KINGDOM BIBLE STUDIES
"Teaching the things concerning the kingdom of God..."
TO BE THE LORD’S PRAYER
DELIVER US FROM EVIL
"After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven...lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil" (Mat. 6:9,13).
Armed with the knowledge that God has ordained the pathway of temptation, testing and proving for each of His sons, the question follows: Why are we taught to pray, "Lead us not into temptation"? It seems to ask the impossible. We are sure that Jesus never bids us to offer petitions that, from their very nature, can never be fulfilled. There can be no mistake in thinking that our Father leads us into positions where our faith, hope, obedience and love may all be put to the test. But the question remains, and with full force. Ought we to pray to be kept from such circumstances and conditions? Ought we to want to avoid the great occasion that may greatly try us? Ought we not, as James desired us, to rejoice when we are called upon to pass through such experiences, and for the reason he gives, that such occasions of trial breed in us the qualities of divine steadfastness and spiritual maturity? Ought we to pray for escape from such processes that transform us in nature and character?
Yet such a prayer seems to be asking that we might escape temptation. Not the greatest saint that ever lived could be exempt from it! Nor for the Lord Jesus Himself in His earthly life was this possible! And we should not suppose that His only temptations were those He faced in solitude following the forty days in the Judean wilderness. There were others that beset Him throughout His life and ministry, and some at least — perhaps the temptation to abandon His work in the face of hostility and seeming failure — He bore in common with His disciples. "Ye are they," He said to them near the end, "which have continued with me in my temptations." How, then, can we ask to be spared that which is, in fact, inevitable? What do we really mean when we say, "Lead us not into temptation"?
THE EVIL WITHOUT AND WITHIN
As we see the end of the age approaching and as the rule of man with all its turmoil and distress rushes toward its conclusion, the earth is filled with violence, as in the days of Noah, and evil men and seducers wax worse and worse, as the apostle prophesied. Evil abounds on every hand and we often include in it not merely the wrong-doing but the whole realm of suffering, pain, misfortune, calamity, disease and death. These are one and all evils to us, and we shrink from them because they blight our joy, poison our happiness, crush our dreams, dash our hopes, thwart our plans and injure our physical and mental well-being.
Yet evil runs deeper than any of these. As Jesus was in the world, so are we in the world, and it is an evil world facing us on every side. Therefore we need a power beyond our natural selves to help us through the temptation that it may not overpower us. DELIVER US FROM EVIL! We know what was in the mind of the Son of God. To Him evil meant one thing. Not the evil of sorrows, calamities, sickness, accidents, crime, drugs, hatred, persecution, war and tragic events which the world calls evil. The problem is not Russia, Fidel Castro, Saddam Hussein, the humanists, gangs, abortionists and politicians. The evil which we are to fear is the corruption of our own hearts.
Some months ago Terry and Tykie Crisp beautifully expressed this truth in one of their excellent writings. They wrote: "While imprisoned for his radical, and accused seditious beliefs, the persecuted Germanic leader of the Great Reformation, Martin Luther, penned these powerful words to a dignitary of the Roman Catholic Church: ‘You may think that I am now powerless, for the Emperor can easily silence the cry of a poor monk like me. But, you should know that I would yet fulfill the duty which the love of Christ has placed on me. I have not the slightest fear of hades, much less the pope and his cardinals’. Most assuredly, his daring actions attested to this fact! By this time, he was totally beyond the fear of being deceived by them; and he was utterly fearless in his proclamation of the truth! He was no longer afraid of what man could do to him, either in spirit or by deed!
"Yet, when the Lord revealed the deceptiveness of his own heart to him, he could not help but cry out in desperation of spirit, ‘I dread my own heart more than the pope and all his cardinals. For within me is the greater pope, even Self’! What an eye-opening revelation! While it is true that there are ‘popes’ of many descriptions...not only in Catholicism, but also in the ranks of Protestantism, as well...denominational ‘popes’, fundamentalist ‘popes’, pentecostal ‘popes’, charasmatic ‘popes’, etc., etc., all moving under the same spirit, and all trying to lord over the lives of others, to ‘feed’ their sense of power, or for the sake of personal gain...our chief concern should not be on these. There is one who dwells in our midst, who poses the greatest threat of delusion to us, and that is the old ‘pontiff’ himself, Adam! It is he who seeks to rule sovereignly in the temple, who desires to transform it into his own little ‘Vatican’! It is he who demands unquestionable submission to his dictates, who claims to be the sole infallible authority in our earth, who masquerades as the ‘vicar’ (substitute) of Christ! And you can believe that as often as we will allow him, he will exercise his ‘papal powers’ over our lives, commenting on and controlling every aspect of human existence!" — end quote.
Never a day passes but that something puts our spiritual strength and character to the test. The presence of evil in our world, the incitement to indulge the flesh, abounds on every hand. From God’s standpoint these are TESTS — but these allurements to sin appeal to weakness and evil in our own hearts, and so to us they become "temptations". There is temptation in the seductive advances of a woman or the flattering attentions of a man. There is temptation in the companionship of foolish and worldly friends. There is temptation in the coarse and filthy speech of associates. There is temptation in worldly entertainment. There is temptation in business, in the home, at work, at play. There is temptation in the hallowed traditions, impressive ceremonies, good works and appealing programs of the religious systems. There is temptation in the means and methods of the flesh — even in our serving of God. There are temptations of pride and presumption inherent right within our walk in sonship. The higher you go in God the more sophisticated and cunning the temptations become. Where is it temptation does not lurk? Wherever man is, there temptation is. There seems to be no escape from it.
