The Final Destinies of the City of God and the Earthly City – part 3

Last time, we ended with the saints entering the threshold of eternal bliss with their Creator, and the citizens of the earthy city entering their own new domain – the city of the devil. 

“…and they will come out – those who did good things [will come out] to a resurrection of [new] life, but those who did evil things [will come out] to a resurrection of judgment [that is, to be sentenced].” Jn. 5:29 AMP

“The Son of Man will send forth His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all stumbling blocks, and those who commit lawlessness, and will throw them into the furnace of fire; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father.” Mt. 13:41 – 43. NASB

“Then these [unbelieving people] will go away into eternal (unending) punishment, but those who are righteous and in right standing with God [will go, by His remarkable grace] into eternal (unending) life.” Mt. 25:26 AMP

So, regardless of what many people want to believe, (that there is no hell, no consequences for sin), here is the validation of the truth – right out of the mouth of our Savior.

We see that the punishment is permanent. We also know that the unbelievers / willfully rebellious will suffer everlasting retribution in their bodies, which cannot be registered unless the owner of that body is contiguous with his or her soul. Therefore, whatever the nature of their corrupted bodies, they can suffer their penal wounds and yet remain sustainable. That is truly hell.

“If your hand causes you to stumble and sin, cut it off [that is, remove yourself from the source of temptation]! It is better for you to enter life crippled, than to have two hands and go into hell, into the unquenchable fire, [where their worm does not die, and the fire is not put out.] Mk. 9:43, 44. AMP

You see now, the urgency that we, as Christ’s followers, have in sounding the alarm to the unbelievers – to show them the way to salvation. 

Many unbelievers and lukewarm Christians would protest, saying that an all-loving God could not produce such a hell. Ironically, they are right, but not in the way you might suspect. Satan perverted his environment and God banished him to it, as well as those who choose to follow in his footsteps.

And the devil who had deceived them was hurled into the lake of fire and burning brimstone (sulfur), where the beast (Antichrist) and false prophet are also; and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever. Rv. 20:10 AMP 

These same doubters may again profess opposition to what they think is the ‘unfairnesses’ of the eternal aspect of this punishment. There are a couple of things to consider. First, there will be no time. Thus, the length of the sentence of the punished, will not be able to be discerned. Two, and most importantly, God has warned all of humankind since the beginning of their presence on earth, of this outcome, should they steadfastly reject him. Moreover, He gave each of them a lifetime to come around.

…he who destroyed in himself a good which might have been eternal, became worthy of eternal evil…for he who at first gave entrance to sin has been punished with all his posterity who were in him as in a root, so that no one is exempt from this just and due punishment, unless delivered by mercy and undeserved grace… – St. Augustine 

Moreover, God must keep His word, in order to maintain His truth.

Whoever, therefore, desires to escape eternal punishment, let him not only be baptized, but also justified in Christ, and so let him in truth pass from the devil to Christ. – St. Augustine

Thank God that His children in the eternal city of God have a far different destiny…

That destiny begins with having God Himself in their presence. 

Your dead will live; their dead bodies will rise. You who lie in the dust, awake and shout for joy! For your dew is a dew of [celestial] light [heavenly, supernatural], and the earth will give birth to the spirits of the dead. Is. 26:19 AMP

“Now at that [end] time Michael, the great [angelic] prince who stands guard over the children of your people will arise…at the time your people, everyone who is found written in the Book [of Life], will be rescued. Dan. 12:1 AMP

‘…the saints (believers) of the Most High [God] will receive the kingdom and possess the kingdom forever, for all ages to come.’ Dan. 7:18 AMP

How are we going to be when we enter heaven on earth?

“…not a hair of your head will be lost.” LK. 21:18 NKJV

…we all reach unity of faith and of the knowledge of God’s Son, growing into maturity with a stature measured by Christ’s fullness. Eph. 4:13 CSB

…He was conformed to us by assuming mortality, we shall be conformed to Him by immortality… St. Augustine

…equal to the angels in immortality and happiness… St. Augustine

…deformity shall perish… St. Augustine

In the city of God, we are complete, whole, happy and immortal. It doesn’t matter what happened to your earthly body: buried in the ground, cremated, eaten by a bear, etc. God gives you an immortal, incorruptible body. We were condemned on earth due to Adam’s sin, but in our eternal house, we are made ultimately clean by the blood of Jesus:

…it is sown a natural body [mortal, suited to earth], it is raised a spiritual body [immortal, suited to heaven]. As surely as there is a physical body, there is also a spiritual body. 1 Cor. 15:44 AMP

Our new body is vibrant and healthy – physically and mentally, and it is subject to the spirit, no longer given to sin. Even our free will won’t go there, thank God.

When this promise is fulfilled, what shall we be? What blessings shall we receive in that kingdom, since already we have received as the pledge of them Christ’s dying? In what condition shall the spirit of man be, when it has no longer any vice at all; when it neither yields to any, nor is in bondage to any, nor has to make war against any, but is perfected and enjoys undisturbed peace with itself? Shall it not then know all things with certainty, and without any labor or error, when unhindered and joyful it drinks the wisdom of God at the fountainhead? What shall the body be, when it is in every respect subject to the spirit, from which it shall draw a life so sufficient, as to strand in need of no the nutriment? For it shall no longer be animal, but spiritual, having indeed the substance of flesh, but without any fleshly corruption. – St. Augustine

And the peace of God [that peace which reassures the heart, that peace] which transcends all understanding, [that peace which] stands guard over your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus [is yours]. Phil. 4:7 AMP 

At total peace, filled with the knowledge and love of God:

For we know in part, and we prophesy in part [for our knowledge is fragmentary and incomplete]. But when that which is complete and perfect comes, that which is incomplete and partial will pass away. 1 Cor. 13:9, 10. AMP

For now [in this time of imperfection] we see in a mirror dimly [a blurred reflection, a riddle, an enigma], but then [when the time of perfection comes we will see reality] face to face. Now I know in part [just in fragments], but then I will know fully, just as I have been fully known [by God]. 1 Cor. 13:12 AMP

And, we’ll get to meet Jesus!

Beloved, we are [even here and] now children of God, and it is not yet made clear what we will be [after His coming]. We know that when He comes and is revealed, we will [as His children] be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is [in all His glory]. 1 Jn. 3:2 AMP

Doesn’t that just fill you with awesome expectation? 

“Blessed [anticipating God’s presence, spiritually mature] are the pure in heart [those with integrity, moral courage, and godly character], for they will see God.” Mt. 5:8 AMP

Are you getting excited yet? 

And [I pray] that the eyes of your heart [the very center and core of your being] may be enlightened [flooded with light by the Holy Spirit], so that you will know and cherish the hope [the divine guarantee, the confident expectation] to which He has called you, the riches of HIs glorious inheritance in the saints (God’s people)… Eph. 1:18 AMP

How great shall be that felicity, which shall be tainted with no evil, which shall lack no good, and which shall afford leisure for the praises of God, who shall be all in all!  St. Augustine 

And, there will be gifts / honors bestowed upon everyone in accordance to their good deeds. 

