“Pick Up Your Pallet and Walk”

After these things there was a feast of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. Now there is in Jerusalem by the sheep gate a pool, which is called in Hebrew Bethesda (which means “The House of Loving-Kindness”), having five porticoes (corresponding to the five books of the Torah, the Law). In these lay a multitude of those who were sick, blind, lame, and withered, waiting for the moving of the waters; for an angel of the Lord went down at certain seasons into the pool and stirred up the water; whoever then first, after the stirring up of the water, stepped in was made well from whatever disease with which he was afflicted.

A man was there who had been ill for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there, and knew that he had already been a long time in that condition, He said to him, “Do you wish to get well?” The sick man answered Him, “Sir, I have no man to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up, but while I am coming, another steps down before me.” Jesus said to him, “Get up, pick up your pallet and walk.” Immediately the man became well, and picked up his pallet and began to walk.

Now it was the Sabbath on that day. So the Jews were saying to the man who was cured, “It is the Sabbath, and it is not permissible for you to carry your pallet.” But he answered them, “He who made me well was the one who said to me, ‘Pick up your pallet and walk.’ ” They asked him, “Who is the man who said to you, ‘Pick up your pallet and walk’?” But the man who was healed did not know who it was, for Jesus had slipped away while there was a crowd in that place.

Afterward Jesus found him in the temple and said to him, “Behold, you have become well; do not sin anymore, so that nothing worse happens to you.” The man went away, and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had made him well. For this reason the Jews were persecuting Jesus, because He was doing these things on the Sabbath.

John 5:1-16

With the exception of the statements in parentheses, this is quoted out of the NASB. I’m currently reading this passage in a translation under development – The Passion Translation (TPT). When I read “the Jews” objection about doing work on the sabbath, and the healed man’s response, that the one who healed him told him to “pick up your pallet and walk”, I literally laughed out loud.

This story has long held a bit of intrigue for me in the fact that the lame man had no idea who it was who was healing him. This man did not have faith to precede his healing – the faith came after. This doesn’t ‘fit the mold’ of popular Christianity so to speak, so of course it’s a story I enjoy.

But reading it this time in the TPT, something different has struck me (a good reason to read in different translations). These religious leaders were so dead-set on law that they’ve completely overlooked this man’s healing. “Oh, so your healed, that’s nice. WTF ARE YOU DOING CARRYING YOUR PALLET ON THE SABBATH !?!?

Ok, so I get this. This is man-made religion at its best. A focus on the law and doing everything ‘by the book’ in order to attain some kind of righteous platitude. But, the healed man’s response is what made me laugh out loud. “The man who healed me told me to pick up my pallet.” The man doesn’t know it’s Jesus yet, but we do. Jesus, God’s own son, told him to break the sabbath law that the religious leaders were so focused on. Breaking that law was a primary part of this man’s healing experience.

Does God tell us to break His law?

Well, something fascinating in this translation is the footnote that all the sick and lame hung out under the five porticoes that represented the five books of the Torah, the Law. The sick and lame were under the law. When Jesus told this man to pick up his pallet, he was telling him to get out from under the law, figuratively and literally. When he picked up his pallet, he broke the sabbath law and walked out from under the portico that symbolized the law.

In response, the religious ne’er-do-wells objected to his ‘blatant sin’ – but he was following Jesus’ instruction! Then after hearing that Jesus was responsible for this man’s healing and sabbath breaking command, these same religious rogues began persecuting Jesus.

So, does God tell us to break His law? Well, I think we very quickly misunderstand and misapply His law. I’m no scholar, but I am aware that Old Testament is pretty clear about doing ‘work’ on the sabbath.

Thus says the Lord, “Take heed for yourselves, and do not carry any load on the sabbath day or bring anything in through the gates of Jerusalem.”

Jeremiah 19:21

But why shouldn’t we? That’s the question that is so readily missed by man-made religion. Is it so we can earn God’s favor? Is it so that we can be ‘holier than thou’? What is the reason for this sabbath law?

Jesus said it best when he was confronted because his disciples were picking grain to eat on the sabbath – “The sabbath was made for man, not man for the sabbath”. What does this mean? Well, it means that the sabbath is a gift for man. It is a recognition that mankind is most healthy when we regularly take time to rest, reflect and be at peace. A constant striving will only lead to exhaustion, failure, pain… Sounds a lot like striving to keep the law, doesn’t it?

So, would God tell us to do something that goes against what is written in the law and the prophets? Apparently so, He just did with this guy. But, while the letter of the law was broken here, what about the spirit of the law? Do you think this dude was more at rest, or less at rest while carrying his pallet for the first time in thirty-eight years?

By telling this man to pick up his pallet, Jesus is freeing him from that striving. Striving to keep the law. Striving to be the first in the pool so he can be healed. Striving to be acceptable in the sight of God – something that we often think is confirmed or denied by the judgments of those who are the ‘religious elite’. But, Jesus allowed this man to enter into rest while he carried his pallet on the sabbath.

So, two questions:

What would it mean for you to pick up your pallet and walk?

Are you sitting in judgment of someone who is carrying their pallet on the sabbath, the day of their long awaited healing and rest?

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The Consuming Fire

This is another excerpt from Discovering the Character of God by George MacDonald


_Our God is a consuming fire_.–HEBREWS xii. 29

Nothing is inexorable but love. Love which will yield to prayer is
imperfect and poor. Nor is it then the love that yields, but its ally.
For if at the voice of entreaty love conquers displeasure, it is love
asserting itself, not love yielding its claims. It is not love that
grants a boon unwillingly; still less is it love that answers a prayer
to the wrong and hurt of him who prays. Love is one, and love is

For love loves unto purity. Love has ever in view the absolute
loveliness of that which it beholds. Where loveliness is incomplete,
and love cannot love its fill of loving, it spends itself to make more
lovely, that it may love more; it strives for perfection, even that
itself may be perfected–not in itself, but in the object. As it was
love that first created humanity, so even human love, in proportion to
its divinity, will go on creating the beautiful for its own outpouring.
There is nothing eternal but that which loves and can be loved, and
love is ever climbing towards the consummation when such shall be the
universe, imperishable, divine.