Men try to avoid infection, in case of an outbreak of disease, by staying away from the infected area. So men through the centuries tried to escape the assaults of temptation by leaving the busy, evil world and fleeing into solitude. Some buried themselves in monasteries and convents. Dr. Zodhiates tells of a time when he visited a monastery on the island of Corfu in Greece. It was situated high on a hill, and below it was a beach, with a public swimming area. There was a monk there who was trying to get one of the visitors to take some of his money and buy him a pair of binoculars so that he could watch the people on the beach. It is pretty certain that his observation was to be concentrated on those of the opposite sex. He was a monk, he was isolated in a monastery, but still within him he had the desires of the flesh.
Others have fled to rural areas, to live as hermits. Some joined religious communes, and a number, even in this walk of sonship, have escaped to wilderness retreats. But it was all in vain. Temptation followed them to their retreats, and many were the fierce struggles within and without. You see, my beloved, you may leave the world and all its problems behind, but the inescapable fact remains that when you arrive secure within your ivory tower, or at your secluded wilderness paradise, it is but a short time until you discover with dismay that the most real and powerful problem of all you have brought along with you — YOURSELF! Learn this and you will understand a great mystery — the problem is not with your environment, it is not with anything outside of you; the problem is YOU! If there was no evil and if there were no evil people anywhere in the vast universe, you would still be tempted by the evil in your own heart, for "every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed" (James 1:14).
Humankind has an enemy — a wily nemesis, an adversary, described in God’s Word as desperately wicked, deceitful above all things. This enemy has adversely affected every generation of humankind from the garden of Eden to the present. Just who, or what, is this inimical deceiver? The prophet Jeremiah unmasked this enemy in these words of inspiration: "The HEART is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked," and he went on to ask the searching question, "who can know it?" To the enlightened mind of this prophet, the depth of iniquity of which the human heart is capable is so great that it is beyond the ability of man to comprehend. How many times have you heard it? Someone perpetrates an unbelievably ghastly crime; like the ax murders of an entire family by a young lad barely in his teens, or the brutal murder of a father and a mother by a teenager a few years ago, who buried them in a shallow grave, and then repeatedly drove a tractor over the site, in an attempt to cover the crime — and yet relatives, close friends and near neighbors all said, in a state of bewilderment and shock, "But he was such a nice, quiet, decent boy!"
A motion picture some years ago portrayed the dual lives led by a judge, who had two families, some distance apart! He had "married" two different women, was actually living with each for a certain number of days each week; would then disappear, as if he had some important responsibilities in a distant town, when in actuality he was going to spend the remainder of that week with a second family! Obviously, each wife thought she knew this man thoroughly! After all, just how well do you know your own spouse? Interesting, isn’t it? We feel we truly know our husbands, wives, children; our closest and dearest friends. But according to the Word of God we don’t even know ourselves! We, perhaps above all people, are most often deceived by our own hearts! There is a deeper part to all of us — a part that only God knows!
A friend has so aptly written, and I have shared this a few times before, but am compelled to set it before you once again: "We should not find this so amazing a passage of scripture if it were not for one important thing. Jeremiah did not list an exception, saying, ‘The heart is deceitful above all things except the devil!’ He merely stated that the heart is deceitful above all things, PERIOD! Since Jeremiah spake by the Spirit of God, this could not possibly have been a slip of the tongue or something uttered before it was thought through. If the heart is deceitful above all things, it naturally follows that there is nothing more deceitful. The heart of man, then, is the MOST DECEITFUL THING IN THE WORLD!
"There is no doubt whatever in my mind that Jesus had this very scripture in mind when He spoke the words recorded in Mark 7:15-23. ‘There is nothing,’ He said, ‘from without a man that entering into him can defile him: but the things which come out of him, these are they which defile the man.’ Having said that, He uttered the statement that so often followed His teachings when there was contained in them a great mystery. ‘If any man has ears to hear, let him hear.’ If we will be honest with ourselves, we will have to admit that we have fostered and taught for generations a concept that directly contradicts the words of Jesus Christ, for we have, indeed, declared that there IS something from without a man that can enter into him and defile him. We have called him Satan (an adversary), and so he is! We have called him a murderer and a liar, and so he is! We have had much truth about him — but the one thing we have NOT known about him is his LOCATION! We have said that he was without — Jesus said that he is within! If there is nothing from without a man (and in the Greek that reads: not one thing) that entering into him can defile him, then we must conclude that satan’s activity is not without, but within.
"As we continue to read this passage, we hear Jesus say, ‘For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness: all these things come from within and defile the man.’ Every sin category imaginable is contained in this discourse. Every thing that a man could ever think or do that is evil is said by Jesus to come — not from outside of man but from within!"