There shall be the great Sabbath which has no evening…There we shall rest and see, see and love, love and praise. Thais is what shall be in the end without end. St. Augustine

Finally, we get with the Father and the Son – forever:

…when all things are subjected to Him (Christ), then the Son Himself will also be subjected to the One (the Father) who put all things under Him, so that God may be all in all [manifesting His glory without any opposition, the supreme indwelling and controlling factor of life]. 1 Cor. 15:28 AMP

Such a wonder awaits. Spread the news…

This marks the end of our 5-month journey through the City of God, written by St. Augustine of Hippo, and translated by Marcus Dods. I hope that our excursion through this deeper theology has brought you value.  

Goodnight and God bless. 

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The Final Destinies of the City of God and the Earthly City – part 2

Since the beginning of the commingled history of these two cities, God has judged the citizenry – beginning with Adam and Eve. This continual judgment could have been avoided had the citizens adhered to the word of God. But alas, we have human weakness and a proclivity towards self-indulgence:

…no man acts rightly save by the assistance of divine aid; and no man or devil acts unrighteously save by the permission of the divine and most just judgment. – St. Augustine

‘For I know the plans and thoughts that I have for you,’ says the LORD, ‘plans for peace and well-being and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.’ Jer. 29:11 AMP

God’s plan is bigger than we can fully comprehend. We see some good people live difficult lives while we also witness many of dubious character live lives of wealthy excess with a continual satiation of sinful appetites – where it seems that no apparent penalty is being applied. 

In spite of what looks like an unresolved imbalance, (which somehow fits into God’s design), at the end of all present things, God has wondrous things in store for His children in the city of God, of whom all receive His promised eternal rewards:

And we know [with great confidence] that God [who is deeply concerned about us] causes all things to work together [as a plan] for good for those who love God, to those who are called according to HIs plan and purpose. Rm. 8:28 AMP

So, regardless of our difficulties in this earthly life, we must do our best to stay on Jehovah’s path:

…in these days of vanity it makes an important difference whether he resists or yields to the truth, and whether he is destitute of true piety of a partaker of it – important not so far as regards the acquirement of the blessings or the evasion of the calamities of this transitory and vain life, but in connection with the future judgment which shall make over to good men good things, and to bad men band things…For whosever has real existence is this, is a keeper of God’s commandments; and he who is not this, is nothing. For so long as he means in the likeness of vanity, he is not renewed in the image of the truth… – St. Augustine

When all has been heard, the end of the matter is: fear God [worship Him with awe-filled reverence, knowing that He is almighty God] and keep His commandments, of this applies to every person. For God will bring every act to judgment, every hidden and secret thing, whether it is good or evil. Eccl. 12:13, 14. AMP

To better understand that end, we must visit the events in the book of Revelation. Accordingly, however you view the concept of the ‘rapture,’ there will be a time when many of God’s children will be sequestered from the tumultuous events during the tribulations. In addition, there will be some holdouts that come to salvation through Christ as that time.

Thus, the city of God, (which we must remember is also the ‘kingdom of God’, exists in the present, but has its full realization at the end of time), is co-existing with the city of the earth during the tribulations. 

The resurrection of the ‘two witnesses’ signals the end of the tribulations, and the last chance for any of the city of the earth to change citizenship is then lost…

Following will be the ‘first resurrection,’ that is when the elders, the dead and still living saints, the Jewish converts to Christ, the ‘great multitude’ and the two witnesses come to reign with Christ on the earth for 1000 years

Note that nations are still existing on the earth (those unbelievers that managed to escape death during the tribulations – still having babies). All other dead unbelievers will stay dead during this ‘millennium.’  So, in effect, the city of God is again co-habituating this earth with the living remnant of the citizens of the city of the earth, all of whom are existing in their ‘soul state.’

During this 1000-year period, remember that the devil is bound up with the rebel angels in the abyss. (Rv. 20:1-3). And so, he has no direct influence in this time.

Thus, all without exception, were dead in sins, whether original or voluntary sins, sins of ignorance, or sins committed against knowledge; and for all the dead there died the only person who lived, that is, who had no sin whatever, in order that those who live by the remission of their sins should live, not to themselves, but to Him who died for all, for our sins, and rose again for our justification, that we believing in Him who justifies the ungodly, and being justified from ungodliness or quickened from death, may be able to attain to the first resurrection which now is. 

For in this first resurrection none have a part save those who shall be eternally blessed; but in the second, of which He goes on to speak, all, as we shall learn, have a part, both the blessed and the wretched. The one is the resurrection of mercy, the other of judgment. – St. Augustine (see Jn. 5:28,29.)

He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love… Col. 1:13 NKJV

Blessed and holy is he who has part in the first resurrection. Over such, the second death has no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with Him a thousand years. Rv. 20:6 NKJV

After the 1000 years have elapsed, the devil is loosed, whereupon he seduces those outside of the church to make war against Christ and His followers. Thank God, the devil and his minions lose this final battle in a big way and are devoured by divine fire.

We have now come to the end of time, the day of the LORD, judgment day. Those citizens of the now eternal city of God are not subject to a ‘second resurrection,’ but enter into their eternal promise with their new immortal, incorruptible bodies, living on a new earth, resting in new heavens, in the city of God, New Jerusalem, which has come down from heaven.

“For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth; and the former shall not come to mind. Be glad and rejoice in whatever I create; for behold, I create Jerusalem as a rejoicing, and her people a joy. I will rejoice in Jerusalem, and joy in My people; the voice of weeping shall no longer be heard in her, nor the voice of crying.” Is. 65:17 – 19. NKJV

And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, arrayed like a bride adorned for her husband; and then I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, “See! The tabernacle of God is among men, and He will live among them, and they will be His people, and God Himself will be with them [as their God,] and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there will no longer be sorrow and anguish, or crying, or pain; for the former order of things has passed away.” And He who sits on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Rv. 21:2 – 5. AMP

Now they themselves, when they have been purified, shall be sacrifices of complete and perfect righteousness; for what more acceptable offering can such persons make to God than themselves? – St. Augustine

Unfortunately, those who have steadfastly rejected the Father and the Son, are resurrected for a second time – to judgment, damned to the ‘second death.’ They do not get incorruptible bodies, but rise with bodies that are changed in such a way that they cannot truly die, but must suffer eternal anguish:

“For just as the new heavens and the new earth, which I will make, will remain before me” – this is the LORD’s declaration – “so you offspring and your name will remain. All mankind will come to worship me…they will see the dead bodies of those who have rebelled against me; for their worm will never die, their fire will never go out, and they will be a horror to all mankind.” Is. 66:22 – 24. CSB

Yes, this is the final judgment, where everyone meets Jesus:

For the Father judges no one, but has given all judgment [that is, the prerogative of judging] to the Son [placing it entirely into His hands]… Jn. 5:22 AMP

It is at this point that the two cities are finally separated into two distinct final destinies: the city of God to heaven on earth, and the city of earth (now the city of the devil), to Satan’s damnation. How does that look? We’ll take a look see next time…

Goodnight and God bless. 

