Doubt is a still small voice, best heard in desperate hours when we are alone. You and I know these hours: the ones when you come to your place of prayer in troubled times and are helpless to speak. The need or pain that drives you to pray becomes more than you can speak, but you reach toward God, doing your best to ﬁnd the words for your sorrow. You stay, struggling until your emotions are spent. There is no miracle and God does not answer; but your pain is less and you have a good cry. You tell yourself it is time to wait on God and you watch to see what God will do, as you turn back to your life among men.
Days become weeks and a solution forms. You do not see the place of your prayer in the outcome. The things you asked for do not ﬁt the result, so you trust that God knows best and ignore the voice of doubt that is trying to save you.
About the Author
My life is question-driven and since age nine — when I was the victim of child baptism — life’s most important questions have been religious. These are the hardest to answer because so many opinions drive religious thought, making truth elusive. I spent years trying to live according to religious opinions without gaining ground in a relationship with my maker. I spent years wandering through the uncertainties of doctrine trying to answer the salvation question. The ﬁrst question of any real importance was, “Is my God the right one?” After all, we ﬁ ll in the gaps between the things we believe with our own thoughts, making God into who we think him to be. Proof is necessary for a meaningful answer. Because faith is a matter of substance and evidence, the proof of belief must include some tangibility. Belief that borders on opinion is not credible when it comes to salvation.
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Read an Excerpt
There Begins a Way
There is a path which no fowl knoweth, and which the vulture's eye hath not seen: The lion's whelps have not trodden it, nor the fierce lion passed by it. He putteth forth his hand upon the rock; he overturneth the mountains by the roots. He cutteth out rivers among the rocks; and his eye seeth every precious thing. He bindeth the floods from overflowing; and the thing that is hid bringeth he forth to light. But where shall wisdom be found? and where is the place of understanding? Man knoweth not the price thereof; neither is it found in the land of the living. Job 28:7–13
Whence then cometh wisdom? and where is the place of understanding? Seeing it is hid from the eyes of all living, and kept close from the fowls of the air. Destruction and death say, We have heard the fame thereof with our ears. God understandeth the way thereof, and he knoweth the place thereof. For he looketh to the ends of the earth, and seeth under the whole heaven; To make the weight for the winds; and he weigheth the waters by measure. When he made a decree for the rain, and a way for the lightning of the thunder: Then did he see it, and declare it; he prepared it, yea, and searched it out. And unto man he said, Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom; and to depart from evil is understanding. Job 28:20–28
For he is not a man, as I am, that I should answer him, and we should come together in judgment. Neither is there any daysman betwixt us, that might lay his hand upon us both. Job 9:32–33
Oh that one would hear me! behold, my desire is, that the Almighty would answer me, and that mine adversary had written a book. Surely I would take it upon my shoulder, and bind it as a crown to me. Job 31:35–36
The act of reading the words of Job aloud really makes us feel the power of the imagery born of those words. Once we have personally connected the man speaking with the images in our minds, we know that Job is not just a book to read, but also a book to experience. The book of Job is among the oldest books of the biblical canon and seems to occupy a place between the flood and the birth of Abram. The influence of this man on Scripture is profound. He reaches into the heart of the communication problem between men and God, and from there prays for a solution. As people we each arrive at a place in life that seems something like Job's; and like Job, we tend to cry out seeking vindication.
I have envied Job for a long time; he has three friends of a quality I have not encountered. Imagine what it may be like to know three people — people who will come to you in your deepest need and sit with you, saying nothing for a week. Each of Job's friends had a solution and did his level best to tell Job what he must do, but none of them knew the reason for the suffering of Job. A major part of this book is about the journey that closes the communication gap between man and God. It is not until Job's plight attracts the fourth man, Elihu, that Job begins to be more than a man before God. With the wisdom of Elihu's words, Job becomes a man in a relationship with God.
So commences the revelation of a secret path beginning in wisdom, in time revealed as the Way of Life. Isaiah's image of a "Way of Holiness" and his "highway of the upright" are unmistakably connected with the images of Job's untrodden path. The path is not physical, it is spiritual; and this is the path for believers to travel. The trials of Job reveal the beginning of this path. Prophecy surrounds Job at the path's origins, hinting at a Way of Life yet unknown to men. Isaiah foretells the end of this path, but Job finds its origin in the ashes of his life.
In a time before Abram, Job shows us that men did seriously ponder the ways of God and the place of men before God. When fallen men considered their post-Eden position, seeking for a way to God, remember that Job was the man who asked God for a daysman — a Mediator who could, according to the will of God, lay one hand on humanity and the other on God. Far more than a note carrier who could run messages, this would be a mediator we could face without fear (Job 9:33). In time, Jesus would arrive to be that final mediator, but in Job's day, the path to life was only a vision, hidden in unseen places.
