The Gardener

Then the Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to tend and keep it.
Genesis 2:15 (NKJV)

Jesus said to her [Mary Magdalene] “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” She, supposing Him to be the gardener…
John 20:15 (NKJV)

Indeed, He is the Gardener.

The first Adam, having fallen into death, last set foot in the old garden, which he had been tasked to keep, and was driven from it, to keep it no longer.
The Last Adam, having risen from the dead, first set foot into the new garden, which He took upon Himself to keep, and draws men into it, to partake in its keeping.

Death began to take its hold in a garden.
Death began to lose its grip in a garden.

Behold, He makes all things new!

Apocalypse: Then & Now


§I ICHABOD THROUGH THE AGES


Then the glory of the Lord went out from the threshold of the house, and stood over the cherubim.
Ezekiel 10:18 (ESV)

And the glory of the Lord went up from the midst of the city and stood on the mountain that is on the east side of the city. [The Mount Of Olives]
Ezekiel 11:23 (ESV)

This took place before the destruction of the first temple in Ezekiel’s day.
And Jesus, who is Himself the Glory of the Lord, signifies again Jerusalem’s doom by following this exact path before the Day of the Lord came upon the second temple. I wonder how much the disciples realized how relevant this was to the question they asked Him next:

Jesus left the temple and was going away, when His disciples came to point out to Him the buildings of the temple. But He answered them, “You see all these, do you not? Truly, I say to you, there will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.”
As He sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately, saying, “Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign of Your coming and of the end of the age?”
Matthew 24:1-3

He then proceeded to describe what would accompany the end of that age, (ostensibly the Jewish era in their mind), all of which things literally fell in a very real sense upon that literal generation, in 70AD. Not one stone of the temple was left upon another. Jesus indeed visited Jerusalem again in judgement; even according to the colorful apocalyptic language which God typically uses when speaking of the overthrow of nations in the old testament (coming on the clouds, sun darkened, moon turned to blood, stars falling from heaven, etc.) His warning about this very doom to the Christians, who would be living in that city some 35 years later, is also recorded by Luke:

But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation has come near.
Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains, and let those who are inside the city depart, and let not those who are out in the country enter it, for these are days of vengeance, to fulfill ALL that is written.
Luke 21:20-22 (ESV)

Josephus later recorded an incredible event in mid-65AD, right before the seige of Jerusalem properly began, which again mirrors the pattern of the Glory of the Lord departing:

Moreover at the feast which we call Pentecost, as the priests went by night into the inner court of the temple, as their custom was, to perform their sacred ministrations; they said that in the first place they felt a quaking, and heard a great noise, and after that the heard a sound as of a great multitude, saying, “Let us remove hence.”

But, what is still more terrible; there was one Jesus [a common 1st century name], the son of Ananus, a plebeian and a husbandman, who, four years before the war began, and at a time when the city was in very great peace and prosperity, came to that feast whereon it is our custom for everyone to make tabernacles to God in the temple, began on a sudden to cry aloud, “A voice from the east, a voice from the west, a voice from the four winds, a voice against Jerusalem and the holy house, a voice against the bridegrooms and the brides, and a voice against this whole people!”

(Josephus, The Wars Of The Jews 6:5:3)

This occured in the year before Jerusalem’s seige began. Many things recorded by the historians of that time sound much like an earthly observer’s account of John’s apocalyptic book unfolding upon the land. All the tribes [Gk. φυλή] of the land [Gk. γῆ] indeed mourned because of He whom they had pierced (Rev 1:7). And those in Jerusalem from all about the land did so mourn, by the coming of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost, before the later judgement of the unbelievers, just as Zechariah prophesied:

And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and pleas for mercy, so that, when they look on Me, on Him whom they have pierced, they shall mourn for Him, as one mourns for an only child, and weep bitterly over Him, as one weeps over a firstborn.
Zechariah 12:10 (ESV)

And afterwards, when the faithful evenually fled that city as Jesus had warned, there was no sacrifice for sins left in it; but only a fearful expectation of judgement, which consumed those particular adversaries of Christ, so that they also wailed on account of Him.