The Final Destinies of the City of God and the Earthly City

Thus, begins the wind-up for St. Augustine’s City of God, translated by Marcus Dods. St. Augustine first describes the framework in which this discussion lies:

…by the end of good, we at present mean, not that by which good is destroyed, so that it no longer exists, but that by which it is finished, so that it becomes complete; and by the end of evil we mean, not that which abolishes it, but that which completes its development. These two ends, therefore are the supreme good and the supreme evil…

From the viewpoint of the city of God, the supreme good is represented by eternal life, and the supreme evil by eternal death. To have the former and avoid the latter, we must live according to God’s ways. Yet, we often fall short, and so we turn to the author and perfecter of our faith, Jesus Christ, and petition Him for forgiveness and for HIs strength that we may increase our alignment with Him:

…we walk by faith, not by sight [living our lives in a manner consistent with our confident belief in God’s promises] – 2 Cor. 5:7 AMP

Out of that strength, we build upon the virtues we acquire through godly living, so as to do our best to overcome the temptations of vice:

I can do all things [which He has called me to do] through Him who strengthens and empowers me [to fulfill His purpose – I am self-sufficient in Christ’s sufficiency; I am ready for anything and equal to anything through Him who infuses me with inner strength and confident peace.] Phil. 4:13 AMP

Still, until Christ’s return, the devil will not relent; and so, strength and discernment will be required until we make our heavenly transition, whereupon evil will not exist in the city of God. So then, we can say that our ultimate happiness will be realized in our salvation, vivified in incorruptible flesh that is not given into sin, but represents our heavenly suit, in which we live out our eternal joy and peace.

And our city is none other then the New Jerusalem, (‘Jerusalem’ can be translated as ‘vision of peace’):

Praise the LORD, O Jerusalem! Praise your God, O Zion! For he strengthens the bars of your gates; he blesses your children within you. Ha makes peace in your borders… Ps. 147:12 – 14. ESV

“…the name of the city of my God – the new Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from my God…” Rv. 3:12 CSB

Peace between man and God is the well-ordered obedience of faith to eternal law. Peace between man and man is well-ordered concord. Domestic peace is the well-ordered concord between those of the family who rule and those who obey. Civil peace is a similar concord among the citizens. The peace of the celestial city is the perfectly ordered and harmonious enjoyment of God, and of one another in God. – St. Augustine

We can also take comfort in the deaths of our loved ones who took Jesus at His word, knowing that they will be waiting for us.

Whereas, those unfortunate inhabitants of the earthly city have only demonic oppression and eternal punishment in their future (as a result of their rebellious wills):

For he who laments the peace his nature has lost is stirred to do so by some relics of peace which make his nature friendly to itself. And it is very just that in the final punishment the wicked and godless should in anguish bewail the loss of the natural advantages they enjoyed, and should perceive that they were most justly taken from them by that God whose benign liberality they had despised. – St. Augustine

What do we do to stay ready for our transition? We must live by two rules:

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and most important command. The second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself.” Mt. 22:37 – 39. CSB

During this time, we will still be confronted by evil. Thankfully, we can call upon our Savior to fight that fight, and help us see the purpose in it:

For even when we wage a just war, our adversaries must be sinning; and every victory, even though gained by wicked men, is a result of the first judgment of God, who humbles the vanquished either for the sake of removing or of punishing their sins.

To be innocent, we must not only do harm to no man, but also restrain him from sin to punish his sin, so that either the man himself who is punished may profit by his experience, or others be warned by his example. – St. Augustine

We are blessed to be citizens of the city of God, waiting for our assured eternal blessing. We keep our focus on that, so that we can better endure the trials of this broken world. Our city stands against the city of the earth, as our focus and thinking are diametrically opposed; so, we will suffer persecution for our faith.

Still, we keep calling out to all people, inviting them to our city, to join us in our pilgrimage. We are helping God fill His book of Life by ascribing to a heavenly balance:

No man has a right to lead such a life of contemplation as to forget in his own ease the service due his neighbor; nor has any man a right to be so immersed in active life as to neglect the contemplation of God. – St. Augustine

The best we can do on this earth is to try to make our lives a ‘living prayer’ to our God, and keep our joy centered on our eternal city, wherein lies our supreme good.

Those who choose to remain in the citizenry of the city of earth will experience the ‘second death,’ where their souls are eternally separated from their Creator, their bodies subject to pain, and there shall be no end to it.

For those who love God, we have a far far better fate…

Next time.

Goodnight and God bless.

Standing Upon Godly Shoulders – part 6

King David’s allotted time on the city of the earthborn was passed. He now lives in the city of God. Before his death, he handed his kingdom over to his son, Solomon.

There are only 2 psalms attributed to Solomon in the book of the same name. One is messianic:

In His days the righteous shall flourish, and the abundance of peace, until the moon is no more. He shall have dominion from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth…all kings shall fall down before Him; all nations shall serve Him…His name shall endure forever; His name shall continue as long as the sun. And men shall be blessed in Him… Ps. 72:7 & 11. NKJV

Always, our champions from the city of God are laying out Jehovah’s hope for salvation, so as to attract as many as possible to the kingdom of heaven.

Unfortunately, like his father, King Solomon also fell into sin, whereby his many wives led him away from God. In addition, Solomon also let his extreme wealth corrupt him. (1 Kin. 11:1 – 13).

God told him that his punishment would be levied against his son, upon Solomon’s death, whereby the country of Israel would become bitterly divided.

Yet before Solomon died, he again realized that God was indeed the source of all joy, happiness, peace and sustenance; and he returned to be in right-standing with Him. (See book of Ecclesiastes).

After Solomon’s demise, Israel split into ‘Israel’ in the north, and ‘Judah’ in the south. Eventually, both countries would fall into a sin-infected morass. All of Israel’s kings were wicked, as was most of Judah’s. As a result of these rebellions against God, Israel was given up to total conquest and slavery to the Assyrians; and not long after, Judah was given up to the Babylonians.

Yet God, in His limitless love, sent sixteen prophets to them, to try to turn them back to His ways. Indeed, St. Augustine adroitly describes the common message – both for HIs children with regards to the application for their present time, and its relevance for what’s at stake for their future:

…by going forward in the living God, by the steps of faith, which works by love, we must flee out of the city of this world, which is altogether a society of ungodly angels and men. Yes, the greater we see the power of the demons to be in these depths, so much the more tenaciously must we cleave to the Mediator through whom we ascend from these lowest to the highest places.

…demons can accomplish nothing by their natural power…except what He may permit, whose judgments are often hidden, but never unrighteous. …demons…do not create real substances, but only change the appearances of things created by the true God so as to make them seem to be what they are not. 

That is, we must live in God’s ways, by faith, claiming the city of God from His grace, and cleave unto Christ as He brings us out of the illusions of the puppet master behind the city of the earth.

God loves us so much, that He never leaves anything to chance. As was mentioned above, God sent prophets, both while Israel and Judah were wallowing in sinful rebellion and while they were in captivity – a period of over 400 years, to try to save His children. We can see God’s love and care in His words to them as He continues to proffer His message of hope:

“Yet the number of the children of Israel shall be as the sand of the sea, which cannot be measured or numbered. And it shall come to pass where it was said to them, You are not My people,’ there it shall be said to them, ‘You are sons of the living God.’ Hos. 1:10 NKJV

Here then, the prophet Hosea is recalling / reminding / validating the Abrahamic covenant to the people of Israel about the global propagation of the seed of Abraham, their trials due to their rebellion, and then their ultimate restoration – when God gathers all His children from around the globe to be one people in the city of God.