This carries us back to the curse laid upon the serpent in the beginning: "Upon your belly shall you go." This judgment speaks of infinitely more than a literal snake slithering along upon his fleshly belly. God also told the serpent, "And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel" (Gen. 3:15). Just as the "heel" speaks of infinitely more than a location on the foot, and the word "head" speaks of something greater far than a mere physical head, so, "upon your belly shall you go," paints for the eyes of our understanding the picture of the serpent crawling in humiliation, prostration, limitation, and subjection upon the ground. The Psalmist uses a similar expression in Psalm 44:25, "For our soul is bowed down to the dust: our belly cleaveth unto the earth." These are graphic figures of speech that denote a prolonged prostration and a depth of subjection as could never be conveyed or expressed in normal terms.
The very fact that God states that the serpent was to crawl upon his belly reveals that he is now lowered into the dust-realm, into the nature of man, and confined to the earthy, restricted to action upon and expression through the MAN OF DUST. How truly this accounts for the words of the apostle in Ephesians 2:2, "And you hath He quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins: wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, THE SPIRIT THAT NOW WORKETH IN THE CHILDREN OF DISOBEDIENCE." Ah, yes, the evil spirit is IN MAN! When the serpent was confined to the dust realm, man became the base of operation for his activity. I do not hesitate to declare to you that you will find satan operative in NO OTHER REALM in the whole universe! You do not meet the devil in rocks, trees, fish, fowl, beasts, mountains, rivers, valleys, caves, nor on far-away planets, in distant galaxies, aboard flying saucers, nor in any other object or location outside of man. You don’t have to worry about the devil stealing the keys to your car and driving off with it! But you may need to be concerned about the devil in men doing so! You need not fear the devil breaking into your house with a gun and blowing your brains out, but the devil in men has done so many thousands of times! The devil will never come as a hideous spirit creature in a funny red suit to seduce or rape your wife, but the devil in some man may surely attempt it. I must tell you frankly that I have not had any problem with that devil out there someplace, but I have had a great deal of difficulty with that devil whose countenance I behold when I look in the mirror!
DELIVER US FROM EVIL
"Deliver us from evil." This is the last petition in the Lord’s Prayer and, to my mind, the whole prayer has been one tremendous crescendo by which we are brought from realm to realm and from glory to glory to the grand finale, the mighty climax, the wondrous consummation, and glorious end of all that goes before. DELIVER US FROM EVIL! The number seven was sacred, and this, the separate, seventh petition in the Lord’s Prayer, comprehensively sums up and fulfills the rest.
It voices a universal longing. There is not one of us that has not at some time prayed for deliverance, if not with our lips, then with our hearts. It is a prayer that is older than human history. It is as old as man. It is as old as sin and suffering and tears. But though so old, it is as new as the last item you read in the daily paper. It is as new as your latest breath. It is a prayer that we can never cease to pray as long as we live in a state of limitation, growth, change and development unto perfection. Deliverance — that is what Adam and Eve were seeking when, in the consciousness of their guilt, they hurried to hide themselves among the trees of the garden. It was the longing of the Psalmist as he held up his blood-stained hands before God and cried, "Deliver me from bloodguilltiness." It was the prayer of tortured Job as he wailed, "When shall I arise, and the night be gone?" We hear it on the lips of the great apostle Paul as he cries, "O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from this dead body." It is a cry that looks forward with hope and expectation to release at last, the attainment of the goal, that glorious place of life, maturity, perfection, and incorruptibility BEYOND THE REALM OF STRUGGLE, TESTING, AND CHANGE. We are putting on eternal life, immortality. "Put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ."
It will help us to understand what deliverance from evil signifies when we see what the scriptures mean when they teach us that the life of God is eternal life. The life of God is indeed eternal, but we have received that life injected into time and mortality, so that the inworking of that life through the processings of God is experienced in relation to time rather than eternity. Let me explain. Anything that is absolutely eternal is not only unending, but is also UNCHANGEABLE. Anything that changes in any way is not eternal, for in the change some characteristic is left behind and a new one acquired. In every change something ends and something else begins, at least in form. That which dwells in an eternal state knows NO CHANGE. Change is possible only in that which is limited, imperfect, or not fully developed. The Lord declares of Himself, "I am Yahweh, I CHANGE NOT" (Mal. 3:6), and the inspired apostle testifies of Him, "with Whom there is NO VARIABLENESS, neither shadow of turning" (James 1:17).
God is never surprised. God has not learned anything this week, not last year, nor in the past several trillion years. If God learned one thing today, it would destroy Him. He would no longer be the omniscient One who knows the end from the beginning, for known unto God are all His works from the creation of the world. God does not experiment. God does not become stronger, mightier, or increase Himself in any way. God cannot become more pure, holy, or righteous than He is. God cannot be tempted with evil. The eternal, unchangeable nature of God has no need to be tested, tried or proven for He has already been tried to the utmost and proved beyond any question. God is the omnipotent and omniscient One. He CHANGES NOT. He is not something today that He wasn’t yesterday. He will not become something tomorrow that He is not today. He eternally is all that He is without any decrease or increase or fluctuation whatsoever. Therefore He is the ETERNAL GOD! It means more than unending, it means unchangeable, and therefore unending!
