AUSTRALIAN BIBLE CHURCH ... Sermon Starting November 30, 2007
A CONTINUATION OF THE THRUST
AND BASE OF THE
OF AUSTRALIA ON BIBLICAL LINES …
6 INTIMATE ANSWERS TO ULTIMATE QUESTIONS
from the Word of God
1 Who are These
Arrayed in White Robes and Where did they Come From ?
2 What profit
is it to a man if he gains the whole world and loses his own soul ?
3 My people
love to have it so, but what will you do in the end of it ?
why are you weeping ? Whom are you seeking ?
5 Who is this
who pledged His heart to approach Me ?
6 Is Ephraim My
dear son ?
1 THE ESCAPE CLAUSE
WHO ARE THESE ?
The scene here is in heaven. On earth, the last wrongs have led to last rites, and many are in heaven, arrayed in the white of those who souls were not made a road for other feet, but a highway for God. The mark of the beast and the testimony of their lips were divided by an abyss. They were utterly apart. John is asked who they are, and refers the question back. They are those who have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb, he is told. To do this, clearly a number of preliminaries had to come. First they had to realise they were not clean, then they had to realise that the blood of Christ makes clean and wash, while finally, being led by faith in Him, they were assured they would be clean, for only God can know the heart of man.
They came from the great tribulation which Christ predicted in Matthew 24 for the End of the Age, and now in heaven they form a corps of Christians, inveterate in faith, those found fearless in enterprise - who in the end had acted without respect to earthly cost! Before God's throne, they serve Him, shepherded by the Lamb, leading them to fountains of fresh, living water. They form part of the bride as the Marriage Feast of the Lamb (Revelation 19). This raises the question to every reader/listener: Have you washed for dinner!
THE LOSS CLAUSE
WHAT PROFIT ?
That raises a connected question. What does a person want to pay for the loss of soul, or what would solace what is lost, since it is not intact to savour the gain, such as it may be! If you lose yourself, what is the point of what ELSE you get! God or this world ? Is it God or one's own will ? the word of God or the desires of one's heart ? trust in God or in oneself ? the sacred self or the redeemed sinner ? Which is it to be ? No answer to Christ is the answer to all else, for if you read Proverbs 1, you find a deliciously rich offer which, when rejected, not taken up, led to a resolutely vigorous disdain from the Lord.
To ignore what is deemed a necessity is to reject it. There is nothing in between: so let God be God and accept ALL He declares, or simply note that you are a rebel, and nothing in the kingdom of heaven relates. Then you can compute your loss in that melt-down which makes the present financial one look like a mere gambit.
THE SEARCHING QUESTION
WHAT WILL YOU DO IN THE END ?
Jeremiah exposes the corruption. We are used to it. For example in Afghanistan, it appears that poor farmers in a poor area grow poppies for profit and find it hard to make a living otherwise. But what makes it far worse is this, that terrorists threaten murder if they do NOT, and bomb and use violence. The forces that fight the terrorists are hard put to do the fighting, and according to an article in The Australian (Thursday, November 27, 2008), many officials, government people, police are themselves corrupt or addicts or both! What will you do in the end ?
The Islamic religion has been founded with violence from the outset, with Muhammad taking Mecca by force and dealing with it by martial power. It is always the danger where force is endemic, that it will be used, as he used it often enough, to raid and pillage. This religion is strong in that land, and the insistences of purity are not sufficiently strong. The impasse is profound: a force, talking much of its Islamic faith, is subverting, killing, insisting on the making of drugs or providing the means for it, profiting immensely financially from it, and terrorising by violence. What is this supposed to prove! If another nation tries to sort it out, where does this end ? There is only one transformation available, Jesus Christ, and if this is bypassed for cultural expediency, then there is no answer. Force meets force, and horror merges with sadness. It has done so likewise this week at Mumbai, indirect attack on Israel adding to the vehement violence, evil spreading like the deadly seeds of the fields of the Taliban-pushed poppies.
Whatever led them to experience such horror ? It as sin. Zephaniah 1 refers to those guilty of that ugly spiritual decadence as being 'settled on their lees', spiritual tramps rather than pilgrims, disenchanted formalists, abandoned activists, void of faith, dead of heart. Heavy exposure of the radioactivity o desolation awaits them; no more protection for provocation, nor pretence of life to those in the spiritual mortuary. Now much of the world follows them in confrontation with God.
As to Jeremiah's day, there had been a shocking subterfuge. Instead of waiting on God (indeed they became rather blasé about it as you see in Zephaniah), it came to the point that many in the nominally godly nation, were saying: Neither good nor evil will the Lord do.
"The great day of the LORD is near," the prophet continues, "it is near and hastens quickly." So in that day judgment that would ruin the work of centuries and require an ardent rebuilding centuries later, was lodged. It is similar in Malachi when a worse result was in view, with the advent of the day of the Lord, the Messiah Himself (Malachi 3:1ff., 4:1ff.). You weary God, said the prophet. In what way ? asked those concerned.
