(Part 15 of the Cleansing of the Sanctuary Series)
“Whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwelleth in him, and he in God. And we have known and believed the love that God hath to us. God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him. Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment: because as he is, so are we in this world. There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love. We love him, because he first loved us.” (1 John 4:15-19)
Now we are getting to the actual cleansing process and how to make it work starting with cleansing in terms of our attitude towards God as discussed in part 14. It is important to recognize right away that what we need is not just obedience but obedience based on love. Motivation is a key factor.
Again, from part 14, we need to be cleansed in three areas. Cleansing is needed for our:
- sinful attitude
- sinful flesh
- sinful acts
and that has to be accomplished in the right order. This is worth repeating from part 8:
“For on that day shall the priest make an atonement for you, to cleanse you, that ye may be clean from all your sins before the LORD.” (Lev 16:30)
The order in that verse is:
- “make an atonement for you” (so that you may be in a state of oneness “at-one” with God) – sinful attitude
- (in order) “to cleanse you” – sinful flesh
- (so) “that ye may be clean from all your sins” (stop sinning) – sinful acts
Why the Greatest Commandment is the Greatest Commandment
One day, a Pharisee asked Jesus:
“Master, which is the great commandment in the law?” (Matt 22:36)
Of course, the Pharisees had a very legalistic outlook – it was always “what must I do to be saved?” Jesus’ answer was interesting:
“Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment.” (Matt 22:37-38)
There is a reason why that is the first and greatest commandment – it is the place we need to start in the cleansing process. Love for God is our connection to Him. Atonement, being at-one with Him (See Atonement definition) is our greatest need. If love for God comes first, it comes before not killing, before Sabbath keeping or anything else we should or shouldn’t do.
It is like the overflowing-sink illustration used earlier (part 14). If we will first understand God’s character correctly (turn off the tap of false ideas about Him) then the appreciation of what He is really like will go a long way to help us stop acts of sin. Knowing that He freely forgives all of our sins is a good place to start. If we don’t do that we will never be cleansed.
The first commandment gives us the heart appreciation that motivates us to do the cleansing. The second helps us to put it into effect in our lives.
“And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” (Matt 22:39-40)
Loving Who We Can’t See
The important question of how to get this to work in our lives is how do we develop a real love for God? There is a bit of a problem here. How can we love God when we can’t even see Him?
“No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him.” (John 1:18)
Jesus suggested a solution to that when He said that seeing Himself was equivalent to seeing the Father:
“Jesus saith unto him, Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me, Philip? he that hath seen me hath seen the Father; and how sayest thou then, Shew us the Father?” (John 14:9)
This sounds like a serious contradiction to John 1:18 unless it is understood that the word “seen” in both verses is the same original word. It can be understood either as “to see with the eyes” or “to see with the mind, to perceive, to know.” So, while it is true that no man has physically seen the Father, we may know what He is like in character by knowing His Son.
“All things are delivered to me of my Father: and no man knoweth who the Son is, but the Father; and who the Father is, but the Son, and he to whom the Son will reveal him.” (Luke 10:22)
“I have manifested thy name unto the men which thou gavest me out of the world: thine they were, and thou gavest them me; and they have kept thy word.” (John 17:6)
Knowing Him Equated with Eternal Life
Of course, manifesting His Father’s name was not merely something like repeating the name or telling people what the name was – they already knew that. Knowing God’s name was more than knowing what His name is, it is knowing His character:
“And we know that the Son of God is come, and hath given us an understanding, that we may know him that is true, and we are in him that is true, even in his Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God, and eternal life.” (1 John 5:20)
Can you see the connection between “given us an understanding” and the two verses before that:
- the Son will reveal him (Luke 10:22)
- I have manifested thy name (John 17:6)
He gave us an understanding by revealing His Father, by manifesting His Father’s name. Here are some other versions of 1 John 5:20:
“We know that Jesus Christ the Son of God has come and has shown us the true God. And because of Jesus, we now belong to the true God who gives eternal life.” (1 John 5:20, Contemporary English Version)
“Now we know that the Son of God is come and has given us understanding, so that we may know Him who is true; and we are in Him who is true, in His Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life.” (1 John 5:20, Berean Literal Bible)
Knowing Him is understanding His character well enough to trust Him:
“And they that know thy name will put their trust in thee: for thou, LORD, hast not forsaken them that seek thee.” (Psa 9:10)
It’s not: “Nice to meet you and learn your name; now I trust you.” You don’t trust someone just because you know their name. It has to come from knowledge based on experience of their character.