Afterward the sons of Israel will return [in deep repentance] and seek the LORD their God and seek [from the line of] David their king [the King of kings – the Messiah]; and they will come trembling to the LORD and to His goodness and blessing in the last days. Hos. 3:5 AMP

Ultimately, everyone will come to Jesus.

“Come and let us return [in repentance] to the LORD, for He has torn us, but He will heal us; He has wounded us, but He will bandage us. After two days He will revive us; on the third day He will raise us up that we may live before Him.” Hos. 6:1, 2. AMP

God must let us suffer some the consequences of our free-will actions / thoughts of sin. Yet, all He wants for us, is to come before Him and get in right relationship again. See too the parallel between the third day and the resurrection of our Savior.

“In that day I shall raise up and restore the fallen tabernacle (booth) of David, and wall up its breaches [in the city walls]; I will also raise up and restore its ruins and rebuild it as it was in the days of old, that they may possess the remnant of Edom (ancient enemies) and all the nations that are called by My name.” Amos 9:11, 12. AMP

Amos was a contemporary prophet in Israel to Hosea. We see here the promised restoration of the city of God, which includes the children of God throughout the world – gathered to HIs throne.

Jonah too, was a contemporary of Hosea. In his case, it was not so much what he said, as it was his story of being captured 3 days ‘under the earth’ in the belly of the great fish and being delivered, that is another parallel to Christ’s death and resurrection.

Unfortunately, the people of Israel turned a deaf ear to all of these prophets, and were summarily punished by the Assyrian conquest and exile…

Before those 3 prophets began their prophecies, the prophet Joel preached to the country of Judah:

“It will come about after this that I will pour out My Spirit on all mankind; and your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions.” Joel 2:28 NASB

This began at Pentecost, at the gathering of the first church – ushering in the modern church age, equipping the children of God to go forth and gather souls for the kingdom.

Just after Jonah’s time, the prophet Micah began prophesying in Judah:

In the last days, the mountain of the LORD’s house will be the highest of all – the most important place on earth. It will be raised above the other hills, and people from all over the world will stream there to worship.

People from many nations will come and say, “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of Jacob’s God. There he will teach us his ways and we will walk in his paths”…They will hammer their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will no longer fight against nation, nor train for war anymore. Mic. 4:1 – 3. NLT

“But as for you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you One will go forth for Me to be ruler in Israel. His goings forth are from long ago, from the days of eternity”…And He will arise and shepherd His flock in the strength of the LORD, in the majesty of the name of the LORD His God. And they will remain, because at that time He will be great to the ends of the earth. Mic. 5:2 & 4. NASB

700 years before Christ is incarnated, we are given these blessing of hope – of a unified heaven on earth with our blessed Savior at the helm, as well as telling us of Jesus’ very birthplace for His coming!

The prophet Isaiah was a contemporary of Micah. His Holy Spirit-inspired prophetic revelations are uncannily accurate:

Indeed, My Servant (the Messiah) will act wisely and prosper; He will be raised and lifted up and greatly exalted…So He will sprinkle many nations [with His blood, providing salvation], Kings will shut their mouths because of Him; for what they had not been told they will see, and what they had not heard they will understand. Is. 52:13 & 15. AMP

For He [the servant of God] grew up before Him like a tender shoot (plant), and like a root out of dry ground; He has no stately form or majestic splendor that we would look at Him…He was despised and rejected by men, a Man of sorrows and pain and acquainted with grief…But [in fact] He has borne our griefs, and He has carried our sorrows and pains…wounded for our transgressions, He was crushed for our wickedness [our sin, our injustice, our wrongdoing]…and by His stripes (wounds) we are healed. Is. 53:2 – 5. AMP

All of us like sheep have god astray, we have turned, each one, to his own way; but the LORD has caused the wickedness of us all [our sin, our injustice, our wrongdoing] to fall on Him [instead of us].

He was oppressed and He was afflicted, yet He did not open His mouth [to complain or defend Himself]; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter…He was cut off from the land of the living [by His death] for the transgression of My people…He had done no violence, nor was there any deceit in His mouth. Yet the LORD was willing to crush Him, causing Him to suffer; if He would give Himself as a guilt offering [an atonement for sin]…As a result of the anguish of His soul, He shall see it and be satisfied; by His knowledge [of what He has accomplished] the Righteous One, My Servant, shall justify the many [making them righteous – upright before God, in right standing with Him], for He shall her [the responsibility for] their sins. Is. 53:7 – 11. AMP

I have to stop now before this post becomes a novella. It’s just that God’s plan is so awe-inspiring, the depths of the love of He and His Son so unfathomable, and the hope so grand, it makes you want to get on your knees and thank and bless Jehovah God and Jesus Christ for what they have laid before us – this remarkable, incredible sacrifice of love, so that we might take residence in the city of God…

Goodnight and God bless.

Standing Upon Godly Shoulders – part 4

Approximately 225 years had elapsed since the passing since our last godly champion, Joshua, walked the earth. In that timespan, the nation of Israel had again distanced themselves from following God. Even the priesthood was corrupted. Furthermore, the Philistines were continually assaulting the Israelites.

God decided again to help His children move forward on the path that He had intended for them:

There was a woman by the name of Hannah, (meaning ‘His grace’), whom God had kept barren (1 Sam. 1:6) until she went to the temple in Shiloh to pray, whereupon she petitioned Jehovah for a son. She promised Him that if He were to grant her request, she would dedicate him to the priesthood once he was weaned.

She and her husband conceived, and named the boy Samuel, meaning ‘name of God.’ As she pledged, she brought the boy to the temple at the appointed time. We hear no more about Hannah except for the prayer that she uttered after she had delivered her son to the priest, Eli. However, if we dissect her prayer, we can see that Jehovah imbued this blessed servant woman of God with a plethora of revelations and prophecy within that prayer that she herself could not have known:

1 Sam. 2:1 – 10. AMP:

“My heart rejoices and triumphs in the LORD; my horn (strength) is lifted up in the LORD, my mouth has opened wide [to speak boldly] against my enemies, because I rejoice in Your salvation.

There is no one holy like the LORD, there is no one besides You, there is no rock like our God.

[I’m going to elicit a little help from St. Augustine of Hippo’s book City of God, (translated by Marcus Dods), and some additional scripture, for some additional investigative discourse. I’m 3/4 the way through this 781-page book. I hope you have derived some value from what we’ve examined from that work.]

Through her prayer, we see that Hannah knows her spiritual strength comes from God alone; and she looks prophetically forward to His salvation (through Christ).

Do not go on boasting so very proudly, do not let arrogance come out of your mouth; for the LORD is a God of knowledge, and by Him actions are weighed (examined).

God, speaking through her, warns of being haughty, self-absorbed, and confident in one’s own strength. We are only exalted when we venerate our Maker:

(For if anyone thinks he is something [special] when [in fact] he is nothing [special except in his own eyes], he deceives himself. Gal. 6:3 AMP)

The bows of the mighty are broken, but those who have stumbled equip themselves with strength.

This same warning is also directed toward the enemies of God’s children, wherein He declares that the prideful with be humbled, whereas the meek shall be fortified.

Those who were full hire themselves out for bread, but those who were hungry cease [to hunger]. Even the barren woman gives birth to seven, but she who has many children withers away.