"In that you say, 'Everyone who does evil is good in the sight of the LORD,
and He delights in them," or
"where is the God of justice ?"
There is the dissident drift, the unctuous sardonism, the morally ruined worldliness that looks over itself, that knows nothing of the Lord, and finds a weariness in the issue, the incipient cynic, the knowledgeable this-worldly sophisticate, whose heart is stone.
That comes just before the advent of Him of whom it is said,
"Who can endure the day of His coming ?" (3:2), but later it is final,
"For behold the day is coming, burning like an oven, and all the proud, yes, all who do wickedly will be stubble..."
There are beginnings for which there only one end, judgment.
Thus we read this in Jeremiah 5:32:
"The prophets prophesy falsely
and the priests bear rule by their own power;
and My people love to have it so.
"But what will you do in the end ?"
Some prophesied peace when evil was about to strike, but all prophesied ONE THING: and that was what the Lord did NOT speak! (Jeremiah 23:21). Indeed, He declared:
"I have not sent these prophets, yet they ran."
In other words, Islam is not the only religion which has suffered from false prophets, those not showing evidence of being sent by God Himself, in train of His words and works. Judah also suffered, though it was not so founded. Here in Judah were false prophets, just like so many false ministers today, changing the Gospel as in the Melbourne case noted, changing the Lord (cf. II Corinthians 11), and altering the word of God as in the moral issues which have racked many dying churches.
As they spoke amiss, and profited, so religious functionaries can now live by such follies (as in II Peter 2). The people find this neat ... but what will you do in the end, when all fraud is exposed, and that which uses the name of the Lord for its cavils, the most inveterately evil receives its come-uppance (Luke 11:52-54). Such changers treat Christ as prey, rather than pray to Him! What happened to fallen Jerusalem is what will happen to the frauds which act as churches.
In the end, judgment comes, and when it does, it is well to have repented of ALL evil, all injustice, injury to truth, and to have washed your robes in the blood of the Lamb and MADE THEM CLEAN. Indeed, it is as the Lord invited through Malachi: "Return to Me and I will return to you" (3:7). Mercy is like a flood, but the desert scorns it (Zephaniah 2:3, 3:1). He invites, but they would not, and the desert grows.
And when they will not, what will they do in the end! It is only when they DO return, to seek the Lord in meekness, that the end of evil is transmuted to the beginning of blessing, in the regeneration that starts in the heart and moves on to that of all things (Acts 3:19ff.). It is not for this world that this is the finale, for the world itself has its own finale, with all who love it in incomparable shame (Daniel 12:1ff., Matthew 24:35). It in Christ only that the glory of the Lord is to be found, and the anyone in Him, remains with Him. Outside is the burden of shame.
WHY WEEP ?
WHOM SEEK ?
Why are you weeping ? This is the question of solace ? The speaker notices the case, gives attention, enquires: it is personal, delicate, clear. Then it was to Mary Magdalene whom even in death, overcome in resurrection, Christ by no means forsook. But now, what sadness does anyone have ? what burdens, what cries come from the heart ? WHY ? Ultimately, it is a PERSON whom members of this race lack in their profound and sustained sorrows.
Whom are you seeking ? It was the Lord whom she had been seeking at the tomb.
He who is sought: it is God Himself. If you weep when you have God, you are, should it continue to mould you, like a sunbeam that forgot itself and became a mud pool! But when God is with you, there is ground for rejoicing. See then if you are His, that you do, habitually rejoice (I Thess. 5). If you are on your way to a vast estate which you inherit, and you have trials on the way, do you yet lament and spend your time desolate! Even the more is this clearly a contradiction when on the way you have such company as Christ, by His Spirit, with your spirit! WALK then in the Spirit (Galatians 5:16). If you pass through a valley of weeping, blessed then are you if you make it a spring.
Thus instead of allowing yourself the indulgence of becoming lachrymose, though you may weep for a time, you let the surroundings of wateriness rather lead you to a spring (Psalm 84) and find the rain that falls bring beautiful inlays of pools into the green pastures. Ready to drink, you are supplied. Thus equipped, turning sorrow to solace by seeking the Lord (as Paul did - II Corinthians 1) you have this said of you: "They go from strength to strength; each one appears before God in Zion." YOU don't have to do the earth works, but when you so seek Him with a longing, trusting heart, tears turn to springs, the moistures to pools, and the way to direct, personal interview with Christ (John 14:21-23).
THE PARADIGM OF DEVOTION
who is this ?
Here in Jeremiah 30:21 we have part of that amazingly brilliant and beautifully comforting pair of chapters, 30-31. First came the announcement of the Messiah to come as King (30:9) , then of the beautiful governor from their own midst who will rule (30:21), then the sadness of the weeping for young children in these arenas of time (31:15), a national sadness, next arrived the sensational account of the woman to encircle, encompass a man, a new thing in the world (31:22). Finally, dashing onto the silent screen we find the outcome, the New Covenant then to come, but which has now arrived with the Messiah Himself, Jesus Christ (31:31).
That was the collection of tableaux, developing like a flower opening, or an oak with seasonal pictures of its beauties.
