It is said there are three kinds of people: Those who make things happen, those who watch things happen, and those who wonder what happened. Now think of the saints in the Assemblies: Many were making things happen, and seeing things happen, then suddenly they are wondering what has happened to them. I'll try to shed some light:
First, let's look at some scriptures, beginning with Genesis, chapter one, verses 26 and 27: "And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness... So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them." The image and the likeness of God... What does that mean?
A late-twentieth century phrase, "holographic image," helps illustrate the first term. A computer can convert raw data into a visible three dimensional IMAGE of an object. It is not the object itself, but from any perspective it LOOKS LIKE the object.
Similarly, a LIKENESS resembles its object. Until recently, I owned an electronic keyboard, capable of imitating the sounds of piano, organ, accordion, harmonica, and several percussion instruments. It was none of those things-- just wires, capacitors, resistors and speakers-- but it was an auditory LIKENESS of the real thing.
Mankind, male and female, was created godlike. All creation, in heaven and earth, could witness the depiction of God by observing man and woman. Satan hated this reality, and moved at once to trick mankind into disobeying God, thereby contaminating the image and likeness with sin. Once that took place, God was no longer portrayed in humanity as before.
Many disobedient years later, when the human race had become hopelessly separated from God by sin, God thwarted the devil by effecting, upon Calvary's cross, the greatest transposition of all eternity: "Him who knew no sin he made to be sin on our behalf; that we might become the righteousness of God in him." IICor.5:21(ASV). Jesus Christ the Righteous became our very sin, so that we the sinful could, in him, become his righteousness.
The death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ introduced to the world, in all who believed, a new humanity. This new mankind cannot be separated from God as could the former, because "God... even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ... and raised us up with him, and made us to sit with him in the heavenly places, in Christ Jesus" Eph.2:4-6(ASV). This is not going to happen-- this HAS happened and remains in effect forevermore.
Well! A new kind of human, no longer defiled in sin, but actually united with Christ and sitting with him in the heavens, no longer subject to the law of sin and death (Gal.2:19, Rom.6:14)... Such a person must be incorruptible! What is a devil to do?
But wait! It isn't all over yet! God has given mankind a new spirit, has renewed his soul, BUT... he still lives here on earth in his same old sin-tainted body! So how will Satan defeat God's plan by once again making sin the barrier between God and man? He will ATTEMPT it by trying to convince each of us that the impulses of our old sin-corrupted bodies are more real than the promises of God which make us overcomers in this life as in the life to come.
Is that fair?-- Can he DO that? The Bible calls him a murderer, a liar and the father of lies (Jn.8:44). Nothing is beneath him. And he has good material to work with, because our mortal bodies (which will be replaced with immortal bodies, but haven't yet) are subject to all the temptations of this world.
IF Satan can convince us to believe that the impulses of our bodies of sin are more REAL than the promises of God... IF he can get us to ACT upon those impulses, he can, in effect, negate the influence of God's promises IN OUR PRESENT LIVES. The transaction has already taken place on our behalf: Christ died, and rose, and ascended, and everything that those acts purchased for us SHALL BE OURS, when we "put on incorruption," i.e., our NEW bodies.(ICor.15:20-54). That is a done deal, non-negotiable, no cancellation. It is the PRESENT that is in contest, for while Eph.2:4-6 has us presently seated with Christ in the heavens, Gal.2:20 shows us that we still have a life to be lived in the flesh, and that God has enabled us to triumph in it by his own son's faith (see below).
Now WHAT would be a good way to get God's people to believe the lie that they are powerless to defeat sin in this life? Well, for many it's no trouble at all. By the time they accept salvation, they are so steeped in the habits of sin that the merest tingle of temptation sends them scampering helplessly to fulfill their addictions, whatever they may be. Most addictions aren't the kinds that make headlines-- they are simple habits, just strongly enough established to entrap you in predictable patterns of behavior. That's all the devil needs to win in your life IF you don't accept God's promises at face value.
Latch onto this one, and don't let it go: "I AM crucified with Christ: nevertheless I LIVE; yet not I, but CHRIST LIVETH IN ME: and the life which I now live IN THE FLESH I live by the FAITH OF THE SON OF GOD, who loved me, and gave himself for me." (all emphases are mine-- al) Gal.2:20
What of those among the redeemed who really want to follow Christ, believe his promises, and please him. How will Satan gain, and hold onto, control of them? Here's a plan:
Give them a leader-- someone they will follow-- then have him gradually lead them astray of the true path.
But WHY would they follow him?
Because he will appear to be so Godly that they will accept him as the Lord's servant.
At this point I will enter into evidence an incident I personally witnessed, of which a brother's email recently reminded me: George Geftakys addressed the Assembly in Fullerton regarding why he "couldn't" sing the third verse of "Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing." It was because of the third line: "Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it, Prone to leave the God I love..." George said that he didn't feel prone to wander or to leave the Lord... that to sing or say such a thing was faithless and unworthy of a follower of Christ.
