrast that with Jesus’ statement, “The thief comes to kill and destroy. I am come that you might have life and that more abundantly.” This statement comes in the context of the shepherd who speaks to his sheep and the sheep hear his voice and follow.

The ‘Jesus plus nothing’ salvation does not need a present Christ. Jesus did his work by dying on the cross, and he can now exit the scene only to reappear at the end (finale) of the world termed the ‘second coming’. The ‘shepherd’ salvation depends upon a shepherd actively present, functionally present. Under an absentee shepherd, the sheep scatter and are consumed by the wolf. But the end (goal) of the age has arrived, the shepherd is present, and dwells in and among his sheep.

I want to pull in references from Matthew, Mark, and Luke, as well as those from the book of John that concern Jesus’ work. The parable of the wicked husbandmen is a statement of the situation Jesus found himself in and provides us clues about his view of what he came to accomplish:

There was a certain householder, which planted a vineyard, and hedged it round about, and digged a winepress in it, and built a tower, and let it out to husbandmen, and went into a far country: And when the time of the fruit drew near, he sent his servants to the husbandmen, that they might receive the fruits of it. And the husbandmen took his servants, and beat one, and killed another, and stoned another. Again, he sent other servants more than the first: and they did unto them likewise. But last of all he sent unto them his son, saying, They will reverence my son. But when the husbandmen saw the son, they said among themselves, This is the heir; come, let us kill him, and let us seize on his inheritance. And they caught him, and cast him out of the vineyard, and slew him. (Matt. 21:33-39)

The death of the son is not the redemption of the wicked husbandmen. Their chance of redemption lay in “reverencing” the son of the householder. In their disregard of the owner’s servants and the owner’s son they displayed their disregard for the owner of the vineyard. They were punished accordingly. The sending of the son was the proof of the husbandmen. The householder might as well have stated, “They will regard the son as they regard me.” They did.

A crucial point in the ‘Jesus-plus-nothing’ statement is the concept of forgiveness that it portrays. Biblical translators use one of two words when they translate this concept into English: remission or forgiveness. I will define those words in a moment. But first lets look at some of these texts.

At the last supper with his disciples, Jesus stated:

For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins. (Matt. 26:28)

John the Baptist’s work, a precursor to Jesus’ work, was to

preach the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins. (Mark 1:4)

What does all this have to say concerning the importance of Jesus’ crucifixion? Specifically at issue here is the question, “Did Jesus’ death on the cross make salvation possible?” Much of the Church’s theology says, “Yes” and they quote Hebrews “without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness” (see Heb. 9:22) And they make “forgiveness” equivalent with “pardon.” Many translations use the word, “remission” instead of “forgiveness in this text. Remission has to do with release from bondage or imprisonment. Forgiveness has to do with removal of the cause of offense. Neither of these words are a good fit with ‘pardon’.

The Hebrews 9:22 text refers to the rituals under the Mosaic Law. When the law refers to the blood of the sacrifice, it is referring to the life of the sacrificed animal. We can then understand that statement as, “without the pouring forth of life, there is no release from bondage or imprisonment.”

Can we say that the crucifixion was a pouring forth of life? No, that happened when life triumphed over death. Under the Law, man did not have the life of the sacrificial animal, only its death. Those animals “gave” their death, not their life to the participants in the rituals of the Law. The Israelites were not to drink the blood of the sacrifices, for the blood was the life of the animal and belonged to God. Under Christ, we have his life. He told the Jews, “except you eat the flesh and drink the blood of the Son of man, you have no life in you.” (See John 6:53) He then told the disciples, “The flesh profits nothing, it is the breath that gives life. The words I am speaking to you, these are breath, these are life.” (See John 6:63) He gives life, his life, to all who will walk in his light, as I have discussed in previous posts. The blood of the sacrificial lamb under the law was a shadow of the life of Christ, which alone has the power to cleanse the soul of dead works that we may serve the living God. This life is our Passover.

Was the crucifixion necessary for forgiveness of sin, as asserted by so much of Christendom? No, Jesus demonstrated his power to forgive before the crucifixion.

When Jesus appeared to his disciples after his resurrection he explained to them the events surrounding his crucifixion and resurrection.

Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures, and said unto them, Thus it is written, and thus it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day: And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. (Luke 24:45-47)

Man’s greatest offense before God is death. We were created to be living beings, but when we walk contrary to the light of Christ that has enlightened us, we die. If I am dead, more death is not going to alleviate my condition. If I am dead, my “salvation” is effected only by being made alive again. “The hour is come and now is when the dead shall hear the voice of the son and those who will hear shall live” i.e. come up out of their graves, living beings. (See Ezekiel 37:11-14 and John 5:24-25) The only way to repent of being dead is to become alive, which is beyond the capability of mankind. We can be sorry for being dead, we can be remorseful for being dead, but we can’t repent for being dead. We can turn a full 360 degrees, but we can only repent in the presence of an outside offer of life! That is why repentance from death and remission of death is to be proclaimed in Jesus’ authority which rests entirely on his life. This demands a present, functional Christ who is actively involved in every step of salvation and subsequent life.

So what did Jesus accomplish by his death on the cross?

I must discuss the crucifixion and the resurrection as an inseparable whole. I can’t parcel them out as an anatomist would dissect an object of study. Let’s start by looking at Jesus’ trial before the crucifixion. He told Pilate,

To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth. (John 18:37)

A large component of that “truth” is that the power of life, that life that was breathed into man in the beginning that made them living beings, is greater than the power of death. Jesus, as the writer of John indicated, is the Word become flesh, in whom is the life that is the light of mankind. He made man living beings in the beginning. As he hung on the cross, Jesus cried out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” In his death and resurrection, he encountered spiritual death, Satan’s greatest weapon, and overcame it. “All power in heaven and earth is given me,” said the resurrected Jesus. The arch enemy of our souls is defeated and holds no power over all who walk in the presence of the eternal shepherd. We encounter this power, we live by this power when we love and obey the light of Christ within us.

This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth: But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the…[life] of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all…[death]. (1 John 1:5-7)

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Through the Lens of Passover: Part 10

I encourage you to sit down and read these final chapters of John (i.e. 13-21). There are many events and important concepts that I am not going to touch on. What I am going to do is pull together a number of passages from these chapters. This concatenation will be clearer if you are familiar with the surrounding text. But for now, I am going to pull them together without providing chapter and verse.

I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but by me. If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will pray the Father, and he will give you another Counselor, to be with you for ever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him; you know him, for he dwells with you, and will be in you. I will not leave you desolate; I will come to you. Yet a little while, and the world will see me no more, but you will see me; because I live you will live also, In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. He who has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me; and he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him. Judas, not Iscariot, said to him, Lord, how is it that you will manifest yourself to us, and not to the world? Jesus answered him, If a man loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. He who does not love me does not keep my words; and the word which you hear is not mine but the Father’s who sent me. I am the true vine. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. Apart from me you can do nothing. As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you; abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. I have said this to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world. Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you, since you have given him power over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.

The Jewish authorities arrested Jesus and tried him before the Sanhedrin. They took him to Pilate with the hope of having him crucified.

Pilate said to him, So you are a king? Jesus answered, You say that I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I have come into the world, to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears my voice.

And so Jesus was crucified by the Romans with the approval of the Jewish authorities. And on the third day after his crucifixion, Jesus rose from the dead. John then states,

Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in his name [i.e. his authority or character].

Paul wrote,

The first man Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam was made a quickening spirit. (1 Cor. 15:45)

This is the picture I get reading through the passages above. Our first man was created to be a living being. The last Adam, or last man, is the quickening spirit that breathed life into man and woman in the begining. If we turn from that life, by turning from the true light that enlightens everyone, we die. If we walk in the true light, the “last Adam” breathes life into us.

The passages from John that I have quoted above are: (14:6), (14:15-24), (15:1-10), (16:33), (17:2-3), (18:37), and (20:30-31).

In my next post I will take up the question of what Jesus accomplished in his crucifixion and resurrection.

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Through the Lens of Passover: Part 9

We now come to the final “lesson” (but not my final post) in the book of John, which comprises chapters 11 to the end. These are the events that take place near or during the final Passover of Jesus’ earthly life. My title, Through the Lens of Passover, is meant to convey the sense of looking at the text to see what it says about the passage from death to life.