But we, in our spiritual life, are STILL BEING CHANGED! "And all of us...are constantly BEING TRANSFIGURED (changed) into His very own image in ever increasing splendor and from one degree of glory to another" (II Cor. 3:18, Amplified). Therefore the life we have received is not truly eternal yet, it is the LIFE OF THE AGES, as the Greek expresses it, God’s life injected into time and limitation to be processed and matured into that unchangeableness which He Himself is! When the process is complete we will be as holy as God is holy, perfect as God is perfect, filled with all wisdom, knowledge and power. We will be as untemptable as God is untemptable, as unchangeable as God is unchangeable — beyond any need for further correction, proving, developing or increasing in any way. Is not this what our soul hungers and thirsts after when with inexplicable longing we pray those wonderful words, "Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil." We are asking for the final completion of all that has gone before — the establishment of His Kingdom within, His will accomplished in us as it is in heaven, the daily bread for our spiritual growth into His image, forgiveness of our missing the mark — all leading to full stature in the incorruptibility of Himself!
When all the holy sons of God come to that place where they are so strong and so splendid in their strength that nothing can move them from their heroic devotion to the Father and His purposes; when they know that neither the cares of this world, nor the deceitfulness of riches, nor gain nor loss nor love nor glory nor the lust of the eyes nor the pride of life nor the demands of the flesh nor all the kingdoms of the world can seduce them from the life of God nor shake their faith — then the prayer is answered and the hour of the manifestation of the sons of God is wonderfully nigh at hand.
THE BONDAGE OF CORRUPTION
One of the amazing features of human experience is man’s capacity for ascent and descent. No creature of God throughout the vastnesses of infinity is capable of ascending to such heights and descending to such depths as is man. The carnal mind has never been endowed with the ability to measure the limits of man’s upward reach, for "the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned" (I Cor. 2:14). Revelation, however, has given the spiritual man a vision of the possibility of his rise into dizzy heights of splendor and glory.
Victor Hugo once wrote, "Perhaps I am the tadpole of an archangel." While the words were written in jest, as a reflection on the humble origin of man according to the theory of evolution, the sublime truth is that they understate the case. Man is not destined to ascend to heights angelic. Man is not programmed to become either angel or archangel. The man Christ Jesus is Himself the revelation of man’s destiny and of Him it is written, "Being made so much better than the angels, as He hath by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they. For unto which of the angels said He at any time, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten Thee? And again, I will be to Him a Father, and He shall be to me a Son? And again, when He bringeth the firstbegotten into the world, He saith, Let all the angels of God worship Him. But to which of the angels said He at any time, Sit on my right hand, until I make Thine enemies Thy footstool?" (Heb. 1:4-6,13).
"Now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but...we shall be like Him," proclaims the Word of God. Divinity through sonship to God is the limit of man’s ascent. He may be like the Son of God who is God, blessed forevermore. Sons of God must learn to think of themselves as a totally different sort of people. We are indeed a peculiar people, for we have been begotten again unto a living hope by the resurrection of Jesus from the dead and have become new creatures in Christ Jesus, very sons of very God. We have been lifted by Christ into a heavenly realm and all our behavior and ambitions have altered their course. So much are we become inhabitants of a new sphere that we discover that we are no longer citizens of this present evil world. We have acquired a new citizenship in a celestial realm, both experiencing and enjoying the rights of citizens in that higher world.
When I have traveled on occasion to a foreign country, it didn’t take very long to recognize that I was not a citizen of that country. Generally I was treated with genuine courtesy and warm hospitality and made to feel much at home; but I knew that I was not at home, and because I was not a citizen, I was excluded from a great many rights and privileges. It was when my plane landed again in New York or Miami, and I stepped out into the familiar scenes to tread once more my native soil that I realized the value of my citizenship and rejoiced to be at home again. On more than an occasion or two, upon returning from another land, I felt the compelling urge to prostrate myself and kiss the earth of my homeland as I have seen others do! This same joy of citizenship I have seen on the faces of others who turned their feet homeward and neared the shores of their fatherland. And this is how it ought to be.
But now we have become citizens of a new land, even a heavenly country, and we ought to think of ourselves as citizens of the heavenlies, inhabitants of the city that hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God. Far too often Christians sing about heaven as a future hope or a distant reality. Such songs as, "Won’t It Be Wonderful There," "When We All Get To Heaven," "How Beautiful Heaven Must Be," and "In The Sweet Bye And Bye," patently deny our new birth into the realm of God and our citizenship in the Kingdom of Heaven. We are no longer citizens of earth. Every man is a citizen of the land where he was born. We have been BORN FROM ABOVE and are now citizens of the heavenlies. We no longer dwell upon the earth, but have been seated in Christ at the right hand of the Father in heaven. We should not think of ourselves as belonging to this present evil world or any of its human institutions, but citizens of the celestial realm with all its supernal glories. Carnal minded men cannot understand realities so grand and glorious as these and will oppose with all their human power any thought of heaven as a present possession. Only the spiritual mind sees and acknowledges the truth as it is written: "Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love Him. But God hath revealed them unto us by His Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God. Which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual" (I Cor. 2:9-10,12-13). It is a divine fact that we have been raised up with Christ and made to sit together with Him in the heavenlies (Eph. 2:1,6). It is a divine certainty that we have been delivered from the power of darkness, and have been translated into the Kingdom of God’s dear Son (Col. 1:13).