For example, some of the language in Josephus’ account as quoted above, secifically “a voice against the bridegrooms and the brides,” reminds us of the overthrow of that great city called by John “Sodom and Egypt, where also our Lord was crucified”:

Then a mighty angel took up a stone like a great millstone and threw it into the sea, saying,
“So will Babylon the great city be thrown down with violence, and will be found no more; and the sound of harpists and musicians, of flute players and trumpeters, will be heard in you no more, and a craftsman of any craft will be found in you no more,
and the sound of the mill will be heard in you no more, and the light of a lamp will shine in you no more, and the voice of bridegroom and bride will be heard in you no more, for your merchants were the great ones of the earth, and all nations were deceived by your sorcery.
And in her was found the blood of prophets and of saints, and of all who have been slain on earth.”
Revelation 18:21-24 (ESV)

“…For it cannot be that a prophet should perish away from Jerusalem.”


§II MULTI-LEVEL FULFILLMENTS


These few years were full of great woe. All the plagues and woes fell upon that city as is written in the book of Christ’s unveiling [Gk. apokalupsis – unveiling, or revelation].

And as the earthly temple fell, and its practitioners were judged by the two witnesses of the Law and the Prophets, which they had proven to vehemently despise, the new temple was seen in heaven, heralded by seven trumpet blasts and many woes upon the disobedient; for then Christ had begun to reign (Rev 11:17).

I am becoming convinced that the great bulk of the book of Revelation, as well as Matthew 24:1-34, was in a very real sense fulfilled as of 70AD. In other words, Jesus meant exactly what He said when He spoke the words, “there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the kingdom of God.” For He indeed came back to that city in judgement, since they rebelled against His newly inaugurated reign, having declared, “We have no king but Caesar!” In His judgement of them, Christ proved Himself to be the King of kings, the Prophet of a better covnant, and the Priest of a new temple made without hands.

That said, similar cycles do continue to repeat themselves upon the church whenever God’s people reject His Lordship; and just as there were many false Christs of the Synagogue of Satan in that day, so it remains even to our own. But again, it can be instructional to us to see that much of the book of Revelation appears to have been written to initially tell of the great tribulation of those days, which was “shortly coming to pass;” a day of peril at the end of one age to commence another age, the beginning of the time of which Christ said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been geven to Me. Go therefore…” And this He said as He went to the Father on the clouds of heaven. Daniel also tells us of His ascension in this way:

I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a Son of Man, and He came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before Him. And to Him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve Him; His dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and His kingdom one that shall not be destroyed.
Daniel 7:13-14

Here His coming on the clouds is directed not to earth, but to the Father; having bound the Devil and won that which the Father then presents to Him. Therefore the Lord is always slowly building up His kingdom in the midst of the earth just as He promised – perhaps appearing in our impatient eyes to be taking one step back then two steps forward; and He is always cancelling the Devil’s apocalypse, because the true apocalypse belongs to Christ, who is truly the One revealing Himself in the earth.

If our understanding of the nearness of the Day of the Lord is expanded beyond the last 100 years of one particular continent, and if we turn from the voices of proven liars and worldly apocalypse merchants, then I believe that this will slowly become apparent. It is just as wicked to give up, hoping to magically escape in the times of darkness, as it is wicked to pretend that there are no such times in this age. For the Day of the Lord appears first in the hearts of men; and winnows its threshing floor there before anywhere else. Therefore Christ will have for Himself a great multitude from every tribe, tongue, and nation; and He will find servants willing to gather them, even if it takes centuries more.

The Stone grows into a Mountain,
The Leaven permeates the whole lump,
The Son sits at the right hand of the Father,
Until all enemies are made a footstool for His feet.


§III THE AGE OF RESURRECTION


“Heaven is My throne, and the earth is My footstool.”

Or as the apostle Paul stated it for this age,

For He must reign until He has put all His enemies under His feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death.
1 Corinthians 15:25-26

And later in the same discussion, Paul goes on to say:

I tell you this, brothers: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed.
1 Corinthians 15:50-52

Now if this trumpet is in one sense the seventh trumpet of Revelation 11:15, then it is that which inaugurates the same reign of Christ of which we have already spoken:
Then the seventh angel blew his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, saying, “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever.”
They also say thereafter, “for you have taken your great power and begun to reign.”