The book of John makes frequent use of the Passover as a means of highlighting this theme, which is a different approach from the books of Matthew, Mark, or Luke. Where the teaching of Christendom, in general, places salvation in the events surrounding Jesus’ crucifixion, the author of the book of John has, throughout this work, pointed people to a living relationship of hearing and following the voice of Jesus today as the source of life and salvation. The original participants in the Passover were to paint the lamb’s life [i.e. its blood] on their door post to signal the angel of death to pass over that household. Jesus said, “the words I am speaking to you,these are breath, these are life.” This life, this “these-words-I-am-speaking-to-you”, we are to paint upon the heart, the doorpost of our innermost being.

Chapter 11 contains the events of Lazarus’ death and how Jesus raised him from the dead. This sets the stage for the rest of the book.

When Martha, one of Lazarus’ sisters, said, “If you had been here my brother would not have died,” Jesus stated,

I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and whoever lives and believes in me shall never die. (11:25-26)

And in proof of the point, Jesus called, “Lazarus, come forth.” Even though he had been four days dead, he came walking out of the grave.

Humanity has dwelt in death, has been a slave to death, and is subject to manipulation by the fear of death. All the tools of power deal in death and the threat of death. But there is something more powerful. Isaiah wrote,

And all your children shall be taught of [by] the LORD; and great shall be the peace of your children. In righteousness you shall be established: you will be far from oppression; for you will not fear: and from terror; for it shall not come near you.(Isaiah 54:13-14)

Why do you have great peace and freedom from fear? Because the teacher is here. There is no reason to fear death nor to be manipulated by death when the one who is resurrection and life calls you “come forth” and teaches you to walk in life. The power of life is greater than the power of death.

Jesus’ crucifixion is not the source of life. It was a failed attempt to stop life; a double failure. For not only did Jesus demonstrate, “I am the resurrection” but death itself became the captive of life. Death had once been a terminal point, but now the wall is breached. The resurrection and the life surround you as a shield. This is the Passover, the passage to life. This is the substance of the shadow. The Jewish Passover was a celebration of an event in history. “Behold the lamb of God who takes away the death of the world” takes place here and now. “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,” said the Psalmist, “I will fear no evil. For thou art with me.”

How do we become partakers of this Passover, this resurrection and life?

As recorded in chapter 12, Jesus stated

Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. He who loves his life loses it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. If any one serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there shall my servant be also; if anyone serves me, the Father will honor him. (12:24-26)

Let’s be clear about this, because it makes sense when we understand it correctly. If you plant a field of wheat and the seed dies, you get no harvest. The seed contains a living embryo that must stay alive. When the seed is planted and the temperature and moisture of the soil are right, that embryo breaks dormancy and begins to feed upon the resources stored in the seed. It puts roots deeper into the ground and raises stem and leaf above ground. The seed is consumed in this process, nurturing the embryo until it can draw water and minerals from the soil and photosynthesize these raw materials into the food it needs to continue growing and to produce the next harvest.

You can love the seed, but you must love it for the sake of the embryo. The seed is consumed so that life may flourish. He who hordes the seed, refusing to plant it, kills the embryo, destroys the life, and remains in death and darkness.

The life of Christ, the words-I-am-speaking-to-you, is the embryo more precious than anything else. There are many illustrations in scripture of the growth of this embryo: “you must be born again,” “unless a grain of wheat fall into the earth and die,” “he who loves his life loses it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life,” and “take up your cross and follow me.” The embryo grows at the expense of our own fleshly will, pride, and kingdom. These must die that the embryo can develop and mature. The embryo emerges and the life of God is manifest within us. In that life we are made partakers of the Passover, and the resurrection.