Man’s immense capacity for ascent is matched only by his vast capacity for descent. The potential for the glorious ascent to the throne of God in the highest heaven may be contrasted only with the possibility of a tragic descent into the darkest of the deepest depths. This was the mistake that the prodigal made. This is the mistake that Adam made in that long ago beginning. Alas! the earliest page of human history is stained with the record of the fall, from which mankind has never been able to deliver himself. The disintegrating power of sin has been sadly proved, through all the centuries, in destroying the noblest structures which human wisdom can erect. The earth is strewed with the wreck of broken empires. Nothing abides. Kingdoms emerge from obscurity, rise to greatness, and then crumble to decay. The glory of human legislation is perpetually turning to shame. We are constantly shocked at the swift declension in public morals, and wonder how a degenerate offspring can so soon betray the virtues which should have been their inheritance from a godly ancestry.
The specter of the prodigal brings us face to face with life’s oft-repeated tragedy of descent into degeneracy. Someone has said, "No known animal possesses such a capacity for degradation as man." Those who have encountered human nature on its darker side are forced to assent to that statement. The prodigal’s descent to the level of the swine pens, and Adam’s descent into the horrors of sin and death and hell, throw much light upon both the process of degeneration and the penalty of degeneration. We see it in the world today where millions of men and women are brought to ruin daily; where murder and killings and deception and cruelty and greed and drugs and passion destroy everything; where nations strike out to destroy one another; where people work each other’s destruction; where all is dark and torrid. You see, precious friend of mine, if a man is not rising upward into the image of God, he is sinking downward into the image of the devil. Every man is either ascending or descending. There is no standing still.
The question of perpetual motion has obsessed a great many minds through the centuries. Some men have worked themselves almost up to the point of insanity in a vain effort to discover or produce perpetual motion. Their great mistake has been that they have confined their experiments to the realm of physics. Better success will attend their efforts when they explore the realm of human nature. In the moral and spiritual realms perpetual motion not only exists but is the prevailing law. There is little else than perpetual motion. Man is moving spiritually all the time — either up or down. It is a serious matter to face such a truth as this. It means that every night after a day of ceaseless activity a man may sit in silence and contemplate the proposition that he is in some degree either better or worse than when the day began. The important thing to consider is not so much where we stand, as it is the DIRECTION WE ARE MOVING.
Someone shared the following illustration — a little chapter from human life that pathetically emphasizes the truth of which I now speak. A man who was getting prematurely old because of many years of dissipation, looked through his red-rimmed eyes to his faithful wife to whom he had often given the promise to live a better life. He was in a repentant mood and for a moment at least appreciative of the sorrows and sacrifices caused the good wife because of his drinking, carousing and running around. He said to her: "You’re a clever woman, Jenny; a courageous, active, good woman. You should have married a better man than I am, dear." She looked at him a moment and thought of the far-off day of their marriage and of the man he used to be, and then answered sadly but sweetly, "I did, James." Many an unfortunate woman married a better man than she is living with today, because though the man is the same in name, he is worse than he was, worse than he ever expected to be, because sin has rapidly and persistently forced him to a sad extreme of degeneracy.
What a delightful world Eden was! No sounds of strife were there. No words of hate were spoken. There was no cry of pain nor presence of foul disease. Eden was a garden of beauty and sunshine whose air was sweet with the fragrance of love and joy and righteousness and peace in the Holy Ghost. Eden remained an enchanting domain until one thing happened — man sinned. When sin came there was born in embryo every form of human distress. And in lives and lands where sin has been given right of way, the distresses in embryo have grown into bitter realities. The cunning little serpent of Eden has become the giant fire-breathing dragon of Revelation.
We see, do we not, how in nature all things are disintegrating. The Biblical term for this is corruption. The Greek word for corruption is PATHORA meaning "to destroy by bringing into a worse state or inferior condition." We all understand this on the physical plane as year by year our bodies change — skin sagging, hair graying, bones becoming brittle, joints stiffening, stamina decreasing, degenerative disease setting in culminating in the final catastrophe — death. The whole creation has been subjected to the bondage of corruption. "For the creature was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of Him who hath subjected the same in hope. Because the creation itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now" (Rom. 8:20-22).
"The whole creation groaneth..." The word "groaneth" signifies to sigh, to pray, to be moved with inward feeling. Creation is depicted as a slave in bondage, groaning in its captivity, crying out to be free. Today the world is full of broken hearts, the hospitals are crowded, the cemeteries are being filled, and all nature is groaning under its bondage to corruption and death. You go down to the seaside and you can hear the sob of the waves, you go to the mountains and you can hear the low sigh of the wind in the tree tops. Can we not hear the sigh and groan of nature in the meow of the cat, in the yelp of the dog, in the shriek of the captive, in the bleat of the sheep, in the lowing of the cattle, in the roar of the lion, in the hiss of the serpent, in the cry of the vulture, in the hoot of the owl, in the wash of the sea, in the rush of the storm, in the tremor of the earthquake, and in the exclamation of all human sorrow and pain?