Therefore all that is not beautiful in the beloved, all that comes
between and is not of love’s kind, must be destroyed.

And our God is a consuming fire.

For, when we say that God is Love, do we teach men that their fear of
him is groundless? No. As much as they fear will come upon them,
possibly far more. But there is something beyond their fear,–a divine
fate which they cannot withstand, because it works along with the human
individuality which the divine individuality has created in them. The
wrath will consume what they _call_ themselves; so that the selves God
made shall appear, coming out with tenfold consciousness of being, and
bringing with them all that made the blessedness of the life the men
tried to lead without God. They will know that now first are they fully
themselves. The avaricious, weary, selfish, suspicious old man shall
have passed away. The young, ever young self, will remain. That which
they _thought_ themselves shall have vanished: that which they _felt_
themselves, though they misjudged their own feelings, shall remain–
remain glorified in repentant hope. For that which cannot be shaken
shall remain. That which is immortal in God shall remain in man. The
death that is in them shall be consumed.

It is the law of Nature–that is, the law of God–that all that is
destructible shall be destroyed. When that which is immortal buries
itself in the destructible–when it receives all the messages from
without, through the surrounding region of decadence, and none from
within, from the eternal doors–it cannot, though immortal still, know
its own immortality. The destructible must be burned out of it, or
begin to be burned out of it, before it can _partake_ of eternal life.
When that is all burnt away and gone, then it has eternal life. Or
rather, when the fire of eternal life has possessed a man, then the
destructible is gone utterly, and he is pure. Many a man’s work must be
burned, that by that very burning he may be saved–“so as by fire.”
Away in smoke go the lordships, the Rabbi-hoods of the world, and the
man who acquiesces in the burning is saved by the fire; for it has
destroyed the destructible, which is the vantage point of the deathly,
which would destroy both body and soul in hell. If still he cling to
that which can be burned, the burning goes on deeper and deeper into
his bosom, till it reaches the roots of the falsehood that enslaves
him–possibly by looking like the truth.

The man who loves God, and is not yet pure, courts the burning of God.
Nor is it always torture. The fire shows itself sometimes only as
light–still it will be fire of purifying. The consuming fire is just
the original, the active form of Purity,–that which makes pure, that
which is indeed Love, the creative energy of God. Without purity there
can be as no creation so no persistence. That which is not pure is
corruptible, and corruption cannot inherit incorruption.

The man whose deeds are evil, fears the burning. But the burning will
not come the less that he fears it or denies it. Escape is hopeless.
For Love is inexorable. Our God is a consuming fire. He shall not come
out till he has paid the uttermost farthing.

If the man resists the burning of God, the consuming fire of Love, a
terrible doom awaits him, and its day will come. He shall be cast into
the outer darkness who hates the fire of God. What sick dismay shall
then seize upon him! For let a man think and care ever so little about
God, he does not therefore exist without God. God is here with him,
upholding, warming, delighting, teaching him–making life a good thing
to him. God gives him himself, though he knows it not. But when God
withdraws from a man as far as that can be without the man’s ceasing to
be; when the man feels himself abandoned, hanging in a ceaseless
vertigo of existence upon the verge of the gulf of his being, without
support, without refuge, without aim, without end–for the soul has no
weapons wherewith to destroy herself–with no inbreathing of joy, with
nothing to make life good;–then will he listen in agony for the
faintest sound of life from the closed door; then, if the moan of
suffering humanity ever reaches the ear of the outcast of darkness, he
will be ready to rush into the very heart of the Consuming Fire to know
life once more, to change this terror of sick negation, of unspeakable
death, for that region of painful hope. Imagination cannot mislead us
into too much horror of being without God–that one living death. Is
not this to be worse than worst

Of those that lawless and incertain thoughts
Imagine howling?

But with this divine difference: that the outer darkness is but the
most dreadful form of the consuming fire–the fire without light–the
darkness visible, the black flame. God hath withdrawn himself, but not
lost his hold. His face is turned away, but his hand is laid upon him
still. His heart has ceased to beat into the man’s heart, but he keeps
him alive by his fire. And that fire will go searching and burning on
in him, as in the highest saint who is not yet pure as he is pure.

But at length, O God, wilt thou not cast Death and Hell into the lake
of Fire–even into thine own consuming self? Death shall then die

And Hell itself will pass away,
And leave her dolorous mansions to the peering day.

Then indeed wilt thou be all in all. For then our poor brothers and
sisters, every one–O God, we trust in thee, the Consuming Fire–shall
have been burnt clean and brought home. For if their moans, myriads of
ages away, would turn heaven for us into hell–shall a man be more
merciful than God? Shall, of all his glories, his mercy alone not be
infinite? Shall a brother love a brother more than The Father loves a
son?–more than The Brother Christ loves his brother? Would he not die
yet again to save one brother more?

As for us, now will we come to thee, our Consuming Fire. And thou wilt
not burn us more than we can bear. But thou wilt burn us. And although
thou seem to slay us, yet will we trust in thee even for that which
thou hast not spoken, if by any means at length we may attain unto the
blessedness of those who have not seen and yet have believed.

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Deliverance from what?

Deliverance from what?

An excerpt from Discovering the Character of God
Written By George MacDonald

Compiled, Arranged and Edited by Michael R Phillips

The Lord never came to deliver men from the consequences of their sins while those sins yet remained.  That would be to cast out the window the medicine of cure while still the man lay sick.  Yet, feeling nothing of the dread hatefulness of their sin, men have constantly taken this word that the Lord came to deliver us from our sins to mean that he came to save them from the punishment of their sins.

This idea has terribly corrupted the preaching of the Gospel.  The message of the Good News has not been truly communicated.  Unable to believe in the forgiveness of their Father in heaven, imagining him not at liberty to forgive, or incapable of forgiving forthright; not really believing him God who is fully our Savior, but a God bound – either in his own nature or by a law above him and compulsory on him – to exact some recompense or satisfaction for sin, a multitude of religious teachers have taught their fellow men that Jesus came to bear our punishment and save us from hell.  But in that they have misrepresented his true mission.