We see too that God’s people were starving for spiritual sustenance (often self-induced) but will ultimately be fed when that perfect (‘seven’) Child is born.

The LORD puts to death and makes alive; He brings down to Sheol (the grave) and raises up [from the grave].

Hannah’s prayer also prophesied about how God helps us put our old sinful self to death through the salvation of His Son, which saves us from the grave:

(Therefore if you have been raised with Christ [to a new life, sharing in His resurrection from the dead]…you died [to this world], and your [new, real] life is hidden with Christ in God. Col. 3:1 & 3. AMP)

The LORD makes poor and makes rich; He brings low and He lifts up.

He raises up the poor from the dust, He lifts up the needy from the ash heap to make them sit with nobles, and to inherit a seat of honor and glory; for the pillars of the earth are the LORD’s, and He set the land on them.

And again, we are reminded of the importance of being humble, in order to be elevated to the city of God:

(…GOD IS OPPOSED TO THE PROUD [the disdainful, the presumptuous, and He defeats them], BUT HE GIVES GRACE TO THE HUMBLE. Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God [set aside self-righteous pride], so that He may exalt you [to a place of honor in His service] at the appropriate time… 1 Pt. 5:5, 6. AMP)

He guards the feet of His godly (faithful) ones, but the wicked ones are silenced and perish in darkness; for a man shall not prevail by might.

We also see that the godly will be divided from the wicked:

(For we [believers will be called to account and] must appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be repaid for what has been done in the body, whether good or bad [that is, each will be held responsible for his actions, purposes, goals, motives – the use or misuse of his time, opportunities and abilities]. 2 Cor. 5:10 AMP)

Still, we are judged and sent to the city of God. Those who chose to occupy the city of the earthborn will experience a judgment with only one outcome – eternal damnation.

The adversaries of the LORD will be broken to pieces; He will thunder against them in the heavens, The LORD will judge the ends of the earth; and He will give strength to HIs king, and will exalt the horn (strength) of His anointed.” 1 Sam. 2:1 – 10. AMP

Hannah ends her prayer with a prophetic picture of Christ’s ascension, to render the final judgment. It is here too, that we see for the first time in the Bible, the identification of the Messiah as ‘King.’

Mind you, God rendered these revelations 1000 years before Jesus was incarnated.

Hannah too, is a citizen of the city of God. We’ll meet Samuel, the prophet and king-maker, next time…

Goodnight and God bless.

Standing Upon Godly Shoulders – part 3

In parts one and two, we looked at the age-old battle on earth between those who follow God (grouped together as the ‘city of God’) and those who follow the adversary (grouped as the ‘city of the earthborn’), as described by St. Augustine of Hippo from his book The City of God.

We have been looking at valiant men throughout history who reflected Jehovah’s strength, resolve and faith, that we might be inspired to be likewise, and to inspire others after we gain our own citizenship in the city of God.

The renown citizens of the city of God that we’ve examined thus far have been Abel, Seth, Noah, Abraham and his son Isaac. Note than all of them are included in the ancestral lineage of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Continuing, Isaac and his wife Rebekah conceive of fraternal twins, Esau (born first), and Jacob. Before they were born, it appeared the two boys battled within the womb. Concerned, Rebekah inquired of God and He answered:

“Two nations are in your womb, two peoples shall be separated from your body; one people shall be stronger than the other, and the older shall serve the younger.” Gn. 25:23 NKJV

Esau sold his birthright to Jacob over a bowl of stew, to satisfy a craving of the flesh. Afterwards, he began to hold enmity towards Jacob. When Esau was in his 40s, he married pagan wives to spite his parents.

Later, Rebekah colluded with Jacob to deceive his father Isaac into conferring his family blessing upon Jacob instead of Esau. Enraged, Esau plotted to kill his brother, but Rebekah found out and sent Jacob away to her brother’s house to escape, and to find a Hebrew wife. During Jacob’s journey, he camps for an evening, and God visits him in a dream:

And he dreamed: A stairway was set on the ground with its top reaching the sky, and God’s angels were going up and down on it. The LORD was standing there beside him, saying, “I am the LORD, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac. I will give you and your offspring the land on which you are lying. Your offspring will be like the dust of the earth, and you will spread out toward the west, the east, the north, and the south. All the peoples on earth will be blessed through you and your offspring. Look, I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go.” Gn. 28:12 – 15. CSB

When Jacob awoke from his sleep, he said, “Surely the LORD is in this place, and I did not know it.” He was afraid and said, “What an awesome place this is! This is none other than the house of God. This is the gate of heaven.” Gn. 28:16, 17. CSB

So, we see that God has chosen Jacob as the next link in His perpetual seed for the Messiah and has granted him citizenship in the city of God.

Esau, on the other hand, rebelled, landing him citizenship in the city of the earthborn. He would later establish the nation of Edom (modern-day southwestern Jordan), which often played the villain to Israel, until it was destroyed by King Nabonidus of Babylon.

Jacob would later marry two sisters and (along with each of their handmaidens), conceive 12 sons and a daughter. God would then change his name from Jacob (meaning ‘deceiver’) to Israel (Hebrew for ‘God prevails’), demonstrating his godly transformation.

Many years later, Israel and his entire Hebrew entourage (family, friends, servants) would come to Egypt and settle there with his son Joseph (another mighty man of faith who prevailed against insurmountable odds because of God’s intervention – a grand pair of godly shoulders to stand upon), to grow the Hebrew nation into thousands.

Just before his death, Israel blessed his sons. We’ll look at his son Judah’s blessing, as it is the most pertinent to our study:

“Judah, you are the one whom your brothers shall praise; your hand will be on the neck of your enemies; your father’s sons shall bow down to you…The scepter [of royalty’ shall not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until Shiloh [the Messiah, the Peaceful One] comes, and to Him shall be the obedience of the peoples.” Gn. 49:8 & 10. AMP

Israel’s 12 sons would form 12 tribes, after each namesake; and Judah would be the leader. Furthermore, we see that Christ will be a descendant from the tribe of Judah as well.

Leaping ahead 400 years, we find the Hebrews in the middle of an Egyptian oppression. God sends a very reluctant prophet, Moses, (who was divinely spared from death as an infant, and as a man, while he was first in Egypt), back there to be His instrument of liberation to His children.

God works His miracles through Moses so that the Pharaoh lets the Hebrews leave Egypt. Moses leads the people across the ‘wilderness’ towards the promised land in the face of a very unappreciative, jealous, and sometimes blasphemous people – he, all the while, being molded into a strong, faithful, godly leader. God even entrusted Him (with the Holy Spirit) to write the first 5 books of the Old Testament – giving us the ability to see who and what God is.

When Moses brought the children of the children of God to the border of the promised land, God most lovingly buried him in the city of God.