When we think of corrupt people, we think mostly of wicked sinners. According to our theology, corruption involves alcohol or drug abuse, adultery, fornication, or consorting with prostitutes, cheating, policemen on the take, politicians that can be bought, busisnessmen involved in shady deals, gambling, homosexuality, murder, rape, incest and other such wicked deeds. We narrow down corruption to mean wild passions and life-controlling lusts. Yet we have failed to understand how God looks at corruption! God’s definition goes much deeper than the passions of the flesh. The word corrupt, as I have pointed out, denotes "a change from what is solid and good to something that is putrid and decaying." Corruption signifies something that once was whole and well — but now it isn’t, because decay and putrification have set in.
The very nature of man is corruptible. Paul referred to this fact when he admonished the saints at Ephesus to "put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts" (Eph. 4:22). The natural man is not getting better, as some affirm. The unregenerate man, old Adam, is corruptible. That means not only that he is dying and dead, but that he is continually being brought into a worse state and inferior condition leading to destruction. Is not this the terrible danger of the hour in which we live — enough bombs stockpiled to not only blow planet earth to smithereens but twenty more like it — and all in the hands of unpredictable, corruptible men, wicked men and seducers who are waxing worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived. You may suffer from the illusion that human nature has improved during the past fifty years since the horror of the Holocaust and the savage warfare in which fifty million men, women and children were blown into eternity, but you are mistaken. Human nature never improves, for it is a corruptible nature, growing steadily more vicious, wicked, deceitful, hateful, irresponsible and immoral.
This condition of corruptibility is so universal and unvarying that it was formalized more than a hundred years ago by scientists into a fundamental law now called "The Second Law of Thermodynamics." This law states that "all systems if left to themselves, tend to become degraded or disordered (deteriorate)." The Second Law of Thermodynamics is diametrically opposed to the theory of evolution. It is impossible for creatures left to themselves to evolve into better, larger and stronger life-forms while at the same time all of creation is in the process of deterioration. Physical systems, whether watches or suns, eventually wear out. The trillions of blazing infernos that make up the billions of galaxies scattered throughout the vast expanses of the unbounded heavens are one and all burning themselves out though it takes billions of years for some of them to be reduced to cinders. The earth itself is gradually slowing down in its daily revolutions and orbit around the sun. All organisms grow old and die. Everywhere there is decay, deterioration and death. Empires rise upon the ruins of earlier empires, but ere long themselves collapse, disappearing forever from the stage of history. The Law is true! ALL SYSTEMS ARE IN THE STATE OF BECOMING DEGRADED, DISORDERED AND DETERIORATED. Nothing escapes this process in the natural world. The Law is universal and all-inclusive. Everything is on a downward spiral into oblivion. That is what corruption is — the inexorable downward spiral into dissolution from which no physical thing is able to escape.
Now here is something that you possibly have never heard before. THE SECOND LAW OF THERMODYNAMICS HAS BEEN SUPERCEDED AND TRANSCENDED. This has been accomplished by a people now living upon the earth. The "corruption barrier" has been broken! The apostle Peter first spoke of it in II Peter 1:4, "Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust." "Having escaped corruption" — what a word that is! What does it mean? While meditating on such things one day the words were made real to me in a way I had not hitherto seen. It seems clear to me that those who have "escaped corruption" have escaped from the inevitable DOWNWARD SPIRAL into sin, darkness and death. That does not say that such are now perfect, fully conformed into God’s image, and have glorified bodies. Not at all. It says that we have escaped the irresistible sucking power of the downward movement and now have begun to ascend instead of descend. By being made partakers of the divine nature we have experienced a REVERSAL OF DIRECTION so that now we are headed upward instead of downward. It is not so important to consider where we are standing, as it is the DIRECTION WE ARE MOVING.
Few of us look in the mirror and come to the conclusion of Hall of Fame quarterback Joe Namath. During his heyday as a player, Namath wrote a book titled I can’t wait until tomorrow . . . ‘Cause I Get Better-Looking Every Day. As egotistical as that title sounds, it can help us see how those who have been given power to become the sons of God should view themselves in the lifelong process of becoming like Him. In order for us to be conformed into the image of the Son, we need to keep getting better every day.
Rather than becoming worse and worse, those who have been quickened and made alive in Christ are becoming better and better! In place of sinking into ever-increasing darkness, the light of God is shining brighter and brighter. Instead of intensifying fear and deeper confusion we are blessed with increasing peace, greater faith and stronger vision. No longer are we on the path of the prodigal, sinking into the stench and want of the pig-pen, but we are returning to Father’s house, being changed from glory to glory to receive again our inheritance. Halleluyah! We are no longer on our way down — we are on our way UP! We are not getting worse, we are getting better! I tell you the truth — I am a better man today than I was five years ago, ten years ago, or forty years ago! We are not getting weaker, we are getting stronger! We are not sinking into death, we are rising up into life and immortality! If you are walking in Christ in the Spirit today, my beloved, you are a better man or woman today than you ever were before. Even if your change seems imperceptible, you are on your way up. WE HAVE ESCAPED CORRUPTION! Oh, the wonder of it!