Job is the man who desired that the Almighty would hear the cry of men, and answer. Job is also the man who desired that his adversary should write a book (Job 31:35), instructing men to life. Job did not realize he was among the first whose testimony would illustrate a path, which God would use to bring hidden things into light. Bound in the Bible we have the testimonies of many men who came after, answering the questions of Job and allowing us a means to follow Job's steps as we seek the place of wisdom and the Way of Life. There should be no surprise on our part, when Job speaks of a path, a vision of salvation, not then revealed. Nor, should we be surprised when Job tells us the first steps in the path are wisdom to fear the Lord and understanding to depart from evil.
Unlike something instructional or legal, Job is a book of imagery. Many of the Scriptures are imagery, not just the visions of the prophets, but also parables and other similitudes, which can teach if we see ourselves in these images. These pictures are of a time or place, a point in history; an image of war or of a proud city; or images of a man who is greedy or humbly in the hand of God. Letting the words of Scripture form images in our minds personalizes these people, with their reactions helping us understand the truth we need to hear.
The image of Job sitting silently in his ashes, weighing his grief, is so vivid we must wonder after his thoughts. We consider even the things he does not say as he sits for a week with his friends. If we stop to see the image, soon enough our thoughts will reach his, our grief will project onto his ashes making us ask after his misery, and instantly there is a connection to the man and our shared common condition. The path which the vultures' eye has not seen is such a vehicle; it carries our meditations on high and from one prophet to another, to become the Way of Life, the way to our salvation. The fierce lion has not passed this way, but the Lion of Judah has surely taken every step. Fear God; depart from evil; this is a good way to begin the journey to Zion.
Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped. Then shall the lame man leap as an hart, and the tongue of the dumb sing: for in the wilderness shall waters break out, and streams in the desert. And the parched ground shall become a pool, and the thirsty land springs of water: in the habitation of dragons, where each lay, shall be grass with reeds and rushes. And an highway shall be there, and a way, and it shall be called The way of holiness; the unclean shall not pass over it; but it shall be for those: the wayfaring men, though fools, shall not err therein. No lion shall be there, nor any ravenous beast shall go up thereon, it shall not be found there; but the redeemed shall walk there: And the ransomed of the LORD shall return, and come to Zion with songs and everlasting joy upon their heads: they shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away. Isaiah 35:5–10
The idea that God would begin a revelation in one prophet and continue the same revelation in another prophet should not be strange to us. As Paul speaks of the revelation of Jesus Christ, he is looking to a thread of ideas that run throughout the Scriptures. When Jesus makes the statement, "I am the way," we should understand that he is speaking of a progression — not a doorway into a room, but the beginning of a path into salvation. Salvation is a way that has a beginning, middle, and an end, but it is only profitable if we endure to the end. God has chosen to reveal His salvation in a systematic fashion and one step at a time, so we need to follow those steps. Using a succession of covenant modifications established that through a series of prophets, God explains each step in the Way of Life. Some covenants are made with a single man or for the sake of small groups, while other covenants offer the hope of righteousness to many, with each succeeding covenant modifying but not replacing the previous covenant, each adding another dimension to the Way of Life. Prophet after prophet takes the steps of his predecessor and adds an additional step toward richer, deeper meaning as God builds the way. In this fashion, the salvation of God comes to men from Adam to Jesus, who walked every step to become Christ, the first begotten Son of God. It is wrong to say that Jesus alone has walked the Way of Life, just as it is wrong to say that Jesus can walk the Way of Life for us. Jesus did not come to walk the way for us, he came to make it possible that we may walk the Way of Life and do it with him in belief. Each person must begin the path at the beginning and follow in the footsteps of saints and prophets who have traveled the path before us. We must each follow from the same starting place, departing from evil to walk in the way.CHAPTER 2
Searching for Beginning
By now, anyone reading this should be awakening to the idea that I hold a different view of the salvation God has set before us. Different, that is, from the views of organized religion, but not different from the salvation described in Scripture. I was church-raised, and it really makes no difference which denomination was my tradition of origin. Because, no matter in which religion we begin, there are questions our respective churches do not or cannot answer. In my case, the questions church could not answer drove me to search beyond a single denomination. For a while, I compared the different gods of the different churches. Eventually, I decided not to compare doctrines or the gods they described. Slowly, I came to the realization that religion had nothing to do with Christianity.
While I had read the Bible often, I actually knew less than I thought I did. The Bible I had learned was the one presented by a single denomination, and that Bible taught only in the light of local church doctrine. This selective teaching omitted critical ideas that challenged the doctrine. Consider, for example, the idea of free will, as set against the implications of predestination in the book of Ephesians. Churches in general do not mention the ideas that might contradict a well-thought-out doctrine of free will, while others avoid ideas that imply choice. The church is careful to defend its doctrines.