There couldn't have been a single saint there who didn't WANT to feel as George described, and we tried to reckon it so for ourselves "by faith." But in our hearts, we knew that we sometimes doubted and were prone to wander, so we thought to ourselves, "What a great overcomer and faithful man of God George Geftakys must be." This was an example of a deceitful worker becoming a false apostle, and of Satan himself being "transformed into an angel of light." IICor.11:13-14. Through MANY such devices we were tricked into investing INTO GEORGE our trust which belonged to God.
Now, here comes the really diabolically clever part: As George gradually convinced us that what we were seeing was the nature of God being manifest in him, he began to RECREATE GOD in the image and likeness of GEORGE. Once we believed that the words of George were the voice of God, George began to slowly let his own nature show through, because we believed he spoke for God.
Gradually, discipline lost its instructional value and became sheer rigid obedience (or else), encouragement of inquiry gave place to ridicule and negative consequences, mercy was replaced with severity, kindness with rote behavior, love with law. It was insidious. It crept in so gradually, was introduced so cleverly, that few noticed, and those who did and spoke their minds were branded dissenters, to be shunned and "prayed for" for their "repentance," as they were driven away before they could cause any "harm." And, because God's people had accepted George as God's servant, we accepted George's behavior as being expressive of God's nature. Satan had succeeded in creating an image and likeness that was accepted as being Godly while it was dispensing ungodliness.
Because just about everyone who reads this knows where Geftakysism has gone, and the particulars vary by location, I'm going to skip that discussion and go directly to where we are now.
The Assemblyboard became a field hospital and aid station for wounded pilgrims. Much healing and nourishing took place there. Besides, many have posted there of finding new fellowship and instruction in neighborhood churches, home meetings, radio ministries, and correspondence. And all of us who have acknowledged our deliverance from the darkness of deception rejoice with every testimony that our brothers and sisters have also been freed.
Much work remains to be done for all who have suffered. For one thing, our very language has been corrupted. We were shown deeds of men and told they were works of God. Acts of judgment and condemnation replaced promises of grace. The scriptures were misapplied in ministry. Darkness reigned, disguised as Light.
As a result, one may say to an Assembly-trained saint, "Rejoice, and walk freely in the grace of the Lord," and that saint will hear, "Obey the leadership, and perform all of your stewardships." So subtle was the treachery foisted upon us.
We must regain comprehension of our two native tongues, English and Scripture. So, let us return to the very basics; to our first Love, the Lord Jesus Christ
Whatever any man or woman, any book or broadcast, any song or greeting card may say, we must reduce the message to its simplest form, and there we MUST find this:
"Come unto me1, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest2. Take my yoke3 upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and you shall find rest2 unto your souls. For my yoke3 is easy and my burden is light." Matt.11:28-30.
1 Jesus does NOT say come unto church, or unto fellowship, or unto the Bible... He says, "Come unto ME..." We may or may not attend services, have fellowship, read the Scriptures. But when we do WHATEVER we do, he wants us to come to HIM. Our salvation is in HIM alone. There is nowhere else for us to look. Where will we find him? Well, reading the Bible, prayer, fellowship, worship are good places, but keep in mind that these WORKS, can't save us. Our hope is in the GRACE of the living Son of God.
2 Jesus promises that when we come to him, he will give us rest. There is a special rest reserved for God's people.Heb.4:9. He wants us to be comfortable in approaching him, so he receives us meekly, with lowliness in heart. Perfect love (His) casts out fear. I Jn.4:18.
3 He invites us to share his yoke. A yoke is the device that is worn by domestic beasts as well as men, which enables the wearer to carry or haul heavy burdens. When I was a young believer, I was told that Jesus is speaking here of the kind of double yoke that is worn by a team of two oxen or horses, and that if we are yoked and pull together with Christ, he will bear the weight of the load. I no longer believe this. Many scriptures assure us as believers that Christ is in us (Col.1:27-28), and we are in Christ (IICor.5:17, Rom.8:9).
Not to oversimplify, but try this: on a small card or piece of paper write CHRIST, on a small envelope write ME, and on a larger envelope again write CHRIST. Now, put the piece of paper inside the smaller envelope, and that envelope in turn inside the larger envelope. The point is that Christ is IN you, AND you are IN Christ. If the devil comes at you, from without or within, he still encounters the invincible Christ before he ever gets close to you.
So I believe the Lord's yoke is a single yoke, the kind carried by a MAN, easy and light because he is in us and we in him, which we bear together in a union unknown to this present world, "Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ," Eph.4:13. Thus shall the universe behold in us the Image and Likeness of God.
O Love that wilt not let me go,
I rest my weary soul in Thee;
I give Thee back the life I owe,
That in Thine ocean depths its flow may richer, fuller be.
O Joy that seekest me through pain,
I cannot close my heart to Thee;
I trace the rainbow through the rain,
And feel the promise is not vain, that morn shall tearless be.