God then commissioned Joshua to bring His children across the Jordan River into the promised land:

After the death of Moses the servant of the LORD, it came to pass that the LORD spoke to Joshua…Moses’ assistant, saying: “Moses My servant is dead. Now therefore, arise go over this Jordan, you and all this people, to the land which I am giving to them – the children of Israel…No man shall be able to stand before you all the days of your life; as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not leave you nor forsake you.” Josh. 1:1 – 3 & 5. NKJV

Joshua kept God’s word, renews God’s covenant with the people, conquers the majority of Canaan, and settles the people in their new promised land of Israel. And in his last address before his death, he said:

“…be very courageous to keep and to do all that is written in the Book of the Law of Moses…hold fast to the LORD your God…” Josh. 23:6 & 8. NKJV

Just like he did. He too was a citizen of the city of God…

After this, the Israelites, (in their human fashion), half-heartedly vacillated between faith and rebellion, until God gave them over to the fruits of their own disobedience:

The word of the LORD was rare and precious in those days; visions [that is, new revelations of divine truth] were not widespread. 1 Sam. 3:1 AMP

But God loves us so much, He never gives up – as we will see, when He lights the torch of love again through the prophet Samuel – Next time.

Goodnight and God bless.

Standing Upon Godly Shoulders – part 2

In part one, we were looking at some of the notable players in the ages-old battle between good and evil.

Those players on the side of evil, (devil followers), were categorized as the inhabitants of the ‘city of the earth-born, the city of man, or the earthly Jerusalem.’ The first so-called inhabitant was the murderous Cain, brother of Abel.

The players that followed God were described as the citizens of ‘heavenly Jerusalem, or the city of God’ – which has its ultimate manifestation on a heavenly plane. The first inhabitant of this city was Abel, who possessed the godly shoulders that was our first foundation to stand upon, to find the strength for walking the path to that same city.

Abel’s brother Seth was the next continuation of the heavenly citizenry; but by the time of the great flood many generations later, Noah was the only living representative of the city of God, who, along with his wife and his three sons and their wives, re-populated the earth after the flood wiped out the rest of sinful humankind.

A millennium would pass before we meet our next citizen of renown of the city of God…

Abraham was 75 years when God called him directly:

“Get out of your country, from your family and from your father’s house, to a land that I will show you. I will make you a great nation: I will bless you and make your name great; and you shall be a blessing…and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” Gn. 12:1: – 3. NKJV

What we see here, is that God promises Abraham that his seed shall inherit the land of Canaan; moreover, that the blessings of God would trickle down from him to spiritually nurture the rest of people of the world for all time. Consider too, that for God’s initial promise to be fulfilled, Abraham and his wife would have to bear children. Remember that they are in their 70s.

Yet Abraham has full-faith in God’s promises, which motivates his obedience; and he and his family leave all that they have ever known, and make a 1500-mile trek to Canaan, whereby God gives Abraham a second promise:

“To your descendants I will give this land.” Gn. 12:7 NKJV

After Abraham and his wife settled and thrived in Canaan, his nephew Lot and his family (who had accompanied Abraham on his journey) moved to the city of Sodom, (which turned out to be a dark, grievously sinful ‘city of the earth-born’). At that point, God gives Abraham yet a third compliment to His first two promises:

“Lift up your eyes and look from the place where you are, northward and southward, eastward and westward, for all the land that you see I will give to you and to your offspring forever. I will make your offspring as the dust of the earth, so that if one can count the offspring of the earth, your offspring can be counted.” Gn. 13:14 – 16. ESV

Being that Canaan will become the future country of Israel, God is telling Abraham that the land will belong to the Israelites until the end of time.

Five years elapse. God visits Abraham again, and promises safety and great rewards. But this time, Abraham’s favor wavers a bit. He complains to God because he is still childless. God responds:

“…one from your own body shall become your heir…Look now toward heaven and count the stars if you are able to number them…so shall your descendants be.” Gn. 15:4, 5. NKJV

Abraham’s faith is renewed to such an extent, that God brings him into complete right-standing with Him:

And he believed in the LORD, and He accounted it to him for righteousness. Gn. 15:6 NKJV

So, we have the ‘city of God’ increasing its citizenship once more.

Unfortunately, his wife Sarah’s faith is not as strong. She’s tired of waiting and has Abraham conceive with their Egyptian maid, Hagar, and Ishmael is born. Abraham is 86 years-old.

Thirteen more years pass. God visits Abraham, (who is 99 years-old), and tells him that his faith is being rewarded, as Sarah’s birth is imminent. In addition, He makes it crystal-clear to Abraham what the disposition of his children will be:

“…Sarah your wife shall bear you a son, and you shall call him Isaac. I will establish my covenant with him as an everlasting covenant for his offspring after him. As for Ishmael…I have blessed him and will make him fruitful and multiply him greatly…and I will make him a great nation. But I will establish my covenant with Isaac…” Gn. 17:19 – 21. ESV

What we are seeing is that Ishmael will propagate the seed of the Arabic nations, increasing the population of the ‘city of the earth-born;’ but Isaac is God’s child of promise, Abraham’s heir apparent to the city of God.

Isaac was born when Abraham was 100 years old; yet God had one more thing in store for Abraham:

After these things, God tested Abraham… Gn. 22:1 ESV

God told Abraham to take his son, Isaac, and sacrifice him upon an altar as a burnt offering to Jehovah. (This was so that God could provide what the picture of ultimate faith looked like for future believers, not for Himself. He knew Abraham’s heart.

Abraham prepared an altar (on the same site that Jesus would be crucified), and placed Isaac upon it – all the while telling his son that God would provide a lamb to be sacrificed. (Gn. 22:8)

Abraham had faith in that at the very least, God would raise Isaac from the dead because of the previous promise that He made to him:

By faith Abraham, when he was tested [that is, as the testing of his faith was still in progress], offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises [of God] was ready to sacrifice his only son [of promise]; to whom it was said, “THROUGH ISAAC YOUR DESCENDANTS SHALL BE CALLED.” For he considered it reasonable to believe] that God was able to raise Isaac even from among the dead. [Indeed, in the sense that he was prepared to sacrifice Isaac in obedience to God] Abraham did receive him back [from the dead] figuratively speaking. Heb. 11:17 – 19. AMP

When Abraham drew his knife back to slay his son on the altar, the Angel of the LORD called to him from heaven and stopped him from harming Isaac and provided for them a ram for a sacrifice instead. And because of the depth of Abraham’s faith, God provides him with His last promise:

“…I will surely bless you, and I will surely multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and as the sand that is on the seashore. And in your offspring shall all the nations of the earth be blessed, because you have obeyed my voice.” Gn. 22:17, 18. ESV

Abraham remarried and had additional children, but they did not possess the covenantal promise that Isaac did. He was the chosen son for the lineage for the city of God:

After the death of Abraham, God blessed Isaac his son. Gn. 25:11 ESV

Abraham was a mountain of faith for us to stand upon, propagated by his son in the city of God. Isaac and his wife Rebekah conceived fraternal twins, but that’s another story…

Goodnight and God bless.

Standing Upon Godly Shoulders

Ever since Adam and Eve were created, there began a battle between good and evil. Adam and Eve were created perfect, purely righteous, and immortal. Eve was deceived by the cunning wiles of the devil; but Adam committed the bigger sin, as he both knew better, yet went along, regardless of God’s warning.

 As we know, Adam’s seed was corrupted, and it spread throughout all the generations of humankind. Adam and Eve lost their immortality and would have also suffered an eternal demise, except that God provided an atonement for them through the first animal sacrifice.