The mission of Jesus was from the same source and with the same object as the punishment of our sins.  He came to do more than take the punishment for our sins.  He came as well to set us free from our sin.

No man is safe from hell until he is free from his sin.  But a man to whom his sins are a burden, while he may indeed sometimes feel as if he were in hell, will soon have forgotten that he ever had any other hell to think of than that of his sinful condition.  For to him his sin is hell.  He would go to the other hell to be free of it.  Free of his sin, hell itself would be endurable to him.

For hell is God’s and not the Devil’s.  Hell is on the side of God and man, to free the child of God from the corruption of death.  Not one soul will ever be redeemed from hell but by being saved from his sin, from the evil in him.  If hell be needful to save him, hell will blaze, and the worm will writhe and bite, until he takes refuge in the will of the Father.  ‘Salvation from hell’ is salvation as conceived by such to whom hell, and not the evil of sin, is the terror.

God takes our sins on himself, and while he drives them out of us with a whip of scorpions, he will yet make them work for his good ends.  He defeats our sins, makes them prisoners, forces them into the service of good, and chains them like galley slaves to the rowing benches of the gospel ship.  He makes them work toward salvation for us.

Jesus came to deliver us, not rescue us from the needful consequences.

I believe that Jesus Christ is our atonement, that through him we are reconciled to, made one with, God.  There is not one word in the New Testament about reconciling God to us; it is we that have to be reconciled to God.

Verily, he made atonement!  We sacrifice to God?  No, such was a mere Old Covenant shadow.  It is God who has sacrificed his own Son for us.  There was no other way of getting the gift of himself into our hearts.  Jesus sacrificed himself to his Father and the children to bring them together – all the love on the side of the Father and the Son, all the selfishness on the side of the children.

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Dare We Imagine Thee as Good as Thou Art?

One more excerpt from one of my favorite books…

Dare We Imagine Thee as Good as Thou Art?

(A fictional selection from The Musician’s Quest / Robert Flaconer)
Written By George MacDonald
Compiled, Arranged and Edited by Michael R Phillips

 Robert consequently began to make efforts toward the saving of his soul, a most rational and prudent exercise but hardly Christian in its nature.  His imagination began to busy itself concerning the dire consequences of not entering into the refuge of faith.  He made many frantic efforts to believe that he believed and took to keeping the Sabbath very carefully – that is, he went to church three times, never said a word on any subject unconnected with religion, read only religious books, never whistled, stopped thinking of his lost fiddle, and so on – all the time feeling that God was ready to pounce on him if he failed once.

But even through the horrible vapors of these vain endeavors, which denied God altogether as the maker of the world and denied Robert of his soul and heart and brain, there broke a little light from the dim windows of the few books that came his way.  In one of these he read a story of a cherub who repents of making a choice with Satan, mourns over his apostasy, and haunts unseen the steps of our Savior.  He would gladly return to his lost duties in heaven if only he might.  The doubtful situation was left unsolved in the volume, and thus remained unsolved in Robert’s mind as well.  Would poor Abaddon be forgiven and taken home again?

By Robert’s own instincts, he felt there could be no question of his being forgiven.  But according to what he had been taught, there could be no question of his perdition.  Having no one to talk to, he questioned with himself, usually siding with the instinctively correct half of himself which supported the merciful view of the case.  For all his efforts at keeping the Sabbath had, in his own honest judgment, failed so entirely that he had now come to believe himself not one of those elected for salvation.  Therefore, this situation with the fallen angel was no mere mental exercise; for all he knew he might find himself in such a position one day – out in the fold and wanting to get back in.

He made one attempt to open the subject with Shargar.

“Shargar, what do you think?” he said suddenly one day.  “If a devil were to repent, would God forgive him?”

“There’s no saying what folk would do till once they’ve tried,” returned Shargar cautiously.

Robert did not care to resume the question with one who so circumspectly refused to take a view of the matter.

He made an attempt with his grandmother.

One Sunday, after trying for a time to revolve his thoughts in due orbit around the mind of the Rev. Hugh MacCleary, as projected in a sermon which he had botched up out of a commentary, Robert failed at last and flew off into what the said gentleman would have pronounced “very dangerous speculation, seeing no man is to go beyond what is written in the Bible, which contains not only the truth, but the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, for this time and all future time – both here and in the world to come.”  Some such sentence, at least, was in his sermon that day, and the preacher no doubt supposed St. Matthew, not St. Matthew Henry, accountable for its origination.  In the limbo into which Robert’s spirit then flew, it had been sorely exercised about the substitution of the sufferings of Christ for those which humanity must else have endured while ages rolled on – mere ripples on the ocean of eternity.

After dinner, when the table had been cleared by Betty, they drew chairs to the fire and Robert began reading, as was the custom, to his grandmother out of the family Bible while Shargar sat listening.  Robert had not read long, however, before he looked up and asked, “Wasn’t that a mean trick of Joseph, Grandmother, to put that cup, and a silver one too, into Benjamin’s sack?”

“Laddie, take care what ye say aboot Joseph, for he was a type o’ Christ.”

“How was that, Grandmother?”

“They sold him t’ the Ishmaelites for silver, as Judas did t’ the Lord.”

“Did he bear the sins of them that sold him?”

“Ye could say, i’ a way, he did, for he was sore afflicted before he made it up t’ be the king’s right hand.  And then he kept a whole heap o’ punishment off his brothers.”

So, Grandmother, other folk than Christ might suffer for the sins of their neighbors?”

“Ay, laddie, many a one has t’ do that.  But not t’ make atonement, ye know.  Nothing but the suffering o’ the spotless could do that.  The Lord wouldn’t be satisfied wi’ less than that.  It must be the innocent t’ suffer for the guilty.”

“I understand that,” said Robert, who had heard it so often that he had not yet thought of trying to understand it.  “But if we get to the good place, we’ll all be innocent, won’t we, Grannie?”

“Ay, we will – washed spotless an’ pure an’ clean an’ dressed i’ the wedding garment an’ set down at the table wi’ him an’ wi’ his Father.  That’s them that believes i’ him, ye know.”

