Intercession for What Purpose?

God's appointments and grants in our behalf are without limit. The throne of grace itself is occupied by One who permits us to call Him Father. . . . He has placed at His altar an Advocate clothed in our nature. As our Intercessor, Christ's office work is to introduce us to God as His sons and daughters. He intercedes in behalf of those who receive Him. With His own blood He has paid their ransom. By virtue of His merits He gives them power to become members of the royal family, children of the heavenly King. And the Father demonstrates His infinite love for Christ by receiving and welcoming Christ's friends as His friends. He is satisfied with the atonement made. He is glorified by the incarnation, the life, death, and mediation of His son.

In Christ's name our petitions ascend to the Father. He intercedes in our behalf, and the Father lays open all the treasures of His grace for our appropriation, for us to enjoy and impart to others. . . .

Christ is the connecting link between God and man. . . . He places the whole virtue of His righteousness on the side of the suppliant. He pleads for man, and man, in need of divine help, pleads for himself in the presence of God, using the influence of the One who gave His life for the life of the world. As we acknowledge before God our appreciation of Christ's merits, fragrance is given to our intercessions. As we approach God through the virtue of the Redeemer's merits, Christ places us close by His side, encircling us with His human arm, while with His divine arm He grasps the throne of the Infinite. He puts His merits, as sweet incense, in the censer in our hands, in order to encourage our petitions. . . .

Yes, Christ has become the medium of prayer between man and God. He has also become the medium of blessing between God and man. {TMK 76}

If intercession and mediation are viewed strictly from a legal standpoint, then the conclusion that nearly everyone immediately assumes is that the Father somehow needs to be appeased, that the Father's mind must somehow be changed or conciliated before we can be loved and accepted in heaven. But this is a dangerous error, because according to what Jesus declared Himself, He and the Father were one in their thinking and attitude toward humans. This is a point that cannot be emphasized enough. To ignore it is to remain in confusion and darkness regarding the real issues at stake and the conflict that must be resolved before peace can be restored. This mainstream view places God into the role of our adversary, our accuser, our prosecutor even though this is inconsistent with the words of Jesus. This assumption is at the root of the most of the confusion swirling around religion that prevents us from seeing the beautiful truths about God that would draw millions to embrace salvation in a heartbeat if grasped.

God is not and never has been the problem in the tension from sin like religion has made Him out to be. It is not God's heart and mind that needs changing because God's love is already unconditional as is His attitude of forgiveness. Properly understood (which it is certainly not by the vast majority of people), forgiveness is something that is simply a description of what God is, for God never holds a grudge in His heart against anyone or He could not be love. That does not mean that there are no obstacles to our reconciliation or that no one will be lost. But it is vital to realize that the problem to be resolved is never and never has been on the part of God; the only problems that exist and that resist reconciliation and peace for the universe are all on the side of transgressors. If this fact is not clearly understood nothing else can be seen clearly in its proper perspective and relationship.

If we begin with the absolute truth that God is love and that sin is pulling away from trust in His love, then we can begin to unpack the true meaning and purpose of such things as intercession and mediation. Again, it is risky to define this by typical human mediation and using that as a guide to define divine mediation. That causes us to get into confusion right away, for human mediators usually work with both parties who are in conflict to bring them together using techniques such as compromise and diplomacy to get both sides to move closer to a consensus in the center. But in our case with God there is nothing God can change about Himself or His feelings toward us that would improve our relationship for He already fully loves and forgives us in His own heart. Therefore, in the case of mediation between us and God, the only thing left possible to do is to seek to change our feelings and beliefs about God and move toward trust that He is not our enemy.

There is another factor in this issue of mediation that is usually overlooked. It is the factor of how all the rest of God's unfallen children feel about the introduction of humans into the society of heaven and integrating us into the delicate, vulnerable and extremely pure atmosphere of holiness that exists there. The very idea of inserting fallen human beings into the rare, pure atmosphere of heaven is so radical and risky that heavenly angels and other intelligent beings there have very good reason to be extremely concerned. We have little appreciation for the virility of sin and the enormous danger that its presence poses to the pure, holy innocence of unfallen worlds. Yes, they have watched the experiment carried out on this planet and are fully convinced they want nothing to do with it. But that does not eliminate the potential for their infection if a human sinner were allowed to live among unfallen, innocent beings. And that is not to mention the extreme discomfort that the sinner would experience in such an atmosphere.