As the end of this age descends upon us and as the darkness of the evening covers the earth as it did in the days of Noah, there is an ever-increasing conviction within that those elect of God who are to attain the blessedness of manifested sonship will experience more and more the wonder of breaking through to the heavenly realms of light and life until that glad day finally comes when they shall be completely transformed into the likeness and power of Christ Jesus the Lord and, being filled with all the fullness of God, they will dwell no more on human planes but will walk with Christ in the glory of the resurrection, spirit, soul and body. Mortal minds are incapable of understanding or even imagining the glory that God is preparing for the age into which we are even now entering, but that purpose will find its expression in the manifestation of the sons of God.
DELIVERANCE BY OVERCOMING
"Deliver us from evil," that must be our prayer. Do you remember that sentence in Christ’s great intercessory prayer? "I pray, not that Thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that Thou shouldest keep them from the evil." We are in the world, and we have no right even to wish to leave it. It is the coward who runs away, locks himself up in some monastic cell, in an effort to be holy. It is no less the coward who longs and prays for the "rapture" as his escape from this evil empire. The place for the sons of God is IN the world. That is what Jesus prayed for. He prayed that God would not take His sons out of the world. Those who cherish the thought of spending eternity in some far-off heaven somewhere have never seen the beautiful hope of sonship. But the world is full of evil, evil that presses itself, forces itself upon us at every turn. From that evil we must ask God to deliver us. We have been forgiven. We have been quickened by God’s Holy Spirit. We want now complete deliverance from sin and death. We want to be emancipated from their power. We want to be rid of their foul stains. We want to grow in righteousness, in truth, in grace, in power, in life, in victory, and to become conformed into the image of God’s Son.
Let your mind grasp this truth: The way to be delivered from evil is to completely and eternally OVERCOME EVIL. We are called to reign with Christ from the highest heaven. Such all-embracing majesty is far too vast for my feeble understanding, yet I know by the Spirit that the body of Christ is in practical preparation for the explicit purpose of UNIVERSAL DOMINION. But how can a man rule over principalities and powers and universes if he is unable to rule his own spirit? "He that ruleth his own spirit is better than he that taketh a city" (Prov. 16:32). Learn this, beloved, and you will know one of the fundamental principles of reigning with Christ: You can never rule anything until first you overcome it within yourself. "To him that overcometh will I (consequentially) give power over the nations: and he shall rule them..." (Rev. 2:26-27). "To him that overcometh will I grant (consequentially) to sit with me in my throne" (Rev. 3:21).
To "overcome" means TO COME UP OVER THAT WHICH IS OVER YOU. The term implies the existence of obstacles in the pathway of the righteousness, peace, and joy of the Kingdom of God. When, within yourself, you rise up above the circumstance, the problem, so that it no longer troubles or harasses you, then you are ready to begin to control it, to no longer be the victim of circumstances, but the master of them. Come up over your own pride and inherent weaknesses. Come up over your fears and frustrations. Come up over your passions, emotions, and habits. Come up over your appetite, your temper, your lust. Come up over the myriad pressures from within and without. Come up over the world of confusion and turmoil about you. Come up over your desire to build a reputation for yourself. Come up over the lies the religious systems have fed you. You are called to be an OVER-COMER. Come over that wall! Come over into the Kingdom of God and a realm of complete victory. If we cannot come out victoriously over ourselves and over the little temptations and frustrations in our daily lives, how can the Lord trust us to reign over greater things? What kind of kings, priests and warriors would we make? How much could He depend upon us? What kind of authority would we have? He will give us the place for which we are prepared and qualified; we must set our faces to be overcomers if we are to sit with Him upon His throne and reign with Him.
One can never become an overcomer while running from the battle. I never cease to be amazed at the number of believers who want to go through life without ever coming up over the things that are over them. Every time a hard place comes, the carnal mind drags them further and further into spiritual, emotional, and mental bondage. They look for a way out. These folk will run to the next town, the next church, the next job, the next friendship...whatever is convenient. They refuse to mature. Anything negative or challenging that crosses their will is avoided with scheme after scheme energized by the fleshly mind that is hostile toward God. Some who read these lines are running. Do you know what you will find when you stop? The thing that you have tried to escape is STILL THERE. You carried it with you. It is within you. The moment you stop running and face the issue, the wisdom of God is going to catch up with you and help you to become an overcomer. Turn to God with sincerity, and let Him help you and deal with you. The great tests and trials that we encounter are not necessarily what bring about our development as New Creatures. The little things, the everyday experiences, the nitty-gritty where the rubber meets the road, is where the real trials, the true testings, take place. This is the soil where the Kingdom of God grows in power in our lives. This is the foundation upon which the life of sonship is built.
Others, if they do not evade or run from the problem, seek "deliverance" from it! There is a vast difference between what certain Charismatics and Pentecostals call deliverance, and the Kingdom principle of overcoming. What most people call deliverance today is an easy escape out of their pressures, weaknesses and problems, not an overcoming. Overcoming means to GAIN THE VICTORY OVER THE SITUATION, whether it be within or without. In the "deliverance" practiced by many today God takes something away from you, as you would take a knife from a child. There is value in that for babes. God does take knives from children! But that sort of deliverance has nothing to do with maturity or sonship. For sons, carnality is not to be "cast out" like a demon; it is to be overcome and brought into subjection to the mind of Christ. In overcoming God’s sons are being processed so that they will know the cause and deal with the root of the trouble within themselves. The knife is not taken away — you learn how to use the knife! That is real deliverance. The dealings and processings must be thorough, until HIS IMAGE be formed in us.