 God was already at work to ensure the availability of salvation for all His children – past, present and future. Being that God doesn’t violate the free will, mankind, throughout the ages fell into two camps: those people who refused God’s ways and decided to go it alone (referred to as the city of men, city of the earth, earthly Jerusalem, by St. Augustine) and those who did their best to walk in God’s ways (city of God, heavenly Jerusalem).

 There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy dwelling places of the Most High. God is in the midst of her [His city], she will not be moved… Ps. 46:4, 5. AMP

 …in the city of the LORD of hosts, in the city of our God: God will establish it forever. Ps. 48:8 NKJV

 His foundation is in the holy mountains. The Lord loves the gates of Zion more that all the dwellings of Jacob. Glorious things are spoken of you, of city of God! Ps. 87:1 – 3. NKJV

 …you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are registered in heaven, to God the Judge of all, to the spirits of just men made perfect, to Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant, of sprinkling that speaks better things than that of Abel. Heb. 12:22 – 24. NKJV

 This division between good and evil began with Cain and Abel; and we are left with no uncertainty as to which camp they each belonged:

 …we should love one another, not as Cain who was of the wicked one and murdered his brother. 1 Jn. 3:11, 13. NKJV (Even though God told Cain how to do the right thing, he rebelled, and sin became his master.)

 By faith Abel offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain, through which it was testified of him that he was righteous (upright, in right standing with God), and God testified by accepting his gifts. And though he died, yet through [this act of] faith he still speaks. Heb. 11:4 AMP

And so, it is Abel’s godly shoulders upon which you have your first foundation. A man, who like Cain, was corrupted with Adam’s ‘original sin,’ yet he, by his faith in God, and in his obedience, had righteousness conveyed upon him. Cain, instead, decided to wallow in his sin, and like Eve, made room for the devil.

 Abel was the first biblically recorded citizen of the city of God, the place whereby we gain our eternal citizenship through the grace of God. Conversely, Cain was the first citizen of the city of the earth, whose sole requirement is unrepentant sin. Obviously, the two cities stand in stark contrast to each other.

 The evil always hate the good, because goodness in others reminds them of their baseness. Moreover, the evil of the city of earth reflects its citizens – filled with strife, jealousies, and pain.

 The city of God is a city of peace, because God is there:

 Pursue peace with everyone, and holiness – without it no one will see the Lord. Heb. 12:14 CSB

 The descendants of Cain terminated in the great flood and the city of the earth was no more. Conversely, Adam’s third son, Seth, was the next in line for the city of God and we can see that when he had a son, his fellow citizens began carrying the light:

 A son was born to Seth also, and he named him Enosh. At that time people began to call on the name of the LORD. Gn. 4:26 CSB

 However, with time, all of the descendants living at the time of the flood must have switched their citizenry to carnality – save only the one remaining righteous Noah*, and his family. Thank the Lord that He gave us a second chance to keep sending citizens to the city of God. He is a loving and just God:

 The anger of God is not a disturbing emotion of His mind, but a judgment by which punishment is inflicted upon sin. His thought and reconsideration also are the unchangeable reason which changes things; for He does not, like man, repent of anything He has done, because in all matters His decision is as inflexible as His prescience is certain. – St. Augustine

 *Noah was a just man, perfect in his generations. Noah walked with God. Gn. 6:9 NKJV

 For more than a thousand years after the flood, there is no scriptural account of anyone singled out for seeking God. We can’t assume that there weren’t, but apparently there was no one who stood out for their zeal.

 It is at this point where we meet a giant set of godly shoulders – those of Abraham’s….  Next time.

Goodnight and God bless.

Relating to God

Recently, we have been examining the Holy Spirit-inspired scriptural interpretations of St. Augustine from his book The City of God, translated by Marcus Dods, (see previous posts: ‘Defenders of the Faith,’ and ‘In Further Defense of the Faith’) – a work for strengthening the faith of the Christians in Rome during the demise of that empire.

Let’s continue on by perusing his analysis of our intimate relationship with our Creator – beginning with this declaration:

…for we are all His temple, each of us severally (separately) and all of us together, because He condescends to inherit each individually and the whole harmonious body, being no greater in all than in each, since He is neither expanded or divided. Our heart when it rises to Him is His altar; the priest who intercedes for us is His only begotten…

Do you not know and understand that you [the church] are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells [permanently] in you [collectively and individually]? 1 Cor. 3:16 AMP

Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is within you, whom you have [received as a gift] from God, and that you are not your own [property]? 1 Cor. 6:19 AMP

Christ Jesus is the One who died [to pay our penalty], and more than that, who was raised [from the dead], and who is at the right hand of God interceding [with the Father] for us. Rm. 8:34 AMP

We are walking, talking temples of God – recipients of the Father’s grace, maintained through the intercession of His Son. For that, we are grateful, and we should act in ways that keep that gratitude in remembrance. Augustine puts it this way:

…to Him we devote and surrender ourselves and His gifts in us; to Him, by solemn feasts and on appointed days, we consecrate the memory of His benefits, lest through the lapse of time ungrateful oblivion should steal upon us; to Him we offer on the altar of our heart the sacrifice of humility and praise, kindled by the fire of burning love.

It is that we may see Him, so far as He can be seen; it is that we may cleave to Him, that we are cleansed from all stain of sins and evil passions, and are consecrated in His name. For He is the fountain of our happiness, He is the end of all our desires.

God does not need our devotion, worship or capitulation. He asks of us all these things for our benefit – to position ourselves for love. Augustine says:

For no man would say he did a benefit to a fountain by drinking, or to the light by seeing.

He does require sacrifice – that of a contrite heart, again, to place oneself in humility before Him, in order to receive His grace:

My [only] sacrifice [acceptable] to God is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart [broken with sorrow for sin, thoroughly penitent], such, O God, You will not despise. Ps. 51:17 AMP

He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you except to be just, and to love [and diligently practice] kindness (compassion), and to walk humbly with your God [setting aside any overblown sense of importance or self-righteousness]? Mic. 6:8 AMP

All of our sacrifices, regardless of their nature, must always have an increased union with God as the focus of those activities. In essence, our ultimate sacrifice is to die to the world, as we draw closer to Jehovah God in relationship:

Therefore, since Christ suffered in the flesh [and died for us], arm yourselves [like warriors] with the same purpose [being willing to suffer for doing what is right and pleasing God], because whoever has suffered in the flesh [being like-minded with Christ] is done with [intentional] sin [having stopped pleasing the world], so that he can no longer spend the rest of his natural life living for human appetites and desires, but [lives] for the will and purpose of God. 1 Pt. 4:1, 2. AMP

Thus, in our relationship with the Godhead, we are bolstered in our attempts to overcome the world, and the god of it, the process whereby, is succinctly expressed by Augustine:

…men of God cast out the hostile power of the air which opposes godliness; it is by exorcising it, not by propitiating it; and they overcome all the temptations of the adversary by praying, not to him, but to their own God against him. For the devil cannot conquer or subdue any but those who are in league with sin…he is conquered in the name of Him who assumed humanity…Christ Jesus…

Indeed, it is our faith that cements our relationship with God – faith that is filtered into us by Jesus Himself:

…God’s Son, assuming humanity without destroying His divinity, established and founded this faith, that there might be a way for man to man’s God through a God-man.