Such statements as these caused his hearers to wonder, “Just who is this guy?” In answer to this question Jesus said,

The light is with you for a little longer. Walk while you have the light, lest the darkness overtake you; he who walks in the darkness does not know where he goes. While you have the light, believe in the light, that you may become sons of light. (12: 34-36)


I have come as light into the world, that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness. (12:46)

The Greek word used here means literally or figuratively obscurity or darkness, which fits with the text until one remembers that Jesus would not have been speaking Greek. It is much more likely that when he spoke of darkness, he would have been using the Hebrew understanding. If we look at Isaiah 42 where the Messiah is made a light to bring the prisoners out of darkness, that word has the connotations of misery, destruction, death, ignorance, sorrow, and wickedness as well as obscurity and darkness.

These last two quotes from chapter 12 recapture the ideas of this post. They show us the contrast between life, i.e. light, and death, i.e. darkness. We understand that just as light overcomes darkness, so life conquers death. The world deals in the currency of death. I-am-the-resurrection-and-the-life has set that currency aside, making it obsolete and worthless by calling “come forth.” Those who walk in the light and believe in the light become sons of the day and no longer abide in darkness.

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Through the Lens of Passover: part 8

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want, he makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters, he restores my soul. He leads me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.  

Yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil, my cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord for ever. (Psalm 23)

Jesus’ discourse in John 10:1-14 concerning the shepherd and the sheep is his answer to the question posed by the Pharisees, “Are we also blind?” The eye that is turned toward the light is the eye that sees. The ear that is turned toward the shepherd is the ear that hears. The heart that is inclined toward the shepherd is the sheep that follows.

The pastures are not a safe grazing place. The lion and the wolf are present. Safety does not come from the watchful eye of the sheep nor from being together as a flock. Safety lies only in the presence of the shepherd. The lion and wolf have no power sufficient to pluck sheep out of the shepherd’s hand.

In George Fox’s letter addressed to “All the Kings, Princes, and Governors in the Whole World…” he lays out what following Christ looks like.

So now Christ is come, and you that are called christians will confess him; but how does he exercise his offices in you, or amongst you?

His office, as he is a counsellor; do you hear his voice from heaven, concerning your heavenly state: his office, as he is a leader to lead you out of sin and evil, and to rule in your hearts by faith, as a commander: his office, as he is a shepherd, are you his sheep? and do ye hear his voice? for Christ saith, “I am the good shepherd, and give my life for the sheep:” and again, “I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and I am known of mine.”

“And he calleth his sheep by name, and leadeth them out; and when he hath put forth his sheep, he goeth before them; and his sheep follow him, for they know his voice.” (Works, Vol. V, 319)

Isaiah, in chapter 53, described The iniquity of us all that caused the suffering of the servant. “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way.” Jesus’ statement, “The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep” is an acknowledgment of being that suffering servant. His accomplishment is to draw the wandering sheep back to their rightful place as followers of the shepherd.

“I am the good shepherd, and give my life for the sheep” (verse 11) is often misunderstood. Instead of reading that as “I die for the sheep,” we need to look at that verse in light of verse 10: “The thief comes to kill and destroy. I am come that you might have life, and that more abundantly.” If the shepherd dies for the sheep, the sheep have only his death, not life. “I have power to lay … [down my life]. I have power to take it up again.” (John 10:18) If the sheep have abundant life, they have a living shepherd who, by all he does (present tense) as shepherd, gives his life to the flock. This is the passage from death to life. It comes by receiving the instructions that open our eyes to the eternal light, open our ears to hear the voice of the shepherd, and incline our hearts to follow.

If I am not doing the works of my Father, then do not believe me; but if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father. (John 10:37-38)

What are these works that should cause us to know and understand that “the Father is in me and I am in the Father”? Some will tell you that it was the miracles he performed. It was impressive that a man born blind could be made to see and that his brain would have been reordered to make sense of this new sensory input. But the real work of the Father is making those who hear and respond to the voice of the shepherd into living beings. Life will not fit into the man-made “Christian” religion any better than the man who received his sight could be accepted by the Jewish authorities.

This is why I have stated there are consequences to hearing and following the voice of the shepherd. Life cannot be hidden. You can’t follow the old fleecers of the flock and follow the shepherd. You are faced with an either/or decision. It is not a difficult decision when one realizes that it is a choice between sheepfold or thieves and robbers, between pastures of life or feeding lions and wolves, and between the hireling who flees at the sight of the wolf or the shepherd who can keep the flock through all dangers.

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