Do you feel overwhelmed with weaknesses, faults, problems and bondages? Then let me show you how to discover the CHALLENGE that lies in every obstacle. I promise you that if you look for the challenge, you will find it, and then you will be able to turn the stumbling-stone in your pathway into a stepping-stone to the throne! Within every obstacle there lies a challenge — an opportunity to overcome! This is the point I want to make loud and clear. For if you want to overcome as Jesus overcame, you will need to tap into the dynamics of this principle. The only force that can cause weakness and failure is a challenge that is mistaken for a problem. But there will be no failure when we can discover the challenge in the problem, grab hold of it, and use it as a stepping-stone to higher ground. On the other hand, we can never overcome anything as long as we allow some horrendous problem to blind us to the divine challenge that is inherent in every obstacle. In our Father’s great school of sonship, in His effective training program for the future rulers of the world and the universe, He knows just exactly which obstacles to place in our pathway for our development and processing. If we try to use our faith to "move the mountain out of the way," such action will not bring us to the place where faith can be perfected to OVERCOME the mountain — scale its heights, climb over it, and conquer it. Ah, my precious brother, sister, would you "move the mountain" by faith or would you conquer the mountain and bring it under the dominion of the Kingdom of God? Those who set their faces to overcome all things are thus born as God’s warriors and kings who shall bring the Kingdom of God to earth.
"DELIVER US FROM EVIL!" This prayer reaches far deeper than the mere request to be kept out of evil’s way. It is not removal from the presence of evil, not a "rapture" to paradise on some distant planet called heaven that is sought, but a mighty change in our STATE OF BEING. It asks for increased victories of grace, for overcoming power, for transformation of nature, for the putting on of the mind of Christ, for a new spirit and a new heart, for the quickening of spiritual faculties, and conformation into the image of God. God is working out His purpose in our lives. He tests and tries us as needed to develop divine character in us. The more perfect God’s spirit within us enables us to become, the fewer trials will be necessary. When we pray, "Lead us not into temptation," WE ARE ASKING GOD TO PERFECT US AND BRING US TO THE PLACE WHERE SUCH TRIALS ARE NOT NEEDED. "But deliver us from evil," immediately follows because deliverance from evil — that is, full and eternal victory over all evil within and without — is the way we are led out of or beyond temptation!
The whole creation is joining with us in unutterable groans and birth pangs, earnestly looking forward to its release with ours, out into full and free and eternal inheritance. EVERY CREATED THING is waiting, looking anxiously and with a kind of universal travail — waiting for what? A great manifestation of the gifts of the Spirit? More missionaries? More Bibles and gospel tracts? Greater evangelistic crusades? Another televangelist? Or are they waiting for the combined efforts of all churches to get together in an all-out assault against sin, sickness and evil? Are they travailing for another preacher, another ministry, another revival, or even another "sonship" Convention? NO, NO, A THOUSAND TIMES NO! Creation is not waiting for any of these things to take place. The whole creation, without exception, is waiting for the manifestation of the sons of God which is that FULL SONSHIP, THE TRANSFORMATION OF OUR BODIES (Rom. 8:21-23). It is full and complete and eternal victory over sin, sorrow, limitation, sickness and death. It is the life and glory of the Father fully revealed in a people. It is this full and final triumph over sin and death that we seek when we pray, "Deliver us from evil!" Then shall creation be delivered from the bondage of corruption.
The journey to the throne of the universe begins in that small and undistinguished place where you are. The Kingdom of God is within you. The enChristed who are to reign with Christ from sea to sea, then from planet to planet, and finally from galaxy to galaxy, are being prepared. Think not in your heart, precious one, that you may pass your life here, careless, indifferent to the dealings of God, and seeking only the blessings, gifts and joys of Christ, suddenly to awake one fine morning to find yourself sitting with Christ on His throne governing the universe, because such a thing will not be. Begin today to live the life of the OVERCOMER! This present time is but a proving ground for those who through grace will reign with their Lord over all the vastnesses of infinity. He is raising us up to sit with Him in the higher than all heavenlies. He is teaching us to rule, to reign in life, to overcome all things and subject them to Christ. And the place which He is preparing for each one is not only a world to come, and a Kingdom of Life and Light and Love, but a place IN HIM, bone of His bone, flesh of His flesh, spirit of His spirit, nature of His nature, life of His life!
It is there that the prayer is finally and eternally answered — "Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil!" Amen. So be it. Halleluyah!
To be continued... J. PRESTON EBY
We have reprinted a booklet by a dear friend of ours, Mabel Johnson Maciel, titled WHAT IS MARRIAGE? It deals in a unique and penetrating way with the problems of marriage and divorce. This booklet is now available to all interested, upon request.
To be continued... J. PRESTON EBY [HOME] [KINGDOM RESOURCES]