13. The Weakness of God
Then I understood what I had written: "God is always stumbling and falling; God is always rising from the dead." When I stumble, God shares my hurt. When I am in pain, He is in pain. When I suffer, He suffers with me. When I rejoice, He is laughing. God carries my griefs and bears my sorrows. When I am incapable, God is incapable. When I am limited, God is limited. When I love, God loves. When I touch, God touches. But God is always rising from the dead and ascending on high.
13. The Weakness of God
In my last letter, "Defining God; Defining Man," I made a statement that, looking at it from outside the flow of my writing over the last several weeks, looks rather bizarre. Words make sense to a writer because he knows what he's thinking about. But a reader may not know that context and thus read the words entirely differently. I apologize for any confusion.
My words: "God is always stumbling and falling, not defending Himself; God is always rising from the dead."
I realize that in some contexts "to stumble and fall" is synonymous with sin. I have come to use those terms to mean human weakness, not sin. God created man weak.
I was asked kindly to clarify those words, which I did, explaining that I was referring directly to Jesus stumbling under the weight of the cross He could not carry, and beyond that to Jesus being sent all through human weakness, from an infant in a manger to a spectacle hanging naked on the cross.
However, my answer did not satisfy me. In fact, when I wrote those words originally, I knew I was sensing something, but I did not see it clearly. Then, after sending an unsatisfactory answer, I awoke in the middle of the night to the Lord opening to me what He meant when Jesus stumbled and fell, unable to carry His cross.
Every part, every point, from Gethsemane to arising out of the tomb, is an essential element in the propitiation of Jesus. Jesus took us into Himself from Gethsemane on, taking you and me through a passage we could never traverse ourselves. That passage was from sin and death - through - to life and righteousness. Taking us into Himself with every step He took being a step we took is the propitiation.
We were in sin when God placed us into union with Christ and every step of our passage from death into life took place entirely inside of that union. Can it be questioned that we live only in union with Him now?
But God was in Christ, reconciling the world to Himself.
Being united with Him in His resurrection means that Christ is our life. But what about the converse? It is not just that He is in us; first, we are in Him.
When Jesus stumbled under the weight of His cross, that was not His cross, it was ours. And when Jesus stumbled under the weight of our cross, that was not Jesus alone, God was in Christ.
Then I understood what I had written: "God is always stumbling and falling; God is always rising from the dead."
When I stumble, God shares my hurt. When I am in pain, He is in pain. When I suffer, He suffers with me. When I rejoice, He is laughing. God carries my griefs and bears my sorrows. When I am incapable, God is incapable. When I am limited, God is limited. When I love, God loves. When I touch, God touches.
But God is always rising from the dead and ascending on high. First, He swallows up into Himself all that I am, in all my stumbling and limitation and tears, not as a "do-gooder" from the outside of me. He becomes me. And then He rises from the dead, ascending on high, taking me all the way in Him.
This is the power of God.
Always before I was presented with a Christ who supposedly says to me, "If you will just get out of your self, and get up into Me, you would not know your limitations, you would know only My power." I cannot tell you the price that I paid, the years of tears and heartache and loss I gave myself to, hoping, somehow, someday to know the power of this Christ! They told me that God is "perfect," that He never makes mistakes; therefore, because I am always making mistakes, I most certainly am outside of God.
Let me share with you that there is inside of the Lord Jesus right now a very great anger against the men who teach these lies. Nevertheless, He takes His own into these false ideas that they might despair of the tree of knowledge and find their union with Him.
If I am always stumbling and falling, then God is always stumbling and falling. And if God is always rising from the dead and ascending on high, then I am always rising from the dead and ascending on high.
Now, we have before us two very different definitions of God. The one definition, enunciated by Augustine and locked into all Christian theology and thinking, places God as a high and lofty being, completely separate from His creation, who from His perch high above, thought to have mercy and thus stooped down momentarily, showing that He is also kind by rescuing just a few of us. The manner in which He "rescues" us is by giving us an example we cannot reach and then asking us to "do our best." This God in His high loftiness is all powerful - meaning He can make anything happen just by waving His fingers. He is omniscient - He knows everything even before it happens, and He is omnipresent, meaning that He sees everything you do.
