25. Can We Bear with God?
Too many Christians are focused on what they are doing, where they are going, and how they are being blessed, or what God requires of them. Most Christians simply do not care about God, about His heart, about who He is and what He does, about His dreams and intentions and purposes. Most have no compassion for God.
25. Can We Bear with God?
The deepest truths of God can be known only by story. Neither mathematicians nor theologians can describe God, no matter how highly human intellect is exalted. God is found in story; He is found in a babe lying in a manger; He is found in a man hanging on a cross.
For this letter, I suggest that you watch Anthony Lloyd Weber’s The Phantom of the Opera with Gerald Butler and Emmy Rossum. (Or, better yet, the performance at the Royal Albert Theater.) If you have seen it, watch it again; if you have not, rent it from Netflix and watch it. It is a powerful story, filled with truth, for those who have hearts to hear God speak through the pain of the human experience.
God is the phantom of the opera.
God is ugly. He has no form or comeliness; and when we see Him, there is no beauty that we should desire Him. He is despised and rejected by men, a Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him; He was despised, and we did not esteem Him.
The second greatest accusation against God in the world today is that He is a murderer. Christians try to defend Him by claiming He is not, but to do so, they have to find ways to cut verses out of the Bible, both New Testament and Old.
I find this reality growing in me. The closer I walk with God, the more highly I regard all that He speaks. And the more highly I regard all that He speaks, the closer I walk with Him.
Too many Christians are focused on what they are doing, where they are going, and how they are being blessed, or what God requires of them. Most simply do not care about God, about His heart, about who He is and what He does, about His dreams and intentions and purposes. Most have no compassion for God.
The phantom was born with one side of his face normal and handsome and the other side twisted and hideous. He tells Christine that the first piece of clothing his mother placed upon him was a hood to cover his face. She could not bear to look upon her son. The whole world treated him in the same way.
The most important scene in the story is the climax, when Christine has to choose either for Raoul to die and her to escape or for Raoul to live and her to commit herself forever to this one who was despised and rejected by men.
When Christine accused him of being a murderer, the phantom said, “The world had no compassion on me.”
Raoul was everything a bride could long for, rich, handsome, winsome. There was nothing wrong with Raoul; he was not the “wrong” choice for Christine.
It’s just that God is more like the phantom than He is like Raoul. Don’t think for one moment that God is insensitive to how people treat Him with contempt.
When the phantom said, “The world had no compassion on me,” he was speaking straight out of God’s heart, including all the anger and frustration and hurt. We find verse after verse through the Bible that says exactly that about God’s feelings.
Do not cut out anything God says. Rightly dividing the word of God is critical to understanding the truth, but rightly dividing and cutting out are two different practices. Much of what is called “rightly dividing” is simply “cutting out” in disguise. To cut anything that God says is to spit upon Christ.
Christ living as us in this world is not a removal of any requirement of God. It is the only possible way God’s requirements can be fulfilled in our lives. If Jesus could not carry His own cross, but needed someone else to carry it for Him, how much more we? “Christ as us” is not a turning away from anything God speaks or from any requirement God has set, as some falsely accuse; it is how we embrace with all joy and confidence the God who fulfills all that He speaks in our lives.
At the same time the jeopardy in which we stand is never outside of Christ living as us in this world. The cross was the greatest conflict in the universe, and it came directly out of the greatest jeopardy in all history. Jesus was tempted in all points just as we are tempted. If He could not have failed, then God is a jokester.
Jesus was capable of sin, of despising His weakness and walking separately from the Father in His own “godhood.” For three and a half years the fate of the universe hung in the balance. That is jeopardy. Out of that jeopardy came the conflict of the cross, and out of that cross came the resurrection, the greatest grace that there is. We live in that grace. But we follow the same path as Jesus.
The jeopardy in which Jesus walked for three and one half years is the first witness of Christ upon this earth. God is preparing us to be the second witness of Christ. We are not greater than our Master; we walk in His steps. It is He living as us in this world.
Without an enemy there is no story. Those who cut the enemy out of our picture cut the very heart out of God. In Gladiator, Maximus could be as great as he wanted to be, but without Commodus, there is no story and no one would care. In The Lord of the Rings, the hobbits and Aragorn could be as endearing as possible, but without Sauron, there is no story, no purpose, and no one would care.
Why is the Lamb exalted? Because He was slain. Because He defeated sin and death. Yet the story is not finished. Jesus was the first part of the story of God; His time on this earth was not its climax.
The Lamb can be as great as He wants, but without the Beast there is no story, and without story, no one will care, including God.
These are the ones who come out of the great tribulation, and washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Revelation 7:14
And I saw something like a sea of glass mingled with fire, and those who have the victory over the beast, over his image and over his mark and over the number of his name, standing on the sea of glass, having harps of God. They sing the song of Moses . . . and the song of the Lamb. Revelation 15:2-3
There is only one way to sing His song, and that is to defeat the Beast. No Beast, no song. Notice that they also sing the song of Moses, a terrible song, one that we would not dare to sing except we believe all that God speaks, except that being with God means more to us than anything else.
God sends destruction without remorse. I know that many who love grace will cry against such a statement; but I also know that they know all the verses they are cutting out of the Bible in order to create a god who fits modern, humanistic, and egalitarian sensibilities.
He Himself treads the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God. Revelation 19:15
These words come to us through the same hand, the same mind and heart, at the same time as the one who said, “For God so loved the world.” Both words, both at the same time. Was John dyslexic? Did he suffer from schizophrenia? John, drawing from a lifetime of walking with Jesus, drawing from the power of the Holy Spirit, speaking the final words of Jesus to His church through one of the original apostles, jealous over the full revelation of Jesus Christ, out of the same heart, out of the same breath, at the same time, penned, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son,” AND “He Himself treads the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God.”