We these things in mind, we can begin to understand that the seals, trumpets, and bowls of Christ’s unveiling are not particular to any one period in history, past or present; but they are ever being opened, blasted, and poured out at all times in every generation and in various ways. They even were fulfilled in one sense long before John’s time, when the Lord overthrew Jericho by the hand of Joshua. For since the book of Revelation concerns the unveiling of Christ, all things in it therefore have a fulfillment in what was, what is, and what is to come.

In John’s day, the fall of earthly Jerusalem, as initially announced by the trumpets he describes, marked for them the beginning of a new iteration of God’s kingdom through the church; which before had subsisted on earth in the earthly temple, but now would spread across the earth from a Cornerstone into a very great mountain, from a Seed into a very great tree: a greater temple made of living stones; a better covanent enacted on better promises. For as long as the earthly temple still stood, its age was not yet ended (Heb 9:8-9). But now He has begun to reign; and of the increase of His government and of peace there will be no end, though Satan is again fully loosed for but a very little season at the end of this age (Rev 20).

And concerning this present age, the apostle Paul continues:

For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written:
“Death is swallowed up in victory.”
“O death, where is your victory?
O death, where is your sting?”
The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
1 Corinthians 15:53-57

The victory in this present age is “through our Lord Jesus Christ;” and it is also called by the book of Revelation “the first resurrection” (Rev 20:5). The second death (the lake of fire) has no authority over the ones who partake in this resurrection life by the Spirit of Christ. The first generation of this new Israel overcame the persecution which accompanied the fall of the old order of things (42 months under Nero Caesar), and we still continue to find Christ’s same victory over the first death by that first resurrection, in all the trials that have followed on earth under His current reign.

But note especially the remark about the perishable putting on imperishability, and the mortal putting on immortality. This describes our translation to meet with the Imperishable One who put on what was perishable, the Immortal One who put on mortality; yet who also rendered both imperishable and immortal once again: so that, as the apostle said before, once all enemies are put under His feet in this age, He at last will fully defeat that death in us, even as He did so in Himself. Therefore we work in the hope of the second resurrection triumphing over the second death, as judgement is passed over the children of His covanent, who sing the song of Moses.

It is with this perspective, I believe, that great meaning is retained in Paul’s closing remark on the matter:

Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.
1 Corinthians 15:58


§IVTHE WARNING


Now, if the church inherits all the blessings of Israel, then it also inherits all the same temptations, all the same risks of idolatry, and all the same curses for disobedience. Whoever steps outside of Christ’s rule steps outside of where all the promises of God are “yes” and “amen.”

I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book, and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book.
Revelation 22:18-19

That book is the unveiling of Jesus Christ. To add to Him or to take away from Him, is to reject Him. From such He will “remove hence.” There must be a remnant out of every generation, and in every age, who overcomes the dreadful condemnation of Christ, “Behold, your house is left to you desolate.”

Just as those who did not obey Christ in the last age were not able to proceed into the greater glory of His kingdom in this age; so also will those who disobey Him in this age not proceed into its greater glory in the next.

When the church of the previous age (Israel) fully rejected what was given to them, it was succeeded in the present age by a remnant, but with a better promise to bless all nations IN CHRIST. Therefore, when the present remnant of Israel (the church) fully obeys what has been given to it – and God will indeed see it done – it will be translated into a more blessed age.

And though it is now the age of the first resurrection, it was the second resurrection (translation) for which Paul longed even in this life when he said:

…to know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, having been conformed to His death, if somehow I may attain to a resurrection out of the dead.
Philippians 3:10-11

And Enoch walketh habitually with God, and he is not, for God hath taken him.
Genesis 5:24 (YLT)

“Now the day of the Lord comes not where the carnal mind might imagine, nor when man wills; neither according to the carnal desire of the carnal heart; neither according to the evil eye that looks out, can it be seen.

And as the day of the Lord is a mystery, the Spirit of the Lord is the only discoverer of it; for none can know the things of God, but by the Spirit of God. The day of the Lord; even his bright shining forth in the heart of man, is one of the glorious things of God, which only the Spirit of God gives the knowledge of to man, and in man.

The further men draw from the Light, the darker their hearts become; and their understandings being closed up, they cannot behold the Lord, neither his glory, which is revealed only by God’s Holy Spirit; which Spirit is near man, though he sees it not.”