I have made this definition stark and rough, yes, but boiled down to its essence, this is the definition of God that rules in Christianity. It is the only definition of God I have ever heard until now.
May I suggest that this is God created in the image and likeness of man and of human ambition. "God" is defined in this way because some ambitious men desire such a place of rule over all others. They get this ambition from Lucifer's view of himself.
The definition of man that I presented in "Defining God; Defining Man" is considered stark heresy by most of Christianity - "man trying to be God." Yet what I presented is simply man as the image of God versus the God of Christianity, one who is defined in the image of man.
God as defined by Augustine and Christian theology looks strikingly like Constantine as he saw himself and, in turn, like Apollo the sun god, whom Constantine aspired to be - just with the qualities of infinite and eternal and all-ness tacked on. Apollo, of course, is Lucifer's outward "greatness."
God is so very, very different in His being and essence than what they imagine.
No one has seen God at any time. If we love one another, God abides in us, and His love has been perfected in us. 1 John 4:12
Jesus said to him, "Have I been with you so long, and yet you have not known Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; so how can you say, 'Show us the Father'? Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father in Me?" John 14:9-10
These two statements were penned by the same man around the same time.
What is God? You know, I have never pondered this question ever in my life. The reason I have never pondered it is the definition imposed by Augustine upon all Christian thinking ruling without question. To consider God by any other definition was simply outside anyone's consideration.
Is this an important question? If we are the image and likeness of God how can we know who and what we are if we have no idea who and what He is? How can we deliver creation from the bondage of corruption if we are relating with a God defined by human ambition? We become like Him ONLY as we see Him as He is.
Bonnie Morris, in her recent article "Equal with God," gave a critical distinction in understanding God that set me on this path of pondering. She pointed out that there is a vast difference between God in who and what He is at His core versus outer qualities that God possesses.
Is God omnipotent and infinite? Of course He is. BUT - those things, when viewed out from a totally different definition of God from the ambition of man, appear to be totally different themselves.
. . . For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God. For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God. 1 Corinthians 2:10-11
Let's start here: it is impossible for Augustine or human thinking or Christian theology to define God. God is known only by spirit; He is understood only by those who abide in Love. But the One whom they know cannot be the one whom Augustine defined because no human mind can define God with words.
So how are we to know God? Simple. "He who has seen Me has seen the Father."
God has given us only one definition of Himself outside of the inner knowing of our spirits - and that is the Man, Christ Jesus. And, of course, we know that we cannot know Him by any natural "seeing," but also only by the revelation of the Spirit.
So we come next to an absolute premise, a foundation of reality that lies beneath all.
There is only one possible way we can know anything mentally about who and what God is and that is by looking at the Man, Christ Jesus, from His conception in Mary's womb to His ascension up into the sky. Furthermore there is only one possible way we can know anything about the core of God, His heart, the central essence of ALL He is and that is by looking at the passage of Christ's passion from Gethsemane to the empty tomb.
Any definition of God that is not centered here is simply and totally wrong.
The passage of Jesus from Gethsemane to the empty tomb defines God, nothing else does. Then, when we add the outer qualities of omnipresence, omnipotence, and so on, to this core definition of God, we begin to see a Being who is utterly different from anything we have imagined in the past.
The passage of Jesus from Gethsemane to the empty tomb is not "something God did," or "God stooping to rescue us" or a brief aberration or abnormality from which God "LEFT" who and what He really is to share, for a brief moment, human limitation. Absolutely NOT. (That is the lie of Augustine.)
The statement "Christ LEFT His home in glory" is NOT Biblical; it is abhorrent to the nature and being of God; it is by a definition of God that comes solely out of human ambition.
The passage of Jesus from Gethsemane to the empty tomb is not "God having LEFT who and what He is"; in complete contrast, it is God SHOWING who and what He is - to all creation, heaven as much as earth.
Now, think, if God (no man has seen God at any time) takes this one opportunity in all of time and creation, including this one opportunity for all of heaven and all the realms of spirit, to show by an outward picture just exactly who and what He is in His heart, His core, the structure and makeup of His person on the deepest of insides, than would He not craft that image to absolute perfection?
Would God not be giving us a picture of Himself that is 100% true?