…let us run with endurance and active persistence the race that is set before us, [looking away from all that will distract us and] focusing our eyes on Jesus, who is the Author and Perfecter of faith [the first incentive for our belief and the One who brings our faith to maturity]… Heb. 12:1, 2. AMP

It is a wondrous thing, a blessing,  this relationship that God makes available to and for us. We alone were made in His image. Augustine states:

…nearer to Him in nature than any other of HIs works, and is destined to be yet restored, that it may bear a still closer resemblance.

Above all, what is at the heart of all this relating to God, is His unending, immeasurable love – whereby He brings us into His bosom for all eternity…

Goodnight and God bless.

In Further Defense of the Faith

This is a follow-up to my post written two weeks ago, entitled Defenders of the Faith, which was our first look at one of the greatest defenders of the faith, St. Augustine, from his book The City of God. It was written at the time of the fall of the Roman Empire – both to strengthen the faith of the Christians within Rome and the immediate vicinity, and to help them find answers to why they suffered the experience of oppression by that same imperium.

Augustine often writes in a series of questions that had concerned those of faith, as well as expositions against the Romans’ behaviors towards the believers. Many of these topics are just as germane today as they were then.

One question, for example, was the fate of the souls of Christian women that were raped by either the Romans or the barbarian conquerors. Obviously, the answer to this would be timeless – applying to anyone forced to commit an immoral act. Augustine answered it thusly:

…the virtue which makes the life good has its throne in the soul, and thence rules the members of the body, which becomes holy in virtue of the holiness of the will; and that while the will remains firm and unshaken, nothing that another person does with the body, or upon the body, is any fault of the person who suffers it, so long as he cannot escape it without sin.

…the sanctity of the body is preserved, because the will to use it holily, remains…

“Remember now, who ever perished being innocent? Or were the upright ever cut off?” Job 4:7 NKJV

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written: “For Your sake we are killed all day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.” Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors though Him who loved us. Rm. 8:35 – 37. NKJV

We are innocent of anything we are forced to do against our will. Our soul remains pure in this trauma, separate from the flesh. Furthermore, there is no one who can stand up to He who lives in us, and He brings no charges against us.

In addition, according to Augustine, there were Christians that were so afraid of being violated in any manner by the pagans, that they would take their own lives so that they would remain ‘pure’ in the eyes of God. BIG MISTAKE. Augustine elucidates:

…he who kills himself is a homicide, and so much the guiltier of his own death, as he was more innocent of that offense for which he doomed himself to die.

He gives the example of Judas, who after hanging himself, had removed any chance for repentance, and thus was doomed to eternal death. Augustine then reminds his audience that there is nowhere in the entire Bible where they are given a license to kill themselves. Indeed, it is a violation of the 6th of the Ten Commandments, that one of against committing murder, as he explains:

The commandment is, “Thou shalt not kill man;” therefore, neither another or yourself, for he who kills himself still kills nothing else but man…those who die by their own hand have no better life after death.

You cannot sin to avoid sinning…

Augustine continues to a new question by writing about pagans who ask the Christians why their God doesn’t rescue them from oppression.

Sometimes life is hard. Many times we can’t explain it. That’s usually because we can’t see God’s big picture. But we can take comfort in knowing that He will deliver His faithful children out of their trials within the framework of His right timing:

And we know that God makes all things work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them. Rm. 8:28 NLT

Augustine also explains to believers how to answer the scoffers when their life conditions are less than stellar:

The whole family of God, most high and most true, has therefore a consolation of its own – a consolation which cannot deceive, and which has in it a surer hope that the tottering and falling affairs of earth can afford. They will not refuse the discipline of this temporal life, in which they are schooled for life eternal; nor will they lament their experience of it, for the good things of earth they use as pilgrims who ate not detained by them, and its ills either prove or improve them.

You know that people who sin, love to have others sin with them – primarily for self-justification. That’s exactly what’s at the root of the Roman unbelievers’ line of questioning, trying to get the Christians to turn their backs on their faith, and join in with their licentious behavior. Augustine calls them out on it:

…why in your calamities do you complain of Christianity, unless because you desire to enjoy your luxurious license unrestrained, and to lead an abandoned and profligate life without the interruption of any uneasiness or disaster…your purpose rather is run riot in an endless variety of sottish pleasures, and thus to generate from your prosperity a moral pestilence which will prove a thousand fold more disastrous than our fiercest of enemies.

And yet, Augustine finishes by saying that God is still waiting for them to come to Him:

And that you are yet alive is due to God, who spares you that you may be admonished to repent and reform your lives.

Isn’t that God’s plea to everyone?

Augustine then reminds the Romans that Rome was beginning to crumble long before Christ was incarnated. Afterwards, he picks on their many ‘gods’ that never held their worshippers to higher moral values, never extolled virtue, and likened them to Greek philosophers, of whom he said:

…the teachings of the philosophers are not the commandments of gods, but the discoveries of men…

The result?

Here, then, is this Roman republic, “which has changed little by little from the faith and virtuous city it was, and has become utterly wicked and dissolute.” (He is quoting an author who wrote about Rome long before Christ’s coming.)

Then, Augustine contrasts the sorry state of Rome with the kingdom of God:

…true justice has no existence save in that republic whose founder and ruler is Christ…the city of which Holy Scripture says, “Glorious things are said of thee, O city of God.” (Ps. 87:3)

In addition, he pulls no punches with respect to who the ‘gods’ are that the Romans worship:

as Scripture informs us, and as the facts themselves sufficiently indicate, the demons are found to look after their own ends only, that they may be regarded and worshiped as gods, and that men may be induced to offer to them a worship which associated them with their crimes, and involves them in one common wickedness and judgment of God.

And yet, Augustine doesn’t forget His Christian duty to evangelize, even to lost souls such as these:

Choose now what you will pursue, that your praise may not be in yourself, but in the true God, in whom there is no error…Do not listen to those degenerate sons of yours who slander Christ and Christians…Lay hold now on the celestial country, which is easily won, and in which you will reign truly and forever…No longer then, follow after false and deceitful gods…Gods they are not, but malignant spirits…Awake more fully: the majesty of God cannot be propitiated by that which defiles the dignity of man…Incomparably more glorious than Rome is that heavenly city in which for victory you have truth; for dignity, holiness; for peace, felicity; for life, eternity.

Wow. What can we take from this? First, there is evil in the world, and it uses people (who are willing), to do us harm. If that harm is forced upon us, and it transgresses the word of God, our integrity is not broken in His eyes. The forceful perpetrator however, has a really heavy price to pay:

“But whoever causes on of these little ones who believe in Me to sin, it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he drowned in the depths of the sea.” Mt. 18:6 NKJV

God is our judge. We do our best to live by His word. We have the blood of Jesus that cleanses us. If we fall into the muck because of our own devices, we can confess and repent. Jesus doesn’t turn anyone away. We don’t ever have to live in shame.

We know that life has its knocks. But if we have faith, God is making all the right decisions for us. As long as we’re walking on God’s path, He is bringing us to an eternal perfection, the potential of which, we can share with anyone else who has yet to understand the promise of the kingdom.

We can make our faith and faith-based behavior inspirational to those who have yet to grab a hold of the joy of knowing Jesus Christ, and we must be willing to share His promise of salvation, even to the most worldly-seasoned people – remembering that we all once walked that road…

Goodnight and God bless.