I think it is very helpful to try to view this issue from their perspective and to lay aside our own narrow agenda. Then we might be able to better appreciate the very real concerns that many of these beings may have about God's proposal. He has asserted that He is capable of transforming sinner's characters so thoroughly so as to make them safe to live around in these pure societies. We might think His assurances should settle the issue for them, but that's because we have almost no idea how pure, innocent and fragile the society of these beautiful beings are. I say they are fragile not because they are weak but because true innocence and beauty is often so delicate that they are vulnerable to intruders who are not sensitive to the dynamics and principles that make up such a system.

We might begin to grasp some of this better by looking to some of the delicate and fragile ecosystems in our world that are easily destroyed by careless treatment or when foreign viruses or diseases are introduced. Scientists who are familiar with these kinds of problems become quite animated when they come across rare ecosystems of incredible beauty that have not yet become contaminated by outside threats. They immediately try to set up restrictions and barriers to keep out any intrusions into that fragile system in order to prevent the introduction of anything that might destroy and mar the beauty inherent there. And this is only a faint illustration of the fragility and vulnerability of the incredible creations of God we have never glimpsed throughout the free, uncontaminated universe.

When we begin to appreciate the threat of how viral sin and selfishness are to the pure, holy and happy social ecosystems of unfallen worlds from the above perspective, it might begin to make more sense why a mediator might be needed on our behalf to intercede for us. But it is not God who is the one who needs reassuring or convincing but rather the representatives of other worlds who's responsibility it is to protect their own families, races or whatever their social systems might be called. God respects these representatives of His creation and their legitimate concerns, for He has given them the responsibility to protect the freedom and happiness of all of His intelligent children and expects them to fulfill their responsibilities. Because of their very real concerns about the dangers that we might present to the rest of the universe, God has appointed His own Son to take on the job of representing us as God's interest to address these questions and objections by those who wonder how God will accomplish such a feat.

When I read things such as the above quotation with this perspective now, I can begin to see more readily how Jesus fits into the picture without making God out as the adversary that must be appeased through Jesus' intercession for us. Furthermore, the reason that all of this takes place in the presence of God is not in order to change God's mind about us but to give the intercession of Jesus and His mediation for us the greatest possible credibility and impact. It is before the throne of God that these concerns by other leaders are expressed since it is God whom all rely upon to arbitrate all issues of concern for the good of all His children, so it is before the throne that Jesus defends trusting, repentant sinners and the plans of God for their salvation.

God does not set aside or minimize the concerns of unfallen beings about His risky proposal to integrate humans into the society of heaven. He fully respects their concerns and questions and has appointed Jesus to address them as One who has both full credibility as God and full credibility as being a human with experience living on earth. This gives Him enough clout to address the issues raised and in this way also invites the trust of all who wonder if this plan really can be accomplished successfully.

From this perspective it makes a lot of sense why we need an intercessor. Rather than Jesus interceding before the Father to get Him to accept us and be reconciled, He is in the Father's presence pleading on our behalf before all the representatives of heaven concerning our future in their society as well as defending us against Satan's accusations. This gives me a radically different set of references for interpreting many of these terms and increases my appreciation for what Jesus is doing for me. This is not just a one time event, but continues as these beings observe how we keep making mistakes after we have accepted salvation. They certainly have continuing reason to wonder if we will ever be safe enough to live around. But Jesus keeps assuring them that by the time we arrive in heaven and are permitted to mingle with these beings in their environment we will be safe enough by His grace that we will pose no danger to them.

