(Part II) Who Are You That You Fear: I, Even I, Am He…

There is a lot of talk about assurance of salvation, whether it is possible, how it is to be had, whether it is necessary, on and on and on. I really do not think it is the point. The point is simply this, “It is not I who lives, but Christ who lives in me. The life I now live in the body I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave Himself for me.” It's not about whether or not you or I can lose eternal life... It's about the fact that Jesus Christ is eternal life. It is all about Him. How many times did He say, “I am He?” Let us cease to look at ourselves and instead look to Him. “You have been buried with Him through baptism into death.” Salvation – everything – is about Christ. “He who descended is also He who ascended that He might fill all things.” Salvation means that we die and are raised in Christ. This is the way to conquer fear. Fear of what will happen to me? God loves me and is in control of all things. He is sovereign and He loves me as no other can love. This is eternal comfort, but it is not even about eternal comfort; it is about the fact that He is good, that His love is real, that He is YHWH. (How I wish I could say this without using words like I!) Even though I should not know His love, not know His goodness, even though I should forget all that I have ever known of Him (unless He continually gives me the knowledge of Himself I must forget it, for it is knowledge of eternity, eternal knowledge; it is not the kind of thing a creature can keep; it must be continually received by grace through faith,) even though I should turn my back on Him... still, He is good. He remains unchanged. He is Love. He is YHWH – I AM WHO I AM – I am He.

