The dispensations are God’s contrastive way of proving that His plan for man is right, by allowing mankind the opportunity to choose to be Godly on their own. In the first three dispensations God allowed men fairly free reign during periods of complete innocence, vast knowledge, and full cooperation. Each time mankind chose themselves over God by thinking comparatively. Furthermore, each dispensation resulted in men becoming more evil!
In the 4th and 5th Dispensations, God provided progressive guidance though earthly representatives and by giving them His Law, culminating in the advent of a divine Redeemer. Again men choose themselves over God by rejecting (or ignoring) the guidance.
That inner voice
Since in the previous two dispensations God gave men guidance through external sources, the next just and logical step would be to make that guidance intimate and internal.
The 6th Dispensation asks the question: What if God’s presence was housed inside us, and gave us day by day guidance on how to be like Him? Would we choose God over ourselves?
Its an intriguing proposition, and its one of the many ways that this dispensation is so special and unique. But how would this work? How does God’s presence get “inside” us (and how much space does He need?)
It all starts with Salvation.
When a person’s “gets saved”, it’s not a one-way proposition. When the decision to accept the gift of redemption is made, God doesn’t just give a wink and a thumbs-up. God begins the work of actively changing your entire life!
Holy heart transplant
Salvation makes us a new creation. We are given a new heart by God, and His Law is written on our hearts. Why our hearts and not our brain/mind? Because the heart is the source of your integrity!
Like the brain, the physical heart has neural connections that make it function like a “mini-brain”. Your heart has its own independent nervous system consisting of over 30,000 neurons.. Like the unconscious brain, the heart is part of the body that can respond and make decisions based on intuition and feelings.
But its effects on us are more primal and less influenced by the things that can affect our conscious minds. The heart is much more binary. You can fake all kinds of things with your conscious brain, but you can’t fool the heart. Whatever is true about you flows from your heart. That’s why in salvation, God is much more concerned with what you believe in your heart than in your mind.
The problem is that before salvation, man’s heart is evil! It reflects the fact that man is not always and completely right and just. That heart rejects the Godly thought process (contrastive thinking and growth) and embraces destructive thoughts (comparative thinking and comfort). Fortunately man has free will and can choose to act outside of his nature.
Accepting redemption is an act of free will. But even with that acceptance God knows that is would be a losing battle to try to influence through our old heart, and He certainly can’t dwell there – so He gives us a new one!
Of course I’m not speaking of replacing the physical organ – becoming a Christian does not require major surgery (it probably wouldn’t be covered under Obama-care anyway). I’m speaking of the spiritual housing of the heart – the part that affects and is affected by our thought process. This new heart can hear from God and can be influenced by God
This is the definition of grace
Grace is the Divine influence on the heart and its reflection in life.
The 6th Dispensation is unique in that it is a direct conduit to the meaning of life. How is it connected to the meaning of life? Remember, in order to be with God, we have to be like God. The only “man” who has ever managed to be like God is Jesus during his earthly incarnation. How? He lived by grace! He ONLY did what God told him to do. This is how he was fully man and fully God. The sixth dispensation gives us all that same opportunity!
The Problem is we get all kinds of inner notions and urges influencing us constantly. Sure we get a new heart through salvation, but the rest of us (specifically our minds) are still under Adam’s curse. We are still not always and completely right and just in our nature. So how do you know if it’s God’s influence that we are hearing?
Sifting through the noise
Unsaved man is influenced by three sources, the “World”, the “Flesh”, and the “Devil. Two are external (world and devil) the other is internal (flesh). All three sources have two things in common – they all oppose God, and they are all “loud” (they all influence us aggressively).
The “voice” of the World focuses you on the pursuit of external things to replace God in your life. The World steers you toward comfort, self-justification, religion, and conformity. The World is the system that wants to deny uniqueness and get you to embrace a Godless Eden.
The Flesh is the enemy within. Its our human nature, which is the polar opposite of Godly thinking. The Flesh wants us to be comparative, which is the source of pride, fear, and evil.
The Devil is the demonic influence (“devil” is from the Greek “diabolos” which means “one who hurls thing at you” In the Biblical context, it is translated as “Accuser”). The Devil’s goal is destruction in long term. The devil works in the opposite manner to God. The Devil is constantly hurling seductive/destructive thoughts at your Flesh (as opposed to the heart), which you must make the moment-by-moment choice to accept or reject. Whenever a thought enters your mind and your flesh turns it into something evil and destructive, and you think “where did that come from?” It was probably the Devil.
The whisper in the windstorm
But, when you get saved a fourth influence is added – the Holy Spirit, who Jesus promised would live in the hearts of believers!
The influence of the Spirit is focused on growth and faith, which leads you to be more like God through contrastive thinking. The voice of the Spirit is the most difficult to hear.
The Spirit speaks in a quiet, still, small voice. If the world pulls at you, the flesh yells at you, and the devil jabs you; the Spirit gives you a gentle nudge.
But why does God, the most powerful force of them all, choose to be so subtle?
Because he wants us to choose him! He wants us to love him – and that takes effort! Unlike the other influences that bombard us constantly and consistently, we have to be intentional to hear from God. We have to actively seek Him and intentionally block out the other voices. We have to pursue God. He wants us to love him enough to sacrifice our comforts, our lusts, and our natural desire to prosper without him.
1. Its a reasonable response to the sacrifice of redemption.
Salvation is offered freely, but it wasn’t free. Jesus paid the price, and to live the redemptive life justly requires effort on our part.
2. The meaning of life requires it!
Remember, the meaning of life is marriage. Jesus didn’t just come to save mankind, he came to redeem a bride! And he naturally wants a bride who wants Him and loves Him enough to be conformed to His image. His bride must be like Him – always and completely right and just.
And that’s the whole purpose of the 6th Dispensation, to find a bride for Christ!
This Bride consists of a group of people who are willing to accept His redemption, and intentionally and consistently allow themselves to be conformed to His image by heeding the voice of grace and be transformed into unique individuals who flourish in their individual greatness, adding the value of that greatness to the overall body of believers, thus creating a Bride worthy of God’s Son.
(Grace is personal, the guidance given to each person while always and completely right and just, also guides them to be the royal image bearer that was lost when Adam fell.)
This group of believers who are to be the Bride is called “the Church”.
How will this dispensation end?
If the 6th Dispensation were to be a success, the Church would be completely sanctified and conformed to Christ by obeying the voice of the Spirit completely.
However, logically, we know that this dispensation will fail like all the rest. But since we’re still in it, we don’t have the benefit of history to tell us exactly how and when it will end as we had with the other dispensations.
However we have enough knowledge of the dispensational pattern to take a theoretical stab at it. If success is tied to the Church hearing and obeying God’s voice, then failure would be the opposite -to ignore His voice.
But it has to be more than that. Dispensational failure means choosing ourselves over God. So then, in line with that pattern, this dispensation will fail when the Church chooses to be guided by ITS OWN voice instead of God’s!
I’ll address HOW this can happen in an upcoming post. As to WHEN this failure happens. . . I would contend that it ALREADY HAS!
Obviously that is a VERY provocative position that I’ll need to back up, and I will do that in an upcoming post as well.
But before we go there, we need to take a deeper look at this unique and mysterious entity called the Church. What is it? What are its origins? What is its purpose? Why does Jesus consider it his Bride? And what has it been doing the last 2000 years? We begin examining these questions next time.
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