He Loves Us Perfectly!
(NOTE: This is a ‘rough draft’ of a chapter of my finished book- available on Amazon via Title Link: Thy Kingdom Come- Here and Now!)
Chapter 6- Turning Away… and Toward
As the writer of Hebrews carefully teaches about the better covenant that we have in Christ Jesus, at the end of Chapter 5 he lays out a gentle rebuke. He tells the readers that though by now those who have handled the word of truth should be teachers, we must be retaught the rudimentary or basic teaching of the oracles of God. He anticipates the natural growth of the believer to come to full age, having our senses exercised to discern both good and evil. Here ‘senses’ imply powers of perception that depend not only on our mental capability, but also on our spiritual apprehension.
Although this discrimination between good and evil in context, is referring to the superiority of Christ’s new covenant in contrast to the inferiority of the old covenant, it also shows God’s correct economy in discerning between good and evil in general. This rejects the corrupted and perverting fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, and shows how the tree of life, who is Christ himself by his Spirit bears fruit in our lives that manifests mature discernment.
The world is plagued with the reasonings and philosophies of men, attempting by human wisdom to understand this life: who we are, why we’re here, and where all this is going. The pendulum swings from the Epicurean philosophy of “eat, drink, and be merry” which eventually leads to total depravity (if it feels good, do it), to the opposite extreme of asceticism which rejects all pleasure and strips life of its eternal value. God’s holy Word is our book of instruction, imparting to us a clear understanding of our reason for existence. God’s love for us and His provision for our full restoration is clearly laid out line upon line, precept upon precept.
The elementary principles which are foundational to the Christian faith are not understood by many Christians. We must all rise to the level of understanding in unity that would allow the body of Christ to grow to the required full stature of our Lord. We must therefore go back to the basics. The consummate coach Vince Lombardi once said to his Green Bay Packers after a stunning defeat- “This is a football”. He then proceeded to rehearse for his gridiron warriors the foundational principles of the game of football. This leadership and dedication led them to yet another Super Bowl championship. We all need to revisit the basics from time to time, in order to have a clear understanding of each of these principles, so as to build on this foundation and make steady progress and spiritual growth. Unto full stature is the ultimate goal.
In Hebrews chapter 6 we find seven items listed, though one is veiled.
Hebrews 6:1-3 (KJV)… Therefore, leaving the discussion of the elementary principles of Christ, let us go on to perfection, not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, of the doctrine of baptisms, of laying on of hands, of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment. This we will do if God permits.
Therefore the items that constitute the foundation of Christian doctrine are:
1) Repentance from dead works
2) Faith toward (in) God
3) Doctrine (teaching) of baptisms
4) The laying on of hands
5) Resurrection of the dead
6) Eternal judgment
7) Ultimate perfection (the veiled one- Let us go on to perfection).
The first six form three pairs, each of which we will study individually as well as in contrast to the other in the set of pairs.
Repentance from Dead Works
Each of us and our most sincere moments recognize a large void in our lives that only God can fill. Before we come to Christ, we struggle with the profound questions of all humanity: why was I born? Is there a God? What does my future hold? Once we awaken as little children to the reality of this so-called Brave New World, which is a modern rehash of the scary old world (Nimrod and ancient Babylon… see Genesis 10)- we are subject to fear, worry, and in many worst cases inertia that leads to despair. In our modern society, it feels like we’re daily dodging bullets. Where is God in all this, we ask?
In my personal experience raised in a Catholic home, I rejected the organized Roman church’s legalistic mandate. Everything was a list of dos and don’ts from a very negative perspective. At that time I did not find grace, God’s love, or a clear unfolding of the beauty of scriptural truth. Besides all that, my public school education contradicted what little I was being taught concerning faith. By the time I was 12 years old I had been bombarded with the theory of evolution numerous time. I was compelled to make a decision in favor of rational thinking, and against what was viewed as the mythical hogwash of the Bible. In the early 1960s there was already a cynical disdain for traditional values, and the naiveté of biblical faith. how could I or anyone reconcile the story of creation with the theory of evolution? The dos and don’ts of church doctrine did not fit well with the worldview of the counterculture rebellion ushered in by sex, drugs and rock ‘n roll.