Salvation: Heaven From the Foundations of the World

Then, all creation will be “filled with the knowledge of YHWH, even as the waters cover the sea.” All creation – even the present, even the distant past – will be filled with the glory of the Resurrection. “Those He foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, so that He might become the firstborn among many brethren. Those He predestined, He also called. Those He called He also justified. Those He justified He also glorified.” This indicates something of the nature of salvation to me. Salvation is an eternal work. In Philippians, Paul writes, “Work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to do His good pleasure.” Salvation is the action of God. Just as Jesus is “the Lamb who was slain from the foundation of the world,” so salvation is eternal. God has not only foreknown and predestined His children from before the world began. He has also justified them and even glorified them [Read more…] from before the world began. Our salvation is real; it is an eternal truth. The full revelation of our salvation will be in the Second Coming of Christ. “He will appear again, not this time to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for Him.” “All creation groans, as in the labor of child-bearing, until the day when the children of God shall be revealed. For the creation was not subjected to futility through its own will, but through the will of Him who subjected it, in hope, that the creation also would share in the glory and liberty of the children of God.” So, when Paul writes, “Work out your salvation with fear and trembling,” he is telling us to live out the salvation that Jesus Christ has already perfected. We live out this salvation because God Himself is working in us to perfect in us the salvation that Jesus Christ perfected on the cross and revealed in His resurrection. The Holy Spirit Himself, the “very flame of YHWH” dwells in us; how else shall we respond to such near presence of the Holy God except with trembling and fear, except with holy terror? In a certain sense, the whole battle of living the Christian life on earth is to stop fighting – to surrender, to trust and believe. Our salvation is already complete. We simply have to live in that salvation – to abide in Jesus. It is about realizing in our bodily life the complete union with the Resurrection of the Incarnate Son of God which, even now, is ours, is our life. “For your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you, too, will appear with Him in glory.” Just before this, it is written, “Therefore, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.” The whole battle is already won. “In all these things, we are more than conquerors through Him that loved us.” The glory and the honor and the praise belong to Jesus Christ alone. He has died and paid the debt for sin; He has filled death with His life; He has risen from the grave and ascended, as man, to the right hand of God Almighty. As it is said many times, “Salvation is of the Lord.” It ought to be – it is – effortless to live out that victory. The victory is already complete. “I have overcome the world.” It is not, “I will overcome the world.” It is already done! Even so, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Him.” Even now, we are, truly and by Divine mercy, seated in heaven with Him. We will wear crowns because we are, in very fact, made one with Him, and so His merit, virtue, and victory is, in very fact, our merit, our virtue, and our victory. We will throw them at His feet because it is all His free gift; every crown is His, the merit and the virtue and the victory is all His; we added nothing. He did everything. Nonetheless, who has ever completely entered into that victory this side of death? Who has ever realized this truth? Who has walked wholly in the Eternal Spirit who lives in us and with us? It is, though, no more of an issue how, though “having been justified through faith in Jesus Christ, we have peace with God,” yet we can and do still fall for the desires of the flesh, than how it is that we were (and yet are) sinners and yet are glorified in Him. He filled our sin and death with His righteousness and life. In the end, we will see that made manifest in all creation – in every single moment that has ever been, is, or ever will be, throughout all the breadth and height and depth and length of all creation, indeed, in eternity. It is my belief that all is Heaven. This is not to deny hell or the punishment of the wicked. It is to say that it is the lesser reality. Heaven is Real. Heaven is the immediate presence of God, in His goodness and His love. Thus, Heaven is reality. Heaven is good. God will be all in all; Jesus Christ will be all in all. What else is Heaven? Jesus Christ is the Resurrection and the Life; God is He whom to know is eternal life. That He is all in all means that Heaven is everywhere. God is Love. This is not to deny that God hates; God hates as only Himself can hate, not despite – o wretched thought! – but because He is Love. God's fierce, burning hatred towards sin is the expression of His Love toward evil; it is what His Love looks like from the view-point of that fall into ruin and horror. Some think that hatred and love are opposites; in fact, they are no such thing. Those who think so know nothing of real love or of real hatred. Love is the greater reality. Good exists, pure and undiminished, without evil. So, Love is, pure and undiminished, strong and glorious, without any evil to evoke hatred. Goodness and Love is the reality, the real thing; evil is the departure, the falling-away, the turning from Reality upon itself, and, therefore, into ruin – a ruin more horrible than words can ever say. The fact that evil is not true as Good is true is not to diminish its evil – it is simply to say that it is evil. The ruin of that which God, the Lord of Love and Goodness, has made and declared good is horrendous beyond all the imagination of man. Only God, being Love Himself, knows how evil, how completely deserving of disdain and hatred, this ruin of His good creation, this twisting of His Goodness, is. That is hell – death – sin full-grown – sin revealed to the sinner, or is it God revealed to the sinner? To say that hell means the natural consequence of sin, that it is, in fact, indistinguishable from the sin which brings it forth, that hell means that a creature has turned its gaze to itself, the gaze which ought to have been the channel of life and goodness from God to the creature and of worship from the creature to God, and, thus, is separated from goodness and life by its own choice, fallen into ruin and torment – to say that hell means that God has turned His back on sin, has thrust the sinful one from Him into the darkness outside with unimaginable scorn and hatred, that hell is exile from the presence of God because of His holiness, holiness which still sears the exile because God is Real, the only Reality, from which the exiled one came into being and exists. It is just two different ways of saying the same thing. In one sense, they are separated from God; in another, Heaven is hell to them, precisely because their own sin is their hell. They do not know God in His Son. “No man can see My face and live,” God told Moses, but He hid him in the cleft of the rock. He hides His children in the pierced side of Jesus – Heaven. Jesus Christ is the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End. He descended to the depths and ascended to the heights so that He might fill all things. He is altogether lovely. He Himself is life, is Heaven. His love overshadowed our lives and filled them with goodness, worked all things together for our good, even the most horrible, the most dreadful, the most ruinous acts of sin-cursed nature or, worse, sinful men, and this, even while we did not know Him, did not know that He is good, did not believe His love. This, I understand, is part of why in Romans St. Paul does not say, “We know that in all things God works for the good of those that love Him,” and then stop there, but he goes on to say, “the called according to His purpose.” Even when we were only called, even when we were completely blind and had no inkling of the light of Heaven that was, nonetheless, all around us and in which we swam, still He worked everything for our good. For, I hesitate to call “only called.” In His knowledge, from our view-point, foreknowledge – and all God knows is true – we were glorified with His Son. In Christ's ascension, we were glorified. Salvation is judgment – is God's revelation of His truth – that His children are His children, one with His Son in His crucifixion and death, in His burial, in His mighty resurrection, His glorious ascension. Yes, even God's revelation of His Truth, Jesus Christ who said, “I am... the Truth,” for salvation is that “we shall see Him as He is,” indeed, salvation is, “we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.” Yes, salvation is God's revelation of the Truth, His own Son and Word, for “When Christ, who is our life, appears, we, too, will appear with Him in glory.” Even now, we “behold with unveiled faces as in a mirror the glory of the Lord and are transformed in that same image from glory to glory, as from the Spirit, who is the Lord.” Judgment is that all things shall be what, indeed, they are. The appearance of the Son of Man is the judgment of the world – to us who believe, salvation. Then, all creation will be “filled with the knowledge of YHWH, even as the waters cover the sea.” All creation – even the present, even the distant past – will be filled with the glory of the Resurrection. “The ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God.” Copyright 2018 Raina Nightingale

Faith: The Sight of the Soul Upon God

Sometimes, people wonder whether faith comes before regeneration or the other way around. Other times, people trust in and look to faith, or what they think is faith, instead of God. I believe that all these issues (and maybe more besides) stem from a misunderstanding of what faith is. “Now, faith is the confidence of things not seen and the assurance of things hoped for.” That’s from Hebrews. In 2nd Corinthians, Paul writes, “We fix our eyes not on what is seen but on what is unseen, for what is seen is passing away, but the things which are not seen are eternal.” Meanwhile, on earth, faith is our seeing of God, faith is our living on God. Faith is walking in the Spirit, instead of in the flesh. The vision is eternal life; seeing it is faith. For now.

(Part I) The Promises of God: Introduction and Psalm 23

It is my firm belief that God never says more than He means, more, that He always means more than He says. I have chosen Psalm 23 here, because it is well-known and rather short. These promises are scattered throughout Psalms. “YHWH is my portion; I have no good besides You… The lines have fallen to me in pleasant places, behold, my heritage is beautiful to me. I have set YHWH ever before me. Because He is at my right hand I shall not be shaken. My flesh also will dwell securely, for You will not abandon Your holy one to the netherworld nor will You let my flesh see corruption…. You will lead me in the paths of life. At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”