“Of course, Grannie – Well, you see, I have been thinking of a plan for almost emptying hell.”

“What’s i’ the boy’s head now?  Truth, ye shouldn’t be meddling wi’ such subjects, laddie!”

“I don’t want to say anything to vex you, Grannie.  I’ll go on with the chapter.”

“Oh, go on wi’ what ye were going t’ say.  Ye won’t say much wrong before I’ll cry stop,” said Mrs. Falconer, curious to know what had been moving in the boy’s mind, but watching him like a cat, ready to spring on the first visible hair of the old Adam.

Robert, for his part, recalling the outbreak of terrible grief which he had heard from his grandmother on that memorable night, truly thought that his project would bring comfort to a mind burdened with such care.  Thus he went on with the explaining of his plan.

“All of them that sits down to the supper of the Lamb will sit there because Christ suffered the punishment due to their sins – won’t they, Grannie?”

“Doubtless, laddie.”

“But it’ll be weighing hard on their hearts to be sitting there eating and drinking and talking away and enjoying themselves when every now and then there’ll come a sigh of wailing up form the bad place, and the smell of burning hard to stand.”

“What put that int’ yer head, laddie?  There’s no reason t’ think that hell’s so near heaven as that.  The Lord forbid it.”

“Well, but, Grannie, they’ll know all the same, whether they smell it or not.  And I can’t help thinking that the farther away I thought they were, the worse it would be to think about them.  Indeed, it would be worse.”

“What are ye driving at, laddie? I can’t understand ye,” said Mrs. Falconer, feeling very uncomfortable and yet curious to hear what would come next.  “I don’t imagine we’d hae t’ think much-“

But here I presume the thought of the added desolation of her Andrew if she were to forget him, as well as his father in heaven, stopped the flow of her words.  She paused, and Robert took up his parable and went on, first with yet another question.

“Do you think, Grannie, that a body would be allowed to speak a word in public there – at the big, long table, I mean?”

“Why not, if it were done we’ modesty an’ for a good reason.  But really, laddie, I doubt ye’re rambling altogether.  Ye heard nothing like that today from Mr. MacCleary.”

“No, no, he said nothing about it.  But maybe I’ll go and ask him though.”

“What aboot?”

“What I’m going to tell you, Grannie.”

“Well, tell away an’ hae done wi’ it.  I’m growing tired o’ it.”

I was something else than tired she was growing.

“Well, I’m going to try as hard as I can to make it there.”

“I hope ye will.  Strive an’ pray.  Resist the Devil.  Walk i’ the light.  Trust not t’ yerself, but trust i’ Christ an’ his salvation.”

“Ay, ay, Grannie. Well – ”

“Aren’t ye done yet?”

“No. I’m but just beginning.”

“Beginning, are ye? Humph!”

“Well, if I make it there, the very first night I sit down with the rest of them I’m going to stand up and say – that is if the Master at the head of the table doesn’t tell me to sit down – ‘Brothers and sisters, listen to me for one minute, and – O Lord, if I say something wrong, just take the speech from me and I’ll sit down dumb and rebuked.  We’re all here by grace and not by merit, except his, as you all know better than me because you have been here longer than me.  But it’s just tugging at my heart to think of them that’s down there.  Now we have no merit, and they have no merit.  So why are we here and them there?  But now we’re washed clean and innocent.  So now, when there’s no punishment left on us, it seems to me that we might bear some of the sins of them that has too many.  I call upon each and every one of you that has a friend or neighbor down yonder to rise up and taste not a bit nor drink a drink tell we go up together to the foot of the throne and pray the Lord to let us go and do as the Master did before us, and bear the griefs and carry their sorrows down in hell there.  And if they repent it may be that they will get remission of their sins and come up here with us at last, and sit down with us at this table – all through the merits of our Savior Jesus Christ, at the head of the table there.’”

“No, Robert, let’s hae no more o’ this.  Ye know as well as I do that them that goes there, their doom is fixed an’ nothing can alter it.  An’ we’re not t’ allow our imaginations t’ carry beyond the scripture.  We have our own salvation t’ work out wi’ fear an’ trembling.  We hae nothing t’ do wi’ what’s hidden.  Only see that ye make it there yerself.  That’s enough for ye t’ mind.”

After tea, Mrs. Falconer sent Shargar to church with Betty.  When Robert and she were alone together, “Laddie,” she said, “ye must beware o’ judging the Almighty.  What looks t’ ye like a wrong may be a right.  We don’t know all things.  An’ he’s – he’s not dead yet – I don’t believe that he is – an’ he may make it there yet.”

Her voice failed her.  And Robert had nothing to say.  He had all his say before.

“Pray, Robert, pray for yer father, laddie,” she resumed, “for we hae good reason t’ be anxious about him.  Pray while there’s life an’ hope.  Give the Lord no rest.  Pray t’ him night an’ day as I do, that he would lead him t’ see the error o’ his ways an’ turn t’ the Lord who’s ready t’ pardon.  If yer mother had lived, I would hae more hope, I confess, for she was a good lady an’ pretty sweet-tongued.  But it was the care o’ her heart aboot him that shortened her days.  An’ all that’ll be laid upon him: he’ll hae t’ account for it.  Eh, Robert, my man, be a good lad an’ serve the Lord wi’ all yer heart, an’ soul, an’ strength, an’ mind.  For if ye go wrong, yer father will hae t’ bear nobody knows how much punishment, for he’s done nothing t’ bring ye up i’ the way ye should go.  For the sake o’ yer poor father, hold t’ the right road.  I’ may spare him a pang or two at the bad place.  Eh, if the Lord would only take me an’ let him go!”

Involuntarily and unconsciously the grandmother’s love was adopting the hope which she had denounced in her grandson.  Robert saw it, but was never one to push a victory.  He said nothing.  Only a tear or two at the memory of the wayward man he remembered rolled down his cheeks.  His grandmother, herself weeping silently, took her neatly folded handkerchief from her pocket and wiped her grandson’s fresh cheeks, then wiped her own withered face.  And from that moment Robert knew that he loved her.