Because I recognized the selective editing necessary to support any particular truth, I became a cover-to-cover reader, ignoring or challenging all of the opinions I could. I began in Genesis and read to Revelation, all the while listening for a continuous story. In search of a truth that needed no editing, I took the stand that either the entire Bible is important or the whole book does not matter. As soon as I had finished the book of Revelation I started again in Genesis, and eventually I began to see one story told in many lives. I became aware that the books as canonized are not in order and I then began to read them in a historical sequence. This meant that I read from Genesis to John, which made the biggest difference in the order of the Old Testament. With a near continuous timeline, a single story became clearer; the idea of one prophet having read the words of his predecessors and then adding his revelation became apparent. This simple rearranging of the books cleared up a lot of misunderstanding and enriched the story of salvation by broadening the context from a single lifetime of revelation, to generations of careful deliberate revelation. As I read the Bible repeatedly, many details that I had not seen became obvious. For me, the Bible has merged into one book seamlessly written by many men, every reading yielding a deeper understanding and a greater clarity of God's salvation.
The first thing tossed was hearsay religion. I had heard the preacher say something that sounded good and I said it too. Never did I check to see if it was in the Bible and in context; mostly it was not. There were words I had to redefine: belief and faith, for instance, have separate definitions and are not interchangeable. The idea of gospel had to be rethought: what it is and what it had to do with me. Most importantly, I realized I did not at all understand the salvation of God, even though the church and its preachers had assured me my salvation was secure.
This reformation of belief sounds as if it may have happened in a few hours of reflection, but it did not. The change occurred slowly over forty years of prayers and twenty years of trying to understand. Yelling into thunderstorms and crashing into trees, impatient with a god that would not answer, I learned first that the truth of Scripture was missing; it is lost in too many opinions. As God intended, while I was banging my head, He was molding a pot for the truth I should hold. It took a while.
To tell of the truth that has found me, I must find a place for beginning, explain some concepts, define some words, and build from there, setting in order the context of those things which have become my gospel. Adam seems to be that beginning place, since salvation is necessary because of sin.
And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die. Genesis 2:16–17
Adam, the firstborn man, created subject to the vanities of sin, is also the beginning of God's covenant relationship with men. Eve, made of Adam and subject to the same vanity, was the first to disobey God. We should not confuse sin and the sinner. In Adam, we are all made sin, as if there is something wrong in our bones. Eve was the first to transgress God's commandment. God waited until Adam and Eve had both eaten of the forbidden fruit then God judged both disobedient and cast them from Eden, because of their transgression, not their sin. God had said, "in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die"; and while death of the flesh was postponed, their spiritual relationship with God did die and they became a cursed people waiting for death. With their fall, a spiritual death passed to all men, whether their offspring transgressed or not.
For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him. 2 Corinthians 5:21
Christ became sin for us; that is to say, Christ became flesh with us and like Adam subject to vanity, but never became a transgressor. The distinction between being sin and being the sinner is not trifling. The first man Adam was sin and became a sinner when he disobeyed God. Jesus then was born into sin, as was Adam. Jesus, however, obeyed God, never becoming the sinner. Becoming sin by birth and living without becoming a sinner, Jesus made Christ by spiritual baptism could become the righteousness offered for the offence of sin for all men.
And he said, Who told thee that thou wast naked? Hast thou eaten of the tree, whereof I commanded thee that thou shouldest not eat? And the man said, The woman whom thou gavest to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat. And the LORD God said unto the woman, What is this that thou hast done? And the woman said, The serpent beguiled me, and I did eat. And the LORD God said unto the serpent, Because thou hast done this, thou art cursed above all cattle, and above every beast of the field; upon thy belly shalt thou go, and dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life: 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. Unto the woman he said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee. And unto Adam he said, Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it: cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life; Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field; In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return. And Adam called his wife's name Eve; because she was the mother of all living. Unto Adam also and to his wife did the LORD God make coats of skins, and clothed them. And the LORD God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil: and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever: Therefore the LORD God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from whence he was taken. So he drove out the man; and he placed at the east of the garden of Eden Cherubims, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life. Genesis 3:11–24(Continues…)
Excerpted from "An Honest Salvation"
Copyright © 2018 GL James.
Excerpted by permission of Dog Ear Publishing.
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Table of Contents
There Begins a Way,
Searching for Beginning,
Do Acceptably and Be Accepted,
Who Can Be Saved?,
Born Again to See,
By Water and Spirit Enter,
The Last Supper,
The Way of Life,