Several days ago, I was praying and the Lord spoke to me. His first sentence was “ Look away from sin and turn your gaze to Me”. He then went on to encourage me, for which I was grateful, but as I left, that first utterance continued to roll around in me and I began to see the depth of what He was saying.
Turn from sin. The first part of the command was not so much leave the environment or location of sin, but rather quit dwelling on it , look away from it. When Eve first began her rationalizing conversation with Satan about the fruit from the tree of life, we can be sure it followed a period of study like a woman might do in the midst of a shopping trip where something catches her eye and she turns her full attention to it, picking it up , studying it, evaluating it and imagining it belonging to her. Study foments lust and lust begets temptation and temptation to sin begets rationalization and before long there is sin. God was telling Me to nip sin at the beginning and just walk on with the shopping cart. Actually, He’s telling me just don’t continue to look at it. I think this is the most obvious meaning of what He commanded.
A second meaning was to quit dwelling on sin as a disqualification of godliness. The Bible talks about those who hunger and thirst after righteousness. But the Bible is talking about righteousness as described by and pertaining to God, who we can agree, is the sole arbiter of righteousness, not righteousness as defined by man (currently known as political correctness in western civilization!).
Throughout history, man has strived to define goodness and right-ness according to whatever rules the most powerful deem as important. This is what Jesus confronted when the Jewish leaders brought the adulteress to Him to condone their stoning her to death ( according to the law of Moses!). Jesus confounded those present, and others for generations, when He qualified exactly who could initiate the stoning. “ Let he who is without sin...” And as the crowd of would be executioners left, Jesus commanded her to go, and turn away from sin. What is not made obvious here is the hypocrisy of these leaders anxious to mete out punishment while they are guilty of divorcing their wives and remarrying which Jesus declares is adulterous! I’ve heard it taught that Jesus actually said “ Let those who are not guilty of this sin cast the first stone!”. Jesus had also pointed out that anybody who listed in their heart after a woman committed adultery and therefore were not qualified to initiate or carry out the death penalty described by Moses. The old covenant was interpreted as just that: the observance of a set of rules and the inability or refusal to obey, the atonement and penalty for not obeying, the infrastructure to define , interpret, clarify, mete out punishment- this was their life. There was obviously quite a crowd that descended on this woman as they interpreted this violation of their religious law as worthy of their attention and participation all the while still blinded as to the divinity of Jesus!
Paul in Galatians describes the law as a guardian and protector until the Spirit and maturity come along, not the end all of our relationship with our creator. Our relationship with the Father- which Jesus paid a high price to ensure!- was not meant to be observing a lot of rules and looking down our nose at those who don’t! Nor was it meant to be a life of lawlessness and freedom to pursue the lusts of the flesh! Both of the above pursuits are carnal and flesh centered!
Thirdly, the Lord was telling me to quickly deal with sin; in myself and in others. Jesus has all sorts of advice on this front. Defuse situations with your enemy by turning the other cheek, walking 2 miles when he demands 1, etc.
When offended confront it, try to resolve it with witnesses even! Paul commands us to be at peace with others as much as it’s up to you, and if you’re mature and wise, you know sometimes that’s accomplished only with distance; stay away! But mainly, quit looking at it, quit dwelling on it.
Now without the second part of the Lord’s command, to set our gaze on Him, we could try to obey the first part unto wretchedness! After Paul describes the hell of trying to live carnally while obeying and not disobeying legal tenets, he tells us Jesus , as our example, as the object of our veneration, has set us free from the wretchedness of our flesh rebelling against the righteousness of God. When Eve began nurturing her obsession with the fruit, she was blessed with a completely godly man , a total innocence; no sense of guilt or condemnation, surrounded by the beauty of a garden that God planted, and a physically present , glorious loving God with whom she walked who denied her only one thing. It was that one thing that she focused on and it darkened her mind. If she had just turned her attention, her consciousness, her gaze to God- present, loving, powerful, beautiful and glorious. Just turn away from the first spark of temptation. Look at God. It’s interesting to note that when God sent fiery serpents to punish the Israelites in the wilderness, their salvation was to gaze upon the bronze serpent God had instructed Moses to lift up on a pole:
“ And the Lord said to Moses, Make a fiery serpent [of bronze] and set it on a pole; and everyone who is bitten, when he looks at it, shall live.