Then followed the Sabbath-evening prayer.  They knelt down together and she uttered a long, extemporary prayer, full of Scripture phrases but not the less earnest and simple, for it flowed from a heart of goodness.  Then Robert had to pray after her, loud in her ear, that she might hear him thoroughly, so that he often felt as if he were praying to her and not to God at all.

She had begun to teach him to pray so early in his life that the custom reached beyond the confines of his memory.  At first he had had to repeat the words after her.  Then she made him construct his own utterances, now and then giving him a suggestion when he fell silent, or putting a phrase into what she considered more suitable language.

On the present occasion, after she had ended her petitions with those for Jews and pagans and for the “Pope o’ Rome,” she turned to Robert with the usual, “Now, Robert,” and Robert began.  But after he had gone for some time with the ordinary phrases, he turned all at once into a new track.  Instead of praying in general terms for “those that would not walk in the right way,” he said, “O Lord! Save my father,” and there paused.

“If it be thy will,” suggested his grandmother.

But Robert remained silent.  His grandmother repeated the clause.

“I’m trying, Grandmother,” said Robert, “but I can’t say it.  I dare not say an if about it.  It would be like giving in to his damnation.  We must have him saved, Grannie!”

“Laddie, laddie!  Hold yer toungue!” remonstrated Mrs. Falconer in a tone of distress.  “O Lord, forgive him.  He’s young an’ doesn’t know better yet.  He can’t understand thy ways, nor for that matter can I pretend t’ understand them myself.  But thou art all light an i’ thee is no darkness at all.  An’ thy light comes int’ our blind eyes an’ makes them blinder yet.  But, O Lord, if it would please thee t’ hear our prayer – eh! how we would praise thee!  An’ my Andrew would praise thee more than ninety an’ nine o’ them that need no repentance.”

A long pause followed.  And then the only words that would come were, “For Christ’s sake, Amen.”

They rose from their knees and Mrs. Falconer sat down by her fire, with her feet on her little wooden stool, and began to quietly review her past life and follow her son through all conditions and circumstances to her imaginable.  And when the world to come arose before her, clad in all the glories which her fancy, chilled by education and years, could supply, it was but to vanish in the gloom of the remembrance of poor Andrew with whom she dared not hope to share it.

She felt bound to go on believing as she had been taught, for sometimes the most original mind has the strongest sense of law upon it.  Obedience was indeed an essential element of her creed.  But she had not yet been sufficiently impressed with the truth that while obedience is the law of the kingdom, it is of considerable importance that which is obeyed should in truth be the will of God.

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God the Destroyer of Sin

Again, this whole post is an excerpt from my favorite book.  The ideas contained here are dangerous.   🙂  I have debated for some time as to whether I should post whole chapters from this book – but it’s just too good not to share it.  And I would think it would only motivate the readers of these posts to buy the book for themselves as there is much more content like this contained therein.

God the Destroyer of Sin

An excerpt from Discovering the Heart of God
Written By George MacDonald

Compiled, Arranged and Edited by Michael R Phillips


God Is not Obligated to Punish Sin

In the hope of giving a larger idea to the justice of God I ask, “Why is God bound to punish sin?”

If God punishes sin, it must be merciful to punish sin – for God is merciful.  And if God forgives sin, it must be just to forgive sin – for God is just.

How then do we harmonize mercy, justice, and forgiveness into the oneness of God’s character?

Every attribute of God must be infinite as himself.  He cannot be sometimes merciful, but not always merciful.  He cannot be just, but not always just.  Mercy belongs to him, and needs no contrivance of theologic chicanery to justify it.

“Then do you mean it is wrong to punish sin, and therefore God does not punish sin?”

By no means.

God does punish sin, but there is no opposition between punishment and forgiveness.  The one may be essential to the possibility of the other.  We are back to my question: Why does God punish sin?

“Because in itself sin deserves punishment,” do you answer?

Then how can God tell us to forgive it?

“He punishes, and having punished he forgives.”

That will hardly do.  For if sin demands punishment, if the making right for sin is punishment, and righteous punishment is given, then the man is out from under sin’s claim upon him; he is free.  Why should he now be forgiven?

“He needs forgiveness, because no amount of punishment can make up for the sin that is in his nature.  Nothing will fully give him all he deserves.”

Then why not forgive him at once, if the punishment is not essential, if it does not adequately remedy the whole of the problem of sin?  And this points out the fault in the whole idea.

Punishment is nowise an offset to sin.  Punishment, deserved suffering, is no equipoise to sin.  Suffering weighs nothing at all against sin.  If sin sits on one scale, it will move it not a hairsbreadth to lay punishment and suffering on the other.  They are not of the same kind, not under the same laws, any more than mind and matter.  To attempt to equate them would be like placing a cubic inch of lead on the one scale, and attempting to balance it by placing a cubic yard of air on the other.  The sin is unmoved.  It remains where it is though an eternity of punishment and suffering be brought to bear against it.

If it were an offset to wrong, then God would be bound to punish for the sake of punishment.  But he cannot be, for he forgives.  Then it is not for the sake of punishment, as a thing that in itself ought to be done, but for the sake of something else, as a means to an end, that God punishes.

Primarily, God is not bound to punish sin; he is bound to destroy sin.  If he were not the Maker, he might not be bound to destroy sin – I do not know.  But seeing he has created creatures who have sinned, and therefore sin has, by the creating act of God, come into the world, God is, in his own righteousness, bound to destroy sin.

Destruction, not Punishment, Is Required

God is always destroying sin.  In him I trust that he is destroying sin in me.  He is always saving the sinner from his sin, and that is destroying sin.  But vengeance on the sinner, the law of a tooth for a tooth, is not in the heart of God, neither in his hand.  If the sinner and the sin in him are the concrete object of the divine wrath, then indeed there can be no mercy.  Then indeed there will be an end put to sin by the destruction of the sin and the sinner together.  But thus would no atonement be wrought – nothing be done to make up for the wrong God has allowed to come into being by creating man.  There must be an atonement, a making up, a bringing together – an atonement which cannot be made except by the man who has sinned.