And how are we made safe enough to live around these other beings who could so easily be devastated by the virus of sin if it was let loose in their environment? It is through the means of our inoculation against sin in our own hearts. And that inoculation does not occur by our working hard to change our behavior or getting our facts about religion all correct. No, the inoculation that must take place must happen at the heart level. Our own hearts, not just our head, must come to the place where we really trust God and believe in His goodness, His righteousness, His fairness, His unconditional love and His justice. We have to be relieved of the false assumptions we have had about Him and that are still circulated by religion. In short, we have to have our feelings and opinions about who God is and how He feels about us radically transformed before we can fully trust Him. And trust itself is the core issue in this battle between good and evil, not bad behavior or faulty doctrines.

When we talk about trusting in the merits of Jesus, just what does that mean?

Well, if one is unwilling to peer beyond a narrow and close-minded legalistic form of religion, they will assume that God employs some sort of legal fiction where Jesus takes the rap for our sins and gets us of the legal hook as far as our punishment is concerned. But this view pits God and His Son in contention with each other which is exactly what Satan wants us to think. On the other hand, if God and the Son both feel exactly the same way towards us and there is no need to alter that to improve our relationship, then this whole idea of merits also has to be revisited.

I am now starting to see that what is intended as far as the merits of Jesus is concerned is an increasing revelation of those merits to our own hearts. This is not the institution of some legal magic trick in order to spring open the gates of heaven for sinners so they can pour in and take over the holy city. Sinners who cannot trust in God's goodness and who still resist His love for them are too dangerous to allow into the society of heaven. God has not set up the plan of salvation to adjust the legal standing of sinners so they can arbitrarily be taken to heaven in spite of and still infected with their sinful desires. The plan of salvation was designed to get us to see the real truth about God that was largely obscured when our first parents believed lies about Him promoted by the enemy. We have embraced lies about God ever since that day which is why we are so at odds with Him and out of harmony with the rest of His universe. The real issue addressed in our salvation is not our legal standing so much as it is our inner ability and willingness to live in total trust in God, viewing Him not as our enemy or prosecutor but as our defender, our Savior, our only hope. God is for us, not against us.

The merits of Jesus equates to the truth about God that was revealed in the life, the teachings and the exhibition of God's character during His brutal death where Jesus displayed for all the universe to watch what God's real character looks like under the worst possible conditions. The merits of Jesus in this way are designed to transform our thinking and attitudes toward God, not to change His mind about us. As we allow the Spirit of Christ to dwell in us and begin to reproduce those character traits in our lives, the evidence of the power of God's love to change sinners into safe people who can be trusted for eternity not to infect anyone with selfishness again becomes more credible. Thus the merits of Christ are really the revelation of what God is like and how our awareness of that can inoculate us sufficiently to prepare us to live around those who have never been infected without endangering them.

As we dwell on the revelation of God through Jesus and become enchanted with the incredible beauty of His character, that very activity of focusing on Him causes our own heart to replicate those same attributes in our own lives. This is how the merits of Jesus work to defend God's plan to save us in heaven. It is not with legal fiction that God brings us into paradise; it is by genuinely transforming sinners into safe, loving, selfless reflectors of Jesus Christ that His merits accomplish their intended work. By beholding we become changed. And it is only the merits of Christ, which are simply the revelations of what God is really like, that can transform us from being afraid and suspicious of God to living in total trust and confidence in His grace and love towards us. Thus we are changed from rebels into obedient children; from sinners into joyful children of the King. This ransoms them from the danger created by the internal resistance and fear caused by sin and its deceptions about God, for if those were present in the heart and we were exposed to the close presence of God we would be consumed by the intensity of His fiery passionate love. But instead, being hidden inside the heart of our Savior we can become glowing suns energized by the passion directly from the heart of the Father.

Do we need a mediator? Do we need intercession on our behalf? Absolutely! But let us be extremely careful how we picture God whenever we speak of these activities on the part of Jesus. If we are not clear about this we may end up endorsing the insinuations of Satan that God is the problem and that Jesus is just running interference for us to appease Him. This taps into the core confusion created after the very inception of sin and is the issue that must be resolved before sin can be eliminated from the universe forever. Let us not perpetuate the lies of Satan by perpetuating them piously in our religious teachings no matter how many centuries they may have been around already. It is time to advance with the light and to perceive the truth more plainly that Jesus came to reveal to everyone about God's true character and trustworthiness.

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