And Moses made a serpent of bronze and put it on a pole, and if a serpent had bitten any man, when he looked to the serpent of bronze [attentively, expectantly, with a steady and absorbing gaze], he lived. “ Num 21: 8-9
There was an inflective moment in all of history when the children of Israel rejected the notion of meeting face to face with Jehovah and told Moses,”You go, and tell us what He said”. They decided it was easier to obey whatever rules He handed Moses rather than meeting God face to face- way too scary. Thus began a centuries long preoccupation with a law they never could obey ( which was God’s point in all of the Old Testament ) . The preoccupation, from which Paul was released upon encountering Jesus, blinded them to the appearance of their Messiah and their salvation:
“Whereas Israel, though ever in pursuit of a law [for the securing] of righteousness (right standing with God), actually did not succeed in fulfilling the Law.
For what reason? Because [they pursued it] not through faith, relying [instead] on the merit of their works [they did not depend on faith but on what they could do]. They have stumbled over the Stumbling Stone.”
Moses, in stark contrast, even though he was the messenger of the law which Paul described as glorious- to a degree- was much more interested in the presence of God Himself. Somehow Moses saw beyond the terror of the smoke and fire on the mountain, and was not repelled by His thunderous voice; Moses had one desire- to see God’s glory, to gaze upon his Creator. Beyond that, unlike any man throughout history , Moses spoke to the Father face to face.
Should we ignore the Lord’s warning to cast our gaze on Him, we need only to look at the Pharisees and scribes of Jesus’ day to note the consequence. So wrapped up in the activities and infrastructure of sin were they, that they could not recognize what the book of Phillipians describes as the perfect representation of the Father! So acute was their lack of recognition that they saw Jesus as disruptive and destructive to their worship and service to God! How incredibly perverse!
Somehow, Abraham, Moses, Joshua, David, and other hero’s of the Old Testament were able to see and commune with the One true God and I think this is the essence of what Paul grapples with in Romans 7. The carnal man, influenced heavily by his flesh and demands of his earthly life strains to fulfill the righteousness he craves for the reasons Paul enumerates as he describes the failure of his people’s efforts to justify themselves through observance of “a law”.The flesh is at enmity with God and though the man’s heart and mind would like to be at peace with God, He is living after the dictates of the flesh and the flesh is hostile to God. The man who is born of the Spirit and has let the Spirit have command over him is not as aroused to rebellion by the commands of God because he fellowships with God because of his faith in the grace and atonement of Christ’s sacrifice. Faith begets communion( the gazing), communion begets faith. The carnal man is doing works obeying and not disobeying laws for which he wants to be paid. The problem is, his very carnal self is sabotaging the process- when you put a law in front of this man, his mind says I’m going to obey this and get paid in rightcoin ( vs Bitcoin!). But his boss, the flesh who is telling him he needs rightcoin is also arousing him to do contrary to the law because the law is holy. The only way to be born of the Spirit is to subject yourself to crucifixion; the Spirit and the flesh can’t share - peaceably- the leadership of your being! The baptism in the Holy Spirit begins the process of being Spirit- filled , it is not the totality of the exchange of Spirit filled for flesh filled!Therefore you must be an overcomer, one who endures the crucifixion. This is what Jesus meant by picking up your cross daily and following Him. The cross is the instrument of crucifixion , so the process is voluntary; you don’t have to pick up the cross, but you have to if you want to follow Jesus as He declares it a prerequisite! You can’t fellowship with or gaze upon your creator unless you have great faith in the atoning sacrifice of Jesus- the blood of the Lamb AND are cooperating with the process of sanctification. The 2 go hand in hand. But the flesh is not keen on participating in the process that destroys it! So the carnal man seeks his own righteousness, convincing him or herself that his or her obedience to a few rules they have magnified to themselves makes them deserving of the wages of law compliance which is righteousness. But the Bible describes this righteousness as dirty rags ( Isa 64:6) and the only true righteousness is that attained by faith in the atoning death and resurrection of the unblemished Lamb! One cannot endure the death of the flesh and it’s delusions of worth and righteousness without revelation of imputed righteousness- it’s too painful! We make much of “ self esteem “ and self worth and loving ourselves, but I think it is foolishness compared to attaining to God’s righteousness which is a perfect gift, but has as its price the destruction of any and all
delusions of self esteem, self worth , etc.
So while Paul rejoices that Jesus has saved us from the wretchedness of the carnal man struggling to obey the law of God ( Rom 7: 24-25), I can assure you there is a measure of wretchedness in becoming one led by the Spirit rather than the dictates of the flesh!
But the reward is great and eternal! The next article, and I apologize for the delay will be the rewards of the overcomer! Theo