Punishment, I repeat, is not the thing required of God, but the absolute destruction of sin.  What better is the world, what better is the sinner, what better is God, what better is the truth, that the sinner should suffer – continue suffering to all eternity?  Would there be less sin in the universe?  Would there be any making-up for sin?  Would it show God justified in doing what he knew would bring sin into the world, justified in making creatures he knew would sin?  What setting-right would come of the sinner’s suffering?  If justice demanded it, if suffering be the equivalent for sin, then the sinner must suffer, and God is bound to exact his suffering, and not pardon; and so the making of man was a tyrannical deed, a creative cruelty.  But grant that the sinner has deserved to suffer, no amount of suffering is any atonement for his sin.  To suffer to all eternity could not make up for one unjust word.

An unjust word is an eternally evil thing; nothing but God in my heart can cleanse me from the evil that uttered it.  But it does not follow that I saw the evil of what I did so perfectly that eternal punishment for it would be just.  Sorrow and confession and self-abasing love will make up for the evil word; suffering will not.  For evil in the abstract, nothing can be done.  It is eternally evil.  But I may be saved from it by learning to loathe it, to hate it, to shrink from it with an eternal avoidance.  The only vengeance worth having on sin is to make the sinner himself its executioner.

The True Opposite of Evil

Sin and punishment are in no antagonism to each other in man, any more than pardon and punishment are in God.  They can perfectly co-exist.  The one naturally follows the other, punishment being born of sin, because evil exists only by the life of good and has no life of its own, being in itself death.

Sin and suffering are not natural opposites.  The opposite of evil is good, not suffering.  The opposition of sin is not suffering, but righteousness.  The path across the gulf that divides right from wrong is not the fire, but repentance.

If my friend has wronged me, will it console me to see him punished?  Will that be a rendering to me of my due?  What kind of friendship would I be fit for if that were possible, even with regard to my enemy?  But would not the shadow of repentant grief, the light of reviving love on his face, heal it at once, however deep the hurt had been?

Take any of those wicked people in Dante’s hell, and ask wherein is justice served by their punishment.  Mind, I am not saying it is not right to punish them, I am saying that justice can never be satisfied by suffering.

Human resentment, human revenge, human hate may find satisfaction in it.  But there can be no destruction of evil thereby.  The destruction of sin must begin where the sin originated in the first place, in the depths of a man’s heart.

When a man loathes himself, he has begun to be saved.  Punishment tends to this result.  Not for its own sake, not as a make-up for sin, not for divine revenge, not for any satisfaction to justice.  Punishment is for the sake of amendment and atonement.  God is bound by his love to punish sin in order to deliver his creature.  He is bound by justice to destroy the sin in his creation.

Love is justice – is the fulfilling of the law, for God as well as for his children.  This is the reason of punishment; this is why justice requires that the wicked shall not go unpunished – that they, through the eye-opening power of pain, may come to see and do justice, may be brought to desire and make all possible amends, and so become just.  For Justice, that is God, is bound in himself to see justice done by his children – not in the mere outward act, but in their very being.  He is bound in himself to make up for wrong done by his children, and he can do nothing to make up for wrong done but by bringing about the repentance of the wrongdoer.

Righteousness – The Beginning of Sin’s End

When the man says, “I did wrong; I hate myself and the deed; I cannot endure to think that I did it!” then, I say, is atonement begun.  Without that, all that the Lord did would be lost.  He would have made no atonement.  Repentance, restitution, confession, prayer for forgiveness, righteous dealing thereafter is the sole possible, the only true make-up for sin.  For nothing less than this did Christ die.  When a man acknowledges the right he denied before, when he says to the wrong, “I loathe you.  I see now how you are.  I could not see it before, because I refused to see it.  God forgive me, make me clean, or let me die!” then Justice, that is God, has conquered sin – and not until then.

“How, then,” you may ask, “does the atonement of Jesus conquer sin, if all the doing must come from within man?  What atonement is there then by his shed blood?”

All the atonement that God cares for; the work of Jesus Christ on earth was the creative atonement, because it works atonement in every heart.  He brings and is bringing God and man, and man and man, into perfect unity.  “I in them and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one.”  His death is what makes such atonement, such one-making, possible.

“That is dangerous doctrine!” some will say.

More dangerous than you think to many things – to every evil, to every lie, and among the rest to every false trust in what Christ did, instead of in Christ himself.  Paul glories in the cross of Christ, but he does not trust in the cross; he trusts in the living Christ and his living Father.

Justice, then, requires that sin should be put an end to.  And not only that, but that it should be atoned for.  And where punishment can do anything to this end, where it can help the sinner to know what he has been guilty of, where it can soften his heart to see his pride and wrong and cruelty, justice requires that punishment shall not be spared.  And the more we believe in God, the surer we shall be that he will spare nothing that suffering can do to deliver his child from death.  If suffering cannot serve this end, we need look for no more hell, but for the destruction of sin by the destruction of the sinner.  That, however, would, it appears to me, be for God to suffer defeat.

If God be defeated, he must destroy – that is, he must withdraw life.  How can he go on sending forth his life in irreclaimable souls, to keep sin alive in them through the ages of eternity?  For in such a case, no atonement would be made, and God would remain defeated, for he has created that which has sinned, and which would not repent and make up for its sin.

But those who believe that God will thus be defeated by many souls must surely be of those who do not believe he cares enough to do his very best for them.  He is their Father.  He had power to make them out of himself, separate from himself, and capable of being one with him.  Surely he will somehow save and keep them!  Not the power of sin itself can close all channels between the Creator and the created.

The Saving Redemption of Suffering

The notion of suffering as an offset for sin comes first of all, I think, from the satisfaction we feel when wrong comes to grief.  We hate the wrong, but, not being righteous ourselves, to a degree we cannot keep from hating the wronger as well.  In this way the inborn justice of our nature passes over to evil.  It is not pleasure to God, as it so often is to us, to see the wicked suffer.  To regard any suffering with satisfaction, unless it be sympathetically with its curative quality, comes of evil and is a thing God is incapable of.  His nature is always to forgive, and just because he forgives, he punishes.  Because God is so altogether alien to wrong, because it is to him a heart-pain and trouble that one of his little ones should do the evil thing, there is, I believe, no extreme of suffering to which, for the sake of destroying the evil thing in them, he would not subject them.  A man might flatter, or bribe, or coax a tyrant.  But there is no refuge from the love of God.  That love will, for very love, insist upon the uttermost farthing.