Rejoice over her, O heaven, and you holy apostles and prophets, for God has avenged you on her! Revelation 18:20
God brings judgment on millions. He wipes out the dreams, the hopes, the desires, the lives of millions upon millions of people. (I believe this word in Revelation 18 is speaking primarily about the United States in our day.) And then He gives this command. “You who are with Me, rejoice; get excited at the destruction I have wrought.”
Can we do what God commands? Can we rejoice in the midst of destruction? Do we care enough about the heart and purpose and intentions of this One whom all mankind despises to side with Him?
The time of sorrows has begun. The second witness of Christ wears “sackcloth.” That means we rejoice in God and weep in His sorrow, both at the same time.
Let me share with you a story that happened to people I know – in 1996.
At one of the Christian communities of the fellowship I was a part of, Upsala, in Ontario, Canada, the young people went on an outing with two of the elders in the church and their wives. These couples were the “youth leaders” in the community. There were quite a number of young people with them, more than a dozen. I did not know any of the people on this camping trip personally, but I knew of them and many of their family members are close friends and brethren.
The entire group of young people and the two adult couples with them went canoeing out on a lake. This is something they did regularly. These were seasoned wilderness people who knew what they were doing. That same evening, the church back home had gathered together in a worship service.
A great wind came upon the lake; all the canoes capsized. Those who did survive spent the night in the water clinging to an overturned canoe. The brethren back home in the service knew in their spirits that something terrible was happening. Those who saw visions saw wind and trouble. These were their children. Their worship and prayers mounted to the heavens.
Meanwhile, at the lake, one who was on the shore found the first two bodies washed up. Back home, the prophets saw in a vision that the Lord had taken those two (by name) home with Him. There was no physical communication between the wilderness lake and home. The family at home knew that more were gone, but the Lord showed them only those that had been found.
The two couples, elders in the church, were gone. Many of the young people were gone. The Lord took them home. Only a few survived the long night in the water.
Back home, as their families received the direct news, the song that rose up in their midst, through the agony and tears, was, “God is good, all the time.”
Only atheism would say that this “just happened,” that God had nothing to do with it. No, God holds every element of our lives in His hand. He gives and He takes away. All His ways concerning us are perfect.
We heard the story the next day. Yet through the wrenching sorrow, the greatest thing I remember is the power and anointing upon that song, as we sang it with our brethren, tears streaming down our faces, “God is good, all the time.”
Those who died, the Lord took them home; and those who lived, the Lord appointed their times. In all things He is good. This is His beauty; this is His glory. All we can do in our tears and in our loss is say, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord.”
Yet, we no longer walk as recipients of His directives in the way we once understood. We walk in full union with this One who gives and who takes away, this One who gives life and who takes life. This is the One who IS our life. And all that He does, whether He gives or takes away, whether He blesses or whether He judges, all of it is Love.
To believe that Wrath is not Love is to accuse God falsely. Yet there is no accusation in the judgment of God, not a whiff of it. Those who accuse others do not know God. Whatever sorrow the least one bears, God shares that sorrow fully. He wounds and He heals. He carries all inside of Himself.
Richard Kiley played Jesus in the movie, Matthew, 1993. I love his portrayal of Jesus. Most who “act” Jesus give a false image of Him, but not Kiley. When Kiley’s Jesus heals, he is so excited about the joy in this little one whom he has touched. And when he rebukes the Pharisees in Matthew’s terrible soliloquy against them, the great sorrow that he bears out of the deepest love and tender compassion behind those HARSH words is portrayed so clearly on Kiley’s face.
Do we love people enough to strike the nations that hold them in chains of bondage? Do we love Americans enough to tell them that their “country” is false? That it has no covenant with God; that He does not know it? That the “United States” does not exist as anything real, and therefore it is impossible for Him to bless it? Or will we perpetrate the meaningless nonsense about how God would “bless America?”
Christ saves people. He cannot save something that does not exist.
Will anyone walk with God? Will anyone share His heart? Will anyone speak for Him? To be one with God is to be one with consuming fire. Love.
Can we sorrow with the people who hurt and rejoice in the judgment of God as His judgments shake the whole world and bring Babylon to its knees? Can God be all that He is in us?
Can we justify Him with great tears and great joy when all the world is shaking their fist at Him in rage and accusation? Yet it is not He only that we justify, but ourselves, for we are one with Him in all things.
Let us be so filled with the certainty of the determination of God that we cannot know fear. The second most frequent command in the New Testament is, “Do not be afraid.” This is a good thing to obey at this moment in time. Yet we do not obey because we are subject to fear, but rather because we share God’s heart, His determination and purpose, in all ways.
When we are “tortured, not accepting deliverance.” When we are tried and mocked and scourged with “chains and imprisonment.” When we “wander about in sheepskins and goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented.” When we look for refuge “in deserts and mountains, in dens and caves of the earth.” Will we sing “God is good, all the time?” Will we carry in our hearts the full certainty of God’s determination through us?
To bear in our hearts the very Heart of Almighty God is to be “a Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.” It is to sing, “It is well, it is well, with my soul” over the loss of everything we hold dear in this world.
These have power to shut heaven, so that no rain falls in the days of their prophecy; and they have power over waters to turn them to blood, and to strike the earth with all plagues, as often as they desire. Revelation 11:6
This is the ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ in our day. Can we bear all that He is?