Here is a very important passage:
“These words spake Jesus, and lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, Father, the hour is come; glorify thy Son, that thy Son also may glorify thee: 2 As thou hast given him power over all flesh, that he should give eternal life to as many as thou hast given him. 3 And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent. 4 I have glorified thee on the earth: I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do.” (John 17:1-4)
Let’s look carefully at this passage:
- “These words spake Jesus, and lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, Father, the hour is come; – what hour? – Compare with: “… this is your hour and the power of darkness.” (Luke 22:53)- spoken to those arresting Him.
- glorify thy Son, – show His character? – What else could it be? This is not the transfiguration.
- that thy Son also may glorify thee: – reflect the Father’s character.
- As thou hast given him power over all flesh, that he should give eternal life to as many as thou hast given him.
- And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent. – how does He give eternal life? – by giving the knowledge of His Father
- I have glorified thee on the earth: I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do.” Notice that He had finished the work He was given to do even before going to the cross. His word was to glorify or show the character of His Father. The sacrifice part, the crucifixion was man’s doing.
The Beholding Principle
If we can only get to know the Father through the Son, the next question is how do we get to know the Son?
“The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.” (John 1:29)
“Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Heb 12:2)
So we are to behold, to look unto Him. However, we cannot physically see Him, observe His actions or learn of Him directly. Isaiah, prophesying of Him, actually suggested that His physical appearance would not necessarily attract:
“For he shall grow up before him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground: he hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him.” (Isa 53:2)
It must be His character reflected in His words and actions. Those we can “observe” through the gospel accounts of His life and other details in the rest of scripture. So we can learn of Him through His Word that describes Him and how He treated people, especially how He reacted in difficult situations where true character is revealed.
Here are verses suggesting that beholding Him will actually work a change in us.
“But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.” (2 Cor 3:18)
“Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee.” (Psa 119:11)
“That he might sanctify and cleanse it (the church) with the washing of water by the word,” (Eph 5:26)
“Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.” (John 17:17)
Any change in our characters or any law keeping that follows from our study of the Word will only follow because God has taken the first steps. Studying the life of Jesus, understanding that the things He did reflect the character of His Father will help us to understand the Father as well. (That is the object of this website – to help bring a right concept of the character of God.)
So beholding Him and allowing the love and appreciation that will bring to us if we allow it will be key to us cleansing our hearts.
The Effect of Beholding the Opposite
What happens if, rather than beholding a God of love as portrayed in the life of Jesus, we have the opposite concept of God? Christian psychologist Dr. Timothy Jennings has explained this so well that I will simply quote him (my additions in brackets):
“Amazingly, recent brain research reveals that worshiping an angry and wrathful God [as many imagine Him to be] has the same effect on brain circuitry as theatrical television watching. The only God concept that didn’t have this negative effect was a God of love! Worshipping a God of love results in calming of the fear circuits and healing of brain and even the body!
Research at the University of Pennsylvania by Dr. Newberg and colleagues demonstrated that subjects 60-65 years of age who meditated on a God of love, just 12 minutes a day for 30 days, experienced measurable growth in the ACC [anterior cingulate cortex] of their brains as measured with MRI scans. This was directly correlated with reductions in heart rate, blood pressure and stress hormone levels and a 30% increase in memory testing. This demonstrates the calming of the amygdala and limbic system circuitry as a consequence of meditating on a God of love. Science confirms what the Bible has told us” (Timothy Jennings “How TV and an Angry, Wrathful God Damage Your Brain“)
What happens when people know of God but don’t really know what He is like:
“Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened.” (Rom 1:21)
“Yes, they knew God, but they wouldn’t worship him as God or even give him thanks. And they began to think up foolish ideas of what God was like. As a result, their minds became dark and confused.” (Rom 1:21, NLT)
Here is an illustration of becoming vain in the imagination:
The evidence from history, if one remembers the religious intolerance of the Dark Ages with its persecutions and tortures in the name of religion, shows what can happen. A wrong belief that God is intolerant, unforgiving, even wrathful can actually alter the brain, impair judgment and reason and cause people to treat others as they mistakenly believe God would.
There is a war going on over God’s character in the world and in every mind. For those who are learning to appreciate the truth about God, the direction is given:
“Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ;” (2 Cor 10:5)
It is time we do all we can to counter false representations of God and present the truth about His character of love. Please share this information with others.
This is Part 15 of the Cleansing of the Sanctuary Series
Return to Daniel 8:14 (the master page of the series) to continue