– Francis Howgill

“Such A Heart In Them”

“Now therefore why should we die? for this great fire will consume us: if we hear the voice of the Lord our God any more, then we shall die. For who is there of all flesh, that hath heard the voice of the living God speaking out of the midst of the fire, as we have, and lived? Go thou [Moses] near, and hear all that the Lord our God shall say: and speak thou unto us all that the Lord our God shall speak unto thee; and we will hear it, and do it.”
Deuteronomy 5:25-27

Thus was the stubborn posture of the hearts of the children of Israel toward the Word of God when it came to them in power and great glory.

The hearts of wicked men are ever blind to the mercy that has already been shown to them unmerrited; therefore grace is a stranger to them, and they to it. Despite all the clear proof that God has not already struck them down in wrath, the ungrateful question of the accuser is always stirring within their souls, “Has God indeed said?” And by their love of that lawless question, however secret it may be, all of their ways are made crooked, and they always miss God. For notice that outwardly they still claim that they will perform the commandment of God; but only, they say, if another should “Go thou near, and hear all that the Lord our God shall say: and speak thou unto us all that the Lord our God shall speak unto thee.”

Now, although it pleased God in His soveriegn plan that for our learning Moses should stand as a kind of mediator for the children of Israel, prefiguring for us the unfathomable abasement of His Word in a Man on our behalf; still, His jealousy remained provoked in that ancient day toward those who so rejected His Word as it had appeared to them. For God will not be mocked; and His way will stand, though men so inventively seek any other door than what He graciously provides them. Therefore He was angry with that generation, and lamented their hardness of heart.

And the Lord heard the voice of your words, when ye [Israel] spake unto me [Moses]; and the Lord said unto me, “I have heard the voice of the words of this people, which they have spoken unto thee: they have well said all that they have spoken. O that there were such an heart in them, that they would fear Me, and keep all My commandments always, that it might be well with them, and with their children for ever!”
Deuteronomy 5:28-29

“…they have well said all that they have spoken.”
The Lord who searches the thoughts and intentions is not taken aback by the self-deceit which pervades the hardened heart of merely religious men. Their most pious response is still dependant upon another man knowing God for them; and this He sees as no different, if not even more despicable, than those who shake their fists at Him unabashedly.

“O that there were such an heart in them…”
The hearts which tend by God’s grace towards true obedience are marked by a desire to know God’s voice for themselves. But those which tend away from desiring a personal knowing of God’s voice; who tend to desire the voice of other men; and perhaps even mock that God would so speak to them, except through a man, reveal that they are full of disobedience already.

“…that they would fear Me…”
The wisdom of God is obtained through the fear of Him: those who fear Him seek His counsel diligently for themselves, and leave it not in the hands of any other.

“…and keep all My commandments always…”
The scriptures loudly attest to us that true obedience is that which is born of a heart that has been made humble and contrite before the living God. When God appears to such persons, they bow in faith saying, “Thy will be done, and first in me!” – and they go forth, though they may not see how it is possible. For they trust that He who gives the commandment will grant within them its Breath unto Life. But the passing of one’s own responsibility onto another is the way of the dead.

“…that it might be well with them, and with their children for ever!”
We damn not only ourselves, but in a way our children also, when we willingly give place to any other Mediator than Christ Jesus. Let us not render ourselves as another lesson of failure for a generation yet future; and if we do, may our own children quickly overcome our lawless and faithless spirit, however it might sting our wicked pride.

As Moses said to Israel earlier in the same discourse, recounting God’s marvelous deeds among them:

“Surely there shall not one of these men of this evil generation see that good land, which I sware to give unto your fathers, save Caleb the son of Jephunneh; he shall see it, and to him will I give the land that he hath trodden upon, and to his children, because he hath wholly followed the Lord.” Also the Lord was angry with me [Moses] for your sakes, saying, “Thou also shalt not go in thither. But Joshua the son of Nun, which standeth before thee, he shall go in thither: encourage him: for he shall cause Israel to inherit it.”
Deuteronomy 1:35-38

The Gospel Which Vindicates God

No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day.
John 6:44

The wisdom of man says that unless our love for God proceeds from our own initial willingness to worship Him, then it is not truly love, but a robotic and forced relationship.

The problem with this assertion is that no man in himself is actually willing to love the true God until God opens the man’s eyes to His goodness in the first place. The will is only free to love that which is according to it’s nature; and the fallen nature is at its core a rejection of and a blindness to God’s goodness. To despise this fact is to despise the riches of God’s mercy.