“That hardly sounds like love,” you say.  “It’s certainly not the sort of love I care about.”

No, how should you?  How should any of us care for it until we begin to know it?  But the eternal love will not be moved to yield us to the selfishness that is killing us.  You may sneer at such a love, but the Son of God, who took the weight of that love and bore it through the world, is content with it, and so is everyone who truly knows it.

The love of the Father is a radiant perfection.  Love and not self-love is Lord of the universe.  Justice demands your punishment, because it demands that your Father should do his best for you.  God, being the God of justice – that is of fair-play – and having made us what we are (apt to fall and capable of being raised again) is in himself bound to punish in order to deliver us.

There are tenderhearted people who would never have force used nor pain suffered, who talk as if kindness could do everything.  Yet were it not for suffering, millions of human beings would never develop an atom of affection.  It is folly to conclude that a thing ought not to be done because it hurts.  There are powers to be born, creations to be perfected, sinners to be redeemed – all through the ministry of pain – that could be born, perfected, and redeemed in no other way.

The notion that the salvation of Jesus is a salvation from the consequences of our sins is a false notion.  The salvation of Christ is salvation from the smallest tendency or leaning to sin.  It is a deliverance into the pure air of God’s ways of thinking and feeling.  It is salvation that makes the heart pure, with the will and choice of the heart to be pure.

To such a heart, sin is disgusting.  It sees a thing as it is – that is, as God sees it, for God sees everything as it is.  Jesus did not die to save us from punishment.  He was called Jesus because he should save his people from their sins.

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God Creator of the Will

This entire post is an excerpt from one of my favorite books to sit and ponder over.  I hope you enjoy…

God Creator of the Will

An excerpt from Discovering the Heart of God
Written By George MacDonald

Compiled, Arranged and Edited by Michael R Phillips


Separation – The Path to True Unity

All things are possible with God, but all things are not easy.  It is easy for Him to be, for there he has to do with his own perfect will.  It is not easy for him to create- that is, after the grand fashion which alone will satisfy his glorious heart and will, the fashion in which alone will satisfy his glorious heart and will, the fashion in which he is now creating us.  In the very nature of being (that is, God), it must be hard – and divine history shows how hard – to create that which shall not be himself, yet like himself.

The problem is, so far to separate from himself that which must yet on him be ever and always and utterly dependent, that it shall have the existence of an individual, and be able to turn and regard him – choose him, and say, “I will arise and go to my Father,” and so develop in itself the highest divine of which it is capable: the will for the good against the evil, the will to be one with the life whence it has come, the will to shape in its own life the ring of eternity, to be the thing the Maker thought of when he willed, before he began to work its being.

I imagine the difficulty of doing this thing, of effecting this creation, this separation from himself such that will in the creature shall be possible – I imagine, I say, the difficulty of such creation so great, that for it God must begin inconceivably far back in the infinitesimal regions of beginnings, to set in motion the division from himself which in its grand result should be individuality, consciousness, choice, and conscious choice – choice at last pure, being the choice of right, the true, the divinely harmonious.

Hence the final end is oneness – an impossibility without it.  For there can be no unity, no delight in love, no harmony, no good in being, where there is but one.

Two at least are needed for oneness; and the greater the number of individuals, the greater, the lovelier, the richer, the diviner is the possible unity.

God’s Sacrifice to Give Divine Life

God is life, and the will-source of life.

In the out-flowing of that life, I know him.  I know nothing deeper in him than love, nor believe there is in him anything deeper than love – nay, that there can be anything deeper than love.

The being of God is love, therefore creation.  From all eternity he has been creating.  As he saw it was not good for man to be alone, so God has never been alone himself; from all eternity the Father has had the Son, and in the never-begun existence of that Son I imagine an easy outgoing of the Father’s nature; while to make other beings – beings like us – I imagine the labor of God an eternal labor.  Speaking after our poor human fashions of thought, I imagine that God has never been contented to be alone even with the Son of his love, the prime and perfect idea of humanity, but that God has from the first willed and labored to give existence to other creatures who should be blessed with his blessedness – creatures whom he is now and has always been developing in likeness with that Son.

God knew what it would all cost – not energy of will alone, or merely that utterance and separation from himself, but sore suffering such as we cannot imagine, and could only be God’s – in the bringing out, call it birth or development, of the God-life in the individual soul.  This suffering is always renewed, a labor thwarted ever by that soul itself, compelling God to take, still at the cost of suffering, the not absolute best, only the best possible means left him by the resistance of his creature.  Man finds it hard to get what he wants, because he does not want the best.  God finds it hard to give, because he would give the best, and man will not take it.  What Jesus did, was what the Father is always doing.  The suffering he endured was that of the Father from the foundation of the world, reaching its climax in the person of his Son.

God always provides the sacrifice; the sacrifice is himself.  He is always, and has ever been, sacrificing himself to and for his creatures.  It lies in the very essence of his creation of them.

If Jesus suffered for men, it was because his Father suffers for men.  Only Jesus came close to men through his body and their senses, that he might bring their spirits close to his Father and their Father, so giving them life, and losing what could be lost of his own.  He is God our Savior.  The God and Father of Jesus Christ could never possibly be satisfied with less than giving himself to his own!

Not the lovingest heart that ever beat can even reflect the length and breadth and depth and height of that love of God, which shows itself in his Son – one, and of one mind, with himself.  The whole history is a divine agony to give divine life to creatures.  The outcome of that agony, the victory of that creative and again creative energy, will be radiant life, the flower of which is joy unspeakable.  Every child will look into the eyes of the Father, and the eyes of the Father will receive the child with an infinite embrace.

The Will – Door to Oneness with God

What is our practical relation to the life original?  If we did not make ourselves, how can we do anything at the unknown roots of our being?