God went to great lengths to give the law through Moses; Paul made it absolutely clear that none of that shows us God - except seeing Christ by the Spirit through it. Paul teaches us that the primary reason God gave the law is to convince mankind what He is NOT, that no one can ever know Him by human performance, by the exercise of the tree of knowledge, trying to do good and trying not to do evil, trying to "be like Jesus."
Yet it is clear that God gave us the passage of Jesus from Gethsemane to the empty tomb to show all creation in unmistakable terms exactly who and what He is. How is it that we have never believed Him?
More than that, we cannot know anything true about this passage of Jesus from Gethsemane to the empty tomb solely by reading the gospels. "Narrow is the way that leads to life and few there be that find it."
Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him . . . Romans 6:3-6
The only way we can see God in Christ is through the gospel given to Paul. The only way we can "define" God, as He shows us, is through the metaphors of story. The only words that can be used to define God are action verbs - to know, to love, to abide.
Let me, then, give a definition of God, what and who God IS.
- God always reveals Himself through weakness, swallowing up into Himself all that we are including our sin and rebellion, becoming us in our present state. Thus, carrying us inside Himself, stumbling and falling along the way, He arises out of death into life, ascending on high, and we in Him. –
Thus the Man, Christ Jesus, is God revealed.
This picture of God in a moment of time IS God as He IS in His eternal state. Now, let's take this definition of God as the core and center of who and what God is and add to it those external qualities that God also possesses.
Let's start with omnipotence. I quote from Jeffery Small at The Huffington Post in "The Question of Theodicy."
"A classic question in theology asks how can a loving, yet omnipotent God permit evil and suffering in the world? The argument goes as follows: A God that allows suffering to continue is either a) not all-powerful (not omnipotent) and is thus unable to prevent the suffering; b) not loving because this God has the power to prevent suffering but is unwilling to do so; and/or c) not all-knowing (not omniscient) because God only is aware of the suffering after it has already occurred and it's too late to prevent it. This problem of evil and God's inability or unwillingness to do anything about it is known in theology as "theodicy."
"Two of the most common (and I think unsatisfactory) answers to this question are that God's ways are "mysterious" or that God has an overarching plan that we cannot know."
This argument (not Small's) called "theodicy" is based on the classical definition of God as delineated by Augustine. At the same time, Small's argument in this article, though closer to the truth, does not show us God because he does not show us Jesus from Gethsemane to the empty tomb. Small is correct, however, in asserting that the definition of God (Christian theology) upon which the circular argument of theodicy is based is not God.
"And we know that God and we working together make all things good." (My paraphrase of Romans 8:28)
Let me repeat the definition of God that I gave.
- God always reveals Himself through weakness, swallowing up into Himself all that we are including our sin and rebellion, becoming us in our present state. Thus, carrying us inside Himself, stumbling and falling along the way, He arises out of death into life, ascending on high, and we in Him. -
The omnipotence of God flows out from this definition of God; God, swallowing up all things into Himself, and we with Him, together with us, making all things good. That is the ALL-power of God.
Force, that is, making people do something against their will, that is, stopping an evil man in his tracks by force to prevent him from doing evil actions against another IS the power of Satan and it is SIN. God does not know sin.
Rather, God, in His eternal nature and being, at the core of who and what He is, is always swallowing up into Himself all of the hurt and suffering, becoming it as us in this world, and thus arising out of death into life and we in Him; together we in God and God in us turn that which was meant for harm into inestimable good.
Omniscience means that no suffering is outside of this becoming and ascending nature of God. Omnipresence means that no created being is outside of this becoming and ascending nature of God. Eternality means that this becoming and ascending nature of God is always now, always, every moment. Infinite means that this becoming and ascending nature of God extends without end or limit.
Do you see how the non-Biblical, Roman Catholic, concept of unending punishment in "hell" is so completely outside the possibility of the nature and being of God? It is a total denial of who and what He is.
I used to believe that fear or being afraid, came from "not trusting" God. The problem with that idea is that it comes out of the notion of seeing myself separate from the being and person of God. Now I can see that "being afraid" comes from not knowing God.