“Seek and you shall find” was Christ’s admonition to those who are already His own disciples, and it was regarding prayer.
“There is not one who seeks after God” is the apostle’s precise description of fallen humanity without Christ.

“We love because He first loved us.”
– This means that unless He first freely loved me so as to open my eyes, I could never have freely loved Him. I may have sought my own earthly conception of Him; but that is not why He decided to have mercy upon me. He chose to show mercy before the foundation of the world for the glory of His own Name; and I dare not be so arrogant as to suggest that He simply foresaw that I was somehow more spiritually sensitive than others. I was in fact spiritually dead; that is what He foresaw. But His foreknowledge is a powerful personal knowing of the sinner which redeems them; this is what it means that He foreknew me.

It is written in the Prophets, ‘And they will all be taught by God.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to Me…
John 6:45

Pleading with men’s free will and intellectual desires does not win them to Christ; it rather wins them to a god who must always bow to their demands of mercy, as though it were an “inalienable right.” It brings them to worship a spiritually libertarian god of “fairness” who is obligated to give all sinners a “chance;” rather than the holy God of justice who was not lawfully required to save even a portion of such self-entitled, demonic wretches, yet who did.

The great conumdrum of the gospel is not how God can be fair if He chooses not to redeem every soul; it is rather how He can remain uncompromisingly just if He redeems any.

As the scripture says:

He that justifieth the wicked, and he that condemneth the just, even they both are abomination to the Lord.
Proverbs 17:15

Therefore, the only Just One condemned Himself willingly under the wrath of God, that He might justify many wicked.

That is not fair.
But it was made to be just.
And those whose hearts He hardens, He hardens justly; for there is no one who of themselves seeks after God.

Let no man answer back to God, in any matter. Let them only come to Him, if by His gracious will they will come.

At that time Jesus declared, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. All things have been handed over to Me by My Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal Him.
Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
Matthew 11:25-30

(I beat this dead horse not because in doing so I think I will raise it; but in obedience to He who raises the dead.)

Neglect It Not: Intercession

Neglect not the gift that is in thee…
1 Timothy 4:14

Being that each of God’s own is gifted for and called to a specific purpose, to neglect exercising said giftings and callings is in large part to neglect one’s walk with God. To neglect a known spiritual gifting is to deny the Lord’s goodness, and to neglect a known calling is to walk without faith.

The giftings and callings of God are irrevocable (Rom 11:29), and they carry with them great necessity to be continually walked in; so great that, if once their fruits have been even a little tasted, yet then they are not exercised, their knowledge haunts and condemns in heart the one to whom they are given: and though he still walk with God somewhat, he renders himself a less honorable servant, and knows it.

And this is especially the case with the man who is called particularly to intercession (in prayer and/or in deed); for the nature of his gifts and calling are a burden in themselves: therefore the neglecting of them amidst the bitterness of this earthly life is double the burden – and that without the assurance of hope or any inward joy.

This more than any other spiritual calling is to be likened to the laboring of childbirth: the child must be born, if it is not already concieved. The inward secret cry of the one whom the Lord has so burdened ever cries with Rachel, “Give me children, or else I die!” (Genesis 30). And the heart which has learned purity of intercession does not seek to fulfill its desire according to the flesh, as Rachel did at first; but rather persists for the heavenly gift as Hannah did, and likewise dedicates the fruit of its victory to the Lord (1Samuel 1).

Intercession is the most blessed calling of the whole of Christ’s body on behalf of its every member. It is for some members to bear in heavier ways than others; but it is still to a degree for all, in the simplicity of the giving of oneself for the good of another.

For I want you to know what a great conflict [Gk. ἀγών: “race, contest, agony”] I have for you…
Colossians 2:1 (NKJV)

For to you it has been granted on behalf of Christ, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake, having the same conflict [Gk. ἀγών] which you saw in me and now hear is in me.
Philippians 1:29-31 (NKJV)

Will & Desire, Nature & Grace

Delight thyself also in the Lord; and He shall give thee the desires of thine heart.
Psalm 37:4

The heart which delights in the Lord will eat the fruit of Godly desires; but the heart which delights in itself will eat the fruit of sinful desires.

The sinful will desires not against its own nature, nor do the sinful desires will against their own nature.
Likewise, the sanctified will desires not against its own nature, nor do the sanctified desires will against their own nature.