But where would I go to find God if he or she or it really existed? With a full scholarship to UCLA, I hit the ground running when I was able to leave home and live on campus. I studied psychology, compared to religion, and philosophy. This was all during the era of ‘flower power’ and anti-Vietnam War fervor. After heavy doses of Nietzsche, Camus, Sartre, Kierkegaard, Jung, Freud, Skinner, Erikson, William James, Robert Ardry, and a psychedelic pilgrimage through Carlos Casteneda, Timothy Leary, the Beatles, and the Grateful Dead– I thought I had surely touched the divine in Zen Buddhism.
The many writings of a former Jesuit priest named Alan Watts led me to accept for an extended season the false reality of so-called Eastern wisdom. I devoured his teaching in such books as Psychotherapy East and West; Nature, Man, and Woman; the Way of Zen, and many others. I became an adept using The I Ching or Book of Changes- which is a source of divination, and I now know that all such practices are condemned by God in the holy Bible.
My love of drug-induced altered states led to serious addiction and borderline despair. Eventually I became suicidal, because everything seemed so futile. I had studied Hinduism (Krishna consciousness), Sufi mysticism, astrology, Tarot, ESP, UFO phenomena, and other paranormal studies. I had delved into Scientology, the teachings of shamanism taught by Carlos Castaneda- in his teachings of Don Juan series of books, and sundry other New Age philosophies. To my utter shock I was still spiritually and emotionally bankrupt. Even after all of that deep study of comparative religion, psychology, and philosophy- I had no peace-no joy-no hope-no purpose-no apparent destiny, and I was seriously bummed out. Until I met the Lord I was one confused puppy. In every single religion, philosophy, or alternative worldview, I chased a rabbit trail to a dead end. Each and every one of these lead to an honest awareness of its profound error and apparent contradictions. I would not accept nonsense; I could not accept or even stomach apparent contradictions.
It became necessary for me to abandon each of what initially seemed a hopeful avenue of finding peace, because unwittingly I was looking for absolute truth. God had embedded in my DNA an unrelenting desire to really know the truth. At a time where ‘truth’ was whatever one said it was, I was not satisfied with some ephemeral or mystical substitute that would not endure careful scrutiny.
The Lord chose to reveal himself to me, in answer to a little Puerto Rican Catholic praying mother-who would not let go of God in interceding for her son. Like Hannah in the Bible, her daily prayers and tears came before God-even though for a good number of years I was hanging by one foot over the chasm that is hell. God’s ways are higher than our ways, and He works mysteriously. Suffice it to say that I challenged God as an unbeliever for someone to love, and someone to love me. Little did I realize at that time that the Father had provided Jesus as the answer to my prayer 2000 years ago. Yet in my broken and despairing state, He brought a beautiful 18 year old Irish lass into my life. Four months after we met, she became my wife… and we recently celebrated our 35th anniversary.
My wife Robyn and I were drawn by God’s Holy Spirit to the knowledge of the truth by way of Christian television ministry, and more specifically in the sincere study of the holy Scriptures. We both gave our hearts to Jesus in 1976 and the rest is history (His Story).
It would be disingenuous for me to not state that I struggled for many years even after coming to know the ultimate truth. My addictive behavior and the demonic activity that had become a part of my life as a direct result of delving into the occult, required a more radical intervention. It took years of counseling, deliverance ministry, and accountable relationships-with much prayer and fasting that allowed a deeper work of cleansing, healing, and ultimate deliverance to manifest in my life.
Dead Works are therefore any substitute to God that we worship. This includes all false religions since the Lord Jesus clearly said:
John 14:6… I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father but by me.
The Triune God is not confused. Since Jesus is the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world (Rev. 13:8), there is no plan B. There truly is no other name and have been or earth by which we can be saved (my paraphrase of Acts 4:12). For me and every other human that draws breath, there must be a turning away from every idol, from anything that is primary in our lives, because whenever it is-it has assumed a place that only belongs to God. That void in our hearts as a sage has said- is a God shaped void. Satan’s scheme since the Garden has been to present a substitute, a ‘shell game’ to con costs into accepting and thereby receiving a lie… any of these lies will do.
These dead works bear the stench of death in the spirit realm. The holy angels of God ponder mankind’s willful rejection of truth; it is staggering to their uncorrupted minds and hearts. The vast majority of mankind has received the lie, thereby becoming children of Satan. And when they exit this life, they are doomed to eternal separation from God. It is our God-given mandate to rescue as many of these misguided souls and bring them to the saving knowledge of the truth revealed in the sublime person of Jesus Christ.
The corollary to repentance from dead works- or turning away from false deceptions, is a genuine turning toward and faith in the true and living God. We will look carefully in the next chapter at the power of this foundational principle.