Jesus, stumbling along the path from whip to nails, did not "trust in" God. Rather, He knew that He was God revealed, that God carried all that Jesus was inside Himself, and that God was, through Jesus, swallowing up all of mankind's weakness, stumbling in full fellowship with man, and thus, carrying all the sin and rebellion, all the enemies of Jesus who were beating and jeering at Him, carrying all the weakness of man in Himself as Himself in Jesus as Man, and arising from death into life, ascending on high, and we in Him.
This was not a one-time act (except in human history), but rather a fixed view of the nature and being of God, always becoming us in this world, sharing fully in our weakness, stumbling along together with us, and thus arising into newness of life and we in Him.
God can be defined in no other way. All other talk about God in the Bible must be seen first out from this core picture God has opened to us of who and what He is.
God is love.
Jesus is not "God the Son." There is no such thing as "God the Son," that is a definition invented by man. Jesus is not man only, there is no such thing as man only; "man only" does not exist. Jesus is not even "fully God and fully man." Again, those words come out of the definition of a God created in the image and likeness of man.
Jesus was Man, the first Man, nothing more and nothing less; Man is God revealed. The Man, Christ Jesus, shows us God. When Jesus said, "Whatever you do unto the least of these My brethren, you do it unto Me," He was speaking literally. The nature and being of God does not allow us to separate God and man. Our union with Him is complete.
For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead (of who and what God is in the core essence of His being) bodily; and you are complete in Him . . . Colossians 2:9-10
The first time I heard preaching on "you are complete in Him," was 36 years ago. "Complete in Him" made no sense to me then, nor through all the years since. I understand it, now, for the first time.
Adam was not finished. God started to make Adam as His image and likeness, but Adam chose against becoming complete. Why?
The creation and then the transformation of Adam into the likeness and image of God was a three-step process. A created being cannot be the likeness and image of God; Adam was not complete.
The first step of God showing Himself to creation through His image was to form man out of the dust of the ground. God formed man out of physical dirt, breathed the breath of life (spirit – God-breath) into Him, and man became a living soul, very much like God in ways far beyond anything Adam realized, yes, but not complete. Second, God separated man into a fellowship of persons. This "man" who is to be God revealed is a plurality of persons, a corporate man. Finally, this corporate man, Adam and Eve in the beginning with all their children inside of them, must, of their own drive, by vague invitation only, reach out and EAT of the tree of life. By eating of the tree of life, they would be transformed out of the creation and into the express image of the Father.
I have heard it preached that Eve wandered away from her husband and thus found herself next to the tree of knowledge where she had no business being. Wrong!
It is impossible to eat of the tree of life without coming into the immediate pre-eminence of the tree of knowledge. I picture the two trees in this way: the tree of knowledge was huge, glorious, and loaded with fruit. It dominated the scene. In stark contrast, the tree of life was scrawny, spiny, and sparse, with the fruit high up in its branches. It receded into the background, looking entirely out of place.
God created both trees out from Himself and placed them side by side. Neither tree had anything to do with the serpent. God said, in effect, "Here is My law and here is My life. Do not eat of My law for you were not made for it, but you may eat freely of My life."
But Adam and Eve could not arrive at life, full union with Christ, without first passing by the law.
Fred Pruitt keeps reminding us that debating the "theology of" union with Christ is a pointless waste of time. The entrance into our knowledge of that union comes only from God taking us through our own personal experience, in some way, with Romans 7 - that is, the utter hopelessness that comes from "trying our best." In despair, we are willing to turn from our false definitions of God and then, in a flash of sweet communion, God Himself shows us our full union with Christ - living as us in this world. We never ever are tempted to leave Him again. Such knowledge cannot be argued at people.
Paul said that the law was a "taskmaster" to bring us to Christ. He meant that, weighed down by the hopelessness of the law, we, by a moment of revelation only, pass forever out of the tree of knowledge, the unending cycle of "trying to do what is right" into the knowledge of complete union with Christ.
We are complete in Christ, that is, we become what God intended from the beginning, the fullness of who and what God is dwelling in us bodily, the express image of the Father, Man, or God revealed.
And thus we turn and walk as Jesus walked, swallowing up into ourselves the weakness, the stumbling, the failings of others, never "defending ourselves," but always taking into ourselves the hurt they bear; and we in God and God in us, arising with those who are hurting into newness of life, ascending on high.
Is this not what the Apostle John said?
Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God, for God is love. In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.
No one has seen God at any time. If we love one another, God abides in us, and His love has been perfected in us. By this we know that we abide in Him, and He in us . . . 1 John 4:7-13
When we read these words, using the "Christian" definition of God, that is, someone fashioned after the image and likeness of human ambition, always lusting to be "superior," always despising the weakness "of the flesh," they were good words to us, certainly, but words we could not possibly know.
Now that we know God at His core, as the One who stumbles with us in our weakness - as our weakness, and then arises into life, ascending on high and we in Him, these words take on a completely different meaning that what we could have known before.
Love IS PERFECTED in us.
From the first of my teaching since knowing Christ as my very life, I have made this statement. "Until we know Him in our weakness, we will never know Him in His power." I have said these words over and over in many ways and from many angles. I can say now that I see them truly for the first time, yet I know that I will say the same thing again tomorrow.
If I do not know the God who stumbles with me in my weakness, I cannot know the God who arises into newness of life. For such IS God.
In conclusion, I raised a question earlier that I would like to answer here. Here is what I said: Adam was not finished. God started to make Adam as His image and likeness, but Adam chose against becoming complete. Why?
We are faced with two opposing definitions of God. If the passage of Jesus from Gethsemane to the empty tomb defines God, than Augustine's definition has no place. If Augustine's definition of God holds, then Jesus, fully God, but briefly tacking onto Himself humanity, did something for us as a momentary and abnormal outer expression of God - His condescending mercy.
Lucifer fell because he exalted his outward abilities in his own eyes - as if those outward abilities and giftings somehow defined "God." Adam fell because he despised his weakness, convinced God made a mistake.
Adam's descendants and the serpent then colluded to force the combined definition they held of themselves upon God - the Superior One who loathes the weakness of "human flesh."
Jesus won because He drew you and me in our pain and our grief into Himself and, stumbling along with us under our weakness, He passed from death into life, ascending on high, and we in Him. "Here am I; I and the children whom You have given Me."
Jesus is God revealed. Jesus is fully Man; Man is God revealed, first to earth, and then, also, to heaven. We are complete in Him; it is finished; we are just like Him - for we see Him as He is.
A question I carry before God at all times is this: How do we throw the ring into the fire? How do we break the curse and cast off the bonds of vanity that sit upon all creation? What is the pin-point of the Lie that, by defeating that Lie, we forever defeat Death?
The earth is turning very dark. If we could see how dark evil is upon the earth right now through human eyes only, we would perish immediately under the weight of terror. However, though our very existence on this earth at this moment of time is exposing all that is in the darkness, we do not see it through human eyes. In complete contrast, our hearts are leaping high with hope. Yet we know the task God fulfills through Christ living as us right now in the fullness of times.
Just as there was a moment of time through which God showed Himself as He really is - through Jesus, so there is the same moment now at the end of the age of human folly - through us.
For those who can hear, that moment of which I speak is portrayed for us explicitly in Revelation 11:7-12.
The power to break the evil and to release rivers of living water all across this planet is found in the God who lives as us in this world. This is not something we "must produce" or "must fulfill" or "must do," it is who and what we are; it is knowing the God who is our life as He really is.
Jesus did very little from Gethsemane to the resurrection. Most of what happened was people doing things to Him. Some of what Jesus did were NOTS. He did not open His mouth, He did not defend Himself, He did not call upon outward power. Then, in contrast, His words were all inclusion words, "Father forgive them," "You will be with Me," But there is one thing Jesus did inside that passage entirely of Himself. It was not something done to Him.
He stumbled and fell. If we could only see Him, we are just like Him.
God through us reveals Himself in the midst of our weakness, swallowing up into Himself all the hatred thrown against us, not only revealing Himself as us in our present state, but also drawing into Himself through us those who hate Him. Then, stumbling and falling along the way, He arises out of death into life, ascending on high, and we in Him, transforming together with us all evil into inestimable good. It is when such a revelation of God swallows up even the greatest of all cruelties and hatreds that this world can produce, arising out of death and into life that the Lie is broken, that death is defeated, that the curse is lifted, that glorious liberty flows out of our bellies, setting all creation free.
It is nothing more than God being Himself made visible by us.