But the will of each desires against the nature of the other, and the desire of each wills against the nature of the other; for two contrary natures cannot be at peace in one man.

Therefore God in Christ became man so that body soul and spirit might escape the sinful nature through the likeness of His death and resurrection by faith; and the God-man first became sin so that we might become the righteousness of God – not in ourselves – but in Him.

As the scriptures say,

For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would.
Galatians 5:17

If you have found a hunger and thirst for righteousness, it is His mercy alone to which you owe thanks, and His grace alone by which you must walk; only then will you find HIS righteousness bestowed upon you as a garment, and HIS holiness poured upon you as pure water.

There is no righteousness you can apprehend, no mercy you can earn, and no state of grace you can achieve. But that which Christ has apprehended, earned, and achieved, He now gives; and He gives it beginning in the seed of faith, which He alone also plants, waters and gives growth to: so that the man of faith might, by the application of grace, apprehend – and not apprehend that which God has already apprehended for him, but rather apprehend that which God has apprehended him for.

For that which the Spirit of God concieves is “born, not of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” And if such a thing born should become full-grown, it must not forsake, but rather mature in, the very same elements of the very same Christ. For His gospel is unto His own, and they hang upon it, and He is their vindicator unto life.

“For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works.” We are not our own workmanship, nor can we ever be forged in the foundry of our own will unto these good works. For only His will is that which follows after His desire, and so proceeds from His divine nature. And this perfect cascade of nature down unto holy deeds cannot be ascended from deeds unto nature by any man, any more than a worm can ascend the watery steps, the grace and vigor for which is given only to the river trout.

It is our tendency, according to the flesh, to venerate the “free will” of man, which truly is free only within the realm of its given desires; so that we prove ourselves unfruitful in the actual works of God, building rather a faith unto ourselves (though we confess no such thing aloud), unto great and terrible disappointment.

For the will is free only to follow after the desires of the heart; and the desire is free only to follow after the dictates of nature.

Will is determined by desire, desire is determined by nature, and nature is determined by God.

Thou wilt say then unto me, “Why doth He yet find fault? For who hath resisted His will?” Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to Him that formed it, “Why hast Thou made me thus?”
Romans 9:19-20

God’s decree is not limited by the bounds of our desire; the bounds of our desire are rather set by God’s greater decree.

The soul which cries at the supposed “unfairness” of this arrangement has not considered the fierce wrath which he has deserved since before he was brought forth from the womb, and how merciful it is that divine justice has not yet been poured out upon him. For it is the kindness of God which leads us to repentance.

I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.
And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.
For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith.
Romans 12:1-3

What, according to this scripture, does our ability to sacrificially offer ourselves derive from?
“The mercies of God”!

And how are we freed from being conformed to this world?
Not by renewing our own minds (which men are tended towards), but rather “by the renewing OF” our minds (a work of the Word and Spirit of God); which then leads to the working out in us of the singular decreed will of God, which singular will is “good, acceptable, and perfect.”

And the command here is one toward humility before God, which can be genuinely and soberly practiced only in light of God’s graceful gifting of faith toward each one who has ever found it.

But by the grace of God I am what I am: and His grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I laboured more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.
1 Corinthians 15:10

Battle Hymn Of The Republic

May such a fire return to the army of the Lord:

Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord;
He is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored;
He hath loosed the fateful lightning of His terrible swift sword;
His truth is marching on.

Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
His truth is marching on.

I have seen Him in the watch-fires of a hundred circling camps;
They have builded Him an altar in the evening dews and damps;
I can read His righteous sentence by the dim and flaring lamps,
His day is marching on.

I have read His fiery gospel writ in rows of burnished steel!
“As ye deal with my contemners, so with you My grace shall deal!
Let the Hero, born of woman, crush the serpent with his heel,”
Since God is marching on.

He has sounded forth the trumpet that shall never call retreat;
He is sifting out the hearts of men before His judgment seat;
Oh, be swift, my soul, to answer Him; be jubilant, my feet!
Our God is marching on.

In the beauty of the lilies Christ was born across the sea,
With a glory in His bosom that transfigures you and me;
As He died to make men holy, let us live to make men free!
While God is marching on.

For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.
Ephesians 6:12 (ESV)