It is by the will of the self-existent God that we live.

So the links of unity between ourselves, who cannot create life, and him who has created it, must already exist.  They must only require to be brought together.  For the link in our being with which to close the circle of immortal oneness with the Father, we must search the deepest of man’s nature; there only in all assurance, it can be found.

And there we do find it!

For the will is the deepest, the strongest, the divinest thing in a man.  So, I assume, it is in God, too, for we find it in Jesus Christ.  Here, and here only, in the relation of the two wills, can a man come into vital contact with the All-in-all.

When a man can and does entirely say, “Not my will, but thine be done,” when he so wills the will of God as to do it, then is he one with God – one, as a true son with a true Father.  When a man wills that his being be conformed to the being of his origin, which is the life of his life, causing and bearing his life, therefore absolutely and only of its kind, one with it more and deeper than words or figures can say – to the life which is itself, only more of itself, and more than itself, causing itself – when the man thus accepts his own causing life, and sets himself to live the will of that causing life, humbly eager after the privileges of his origin, thus receiving God, he becomes, in the act, a partaker of the divine nature, a true son of the living God, and an heir of all he possesses.

By the obedience of a son, he receives into himself the very life of the Father.

Man’s Highest Creation

Men speak of the so-called creations of the human intellect or of the human imagination.  But there is nothing man can do that comes half so near the true “making,” the true creativity of the Maker as the ordering of his own way.  There is only one thing that is higher, the highest creation of which man is capable, and that is to will the will of the Father.  That act indeed contains within it an element of the purely creative, and when man does will such, then he is most like God.

To do what we ought, as children of God, is an altogether higher, more divine, more potent, more creative thing, than to write the grandest poem, paint the most beautiful picture, carve the mightiest statue, build the most magnificent temple, dream out the most enchanting symphony.

All betterment must be radical, for a man can know nothing of the roots of his being.  His existence is God’s; his betterment must be God’s too – God’s through honest exercise of that which is highest in man, his own will, God’s best handiwork.  By actively willing the will of God and doing what of it lies within his power, the man takes the share offered him in his own making, in his own becoming.  In willing actively and operatively to become what he was made to be, he becomes creative – so far as a man may.  In this way also he becomes like his Father in heaven.

The High Life of Obedience

Obedience is the joining of the links of the eternal round.  Obedience is but the other side of the creative will.  Will is God’s will; obedience is man’s will; the two make one.

God, the Root-life, knowing well the thousand troubles it would bring upon him, has created, and goes on creating other lives, that, though incapable of self-being, they may, by willed obedience, share in the bliss of his essential self-ordained being.  If we do the will of God, eternal life is ours – no mere continuity of existence, for that in itself is worthless as hell, but a being that is one with the essential Life, and so within reach to fill with the abundant and endless outgoings of his love.

Our souls shall be vessels ever growing, and ever as they grow, filled with the more and more life proceeding from the Father and the Son, from God the ordaining, and God the obedient.  The delight of the being, the abundance of the life he came that we might have, we can never know until we have it.  But even now to the holy fancy it may sometimes seem to glorious to support – as if we must die of very life – of more being than we could bear – to awake to a yet higher life, and be filled with a wine which our souls were heretofore too weak to hold!

To be for one moment aware of such pure simple love toward but one of my fellows as I trust I shall one day have toward each, must of itself bring a sense of life such as the utmost effort of my imagination can but feebly shadow now – a mighty glory of consciousness!  There would be, even in that one love, in the simple purity of a single affection such as we were created to generate and intended to cherish toward all, an expansion of life inexpressible, unutterable.  For we are made for love, not for self.  Our neighbor is our refuge; self is our demon-foe.

Every man is the image of God to every man, and in proportion as we love him, we shall know the sacred fact.  The most precious thing to a human soul is every other human soul.  One day we shall know this more clearly.  And if it be so between man and man, how will it not be between man and his Maker, between the child and his eternal Father, between the created and the creating Life?

Must not the glory of existence be endlessly redoubled in the infinite love of the creature – for all love is infinite – to the infinite God, the great one life, that whom is no other – only shadows, lovely shadows of him!

Choosing to Partake of the Divine Nature

Because we have come out of the divine nature, which chooses to be divine, we must choose to be divine, to be of God, to be one with God, loving and living as he loves and lives, and so be partakers of the divine nature.  Otherwise we perish.

Man cannot originate this life.  It must be shown him, and he must choose it.  God is the Father of Jesus and of us – of every possibility of our being.  Bur while God is the Father of his children, Jesus is the father of their sonship, for in him is made the life which is sonship to the Father – the recognition, in fact and life, that the Father has his claim upon his sons and daughters.

We are not and cannot become true dons and daughters without our will willing his will, our doing following his making.  It was the will of Jesus to be the thing God willed and meant him, that made him the true Son of God.  He was not the Son of God because he could not help it, but because he willed to be in himself the Son that he was in the divine idea.

So with us: we must be the sons we are.  We must be sons and daughters in our will.  And we can be sons and daughters, saved into the bliss of our being, only by choosing God the for the Father he is, and doing his will – yielding ourselves true sons and daughters to the absolute Father.

Therein lies human bliss – only and essential.

The working out of this our salvation must involve pain, and the handing of it down to them that are below must ever involve pain.  But the eternal form of the will of God in and for us is intensity of bliss.

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The Man that Fears to Doubt

“The man that feareth, Lord, to doubt,
In that fear doubteth thee.”
-George MacDonald

My wonderful wife bought me a biography of George MacDonald for Christmas. I’m sitting here reading it and came across this quote.

I find this quote to be quite profound.

A man who fears to have doubts regarding his faith or even regarding the character of God; in truth, this man already doubts the goodness and faithfulness of God. Additionally, the fear of uncovering something uncomfortable as a result of pursuing one’s doubts shows a certain insecurity, which, in and of itself is the result of doubt.

“If we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself.”
2 Tim 2:13

I say freely pursue your doubts because in the end you will either find yourself more convinced of the truth you began to doubt, or, you will find the truth you were missing. Doubts properly pursued are a gift from God himself.

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