Thus it builds from the Messiah to His coming from among their very own midst, to rule (having been born in Bethlehem as in Micah 5), on to the calamities from surging murders, which concentrate like a mad rebellion of crusty, worldly power at His coming (cf. Revelation 12:4), to the virgin birth (entirely new and therefore not parthenogenesis). Here it is the Fatherhood of God, which brings the virgin to this incarnation, as in Isaiah 7-9, so that He is "the mighty God" (cf. Isaiah 7:14, 8:8, 10:21), though on earth as a servant (Isaiah 42, 52). So does the glory of it flourish into the New Covenant, which results as in Isaiah 53, from the shedding of His blood as He expiated the sin to be unloaded upon Him, the Lamb of God, in death, or as Zechariah 3:9-10 puts it, the engraving on Him as the stone, which clears the iniquity in one day.
At the Governor from themselves phase, the question is asked: "WHO IS THIS WHO PLEDGED HIS HEART TO APPROACH ME!" (30:21). In other words, here is an Old Testament parallel to Christ's question to His disciples, "Who do you say that I am ?" (Matthew 16).
Peter answers the question only because the Father gave it to him so to recognise Christ as the Son of the living God, a fact which Christ notes (Matthew 16:17). Thus the Rock was identified, as in I Corinthians 10:4. "THAT ROCK was Christ!" Again, it is as in II Samuel 22:32. God, David declares, is his strength and power; and thus he asks, "WHO is God, except the LORD ? and who is a rock, EXCEPT OUR GOD!" Indeed in Isaiah 44:8, we are told that "there is no other Rock. I know not one!" The speaker ? God in whom are all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.
To contest this identification, you have to conceive yourself wiser than God. Peter, the name meaning stone, failed at once in seeking to have Christ avoid the Cross, after this! (Matthew 16:22-23), but being corrected could be used with the rest as fitting. The word used by Christ to designate the Rock on which the Church was built was a different one than that of Peter's name, one meaning rock, a living mass. The Rock, it is a different thing to stone, the stone that moved.
This on the ROCK ? IT WAS THE ANSWER TO THE QUESTION: WHO IS JESUS ? HE is the ROCK as seen by FAITH as happened with Peter. It is on that, Christ founded His Church: that is, on Himself, Lord, realised as the Son of God and resurrected, unable to be defeated because God incarnate, the only Saviour, the Lord of the Old Testament expressed in human form: it is on this that the Church is built.
Who is this who pledged His heart to approach the Lord ? It is this King, the Messiah, the Governor, the One to bring in the New Covenant as in the next Chapter, it is the Lord, strong and mighty, as in Psalm 24:8ff..
Who is this King of glory?
"The LORD strong and mighty, the LORD mighty in
Lift up your heads, O ye gates; even lift them up, ye everlasting doors;
and the King of glory shall come in.
is this King of glory?
The LORD of hosts, he is the King of glory."
On this identification BY FAITH (so that you act on it), all depends. It is foundational to the entire Church. If you do not give to Christ this place, you are no part of His Church. If someone else takes it, he is no part of the Church. The Church of Jesus Christ is therefore founded on Him, and on no other (I Corinthians 3:11), be it individual or regime. He did not come to be bypassed, but to be found. He CANNOT be surpassed. He is found by faith, attested by fact, viewed through repentance, gives ineradicable eternal life (Ephesians 1:11, John 5:24) and is coming soon to reign (Luke 24:26, Acts 1:7ff., I Thessalonians 1).
THE CALL OF THE HEART
Is Not Ephraim My dear son ?
Here in this very same pair of delightful, Messianic chapters, we find the Lord, even while showing the judgments to come, showing the way for repentance, since here is the Lord available, the King coming, the Governor from their own midst. Is not this what is needed by Israel ? If the END to which they are moving is horrific, yet the BEND which their knees need to know, before this same God, their Rock, this is going to come, must come, and is the only way home for Israel.
God shows His heart-warming and delightful, kindly fatherly love for the straying people, designated by the name of a major tribe, Ephraim as if a single person. First we see the long last repentance come to heart for many in that land (31:18-19).
"I have surely heard Ephraim bemoaning himself:
‘You have chastised me, and I was chastised,
Like an untrained bull;
Restore me, and I will return,
For You are
the Lord my God.
"Surely, after my turning, I repented;
And after I was instructed, I struck myself on the thigh;
I was ashamed, yes, even humiliated,
bore the reproach of my youth."
Then the love of God is poured out in such a tender mercy, that it is an eternal beauty to hear it.
The love there shown is as toward all the world, even those who were not of Israel, but are to be born of Israel's God, to whom they will in large measure, indeed, soon return (Zechariah 12:1-13:1, Ezekiel 36ff., Romans 11:25ff.).
"Is Ephraim My dear son?
Is he a pleasant child?
For though I spoke against him,
I earnestly remember him still;
Therefore My heart yearns for him;
I will surely have mercy on him, says the Lord."
Here then is the final question.
Will you come to the Lord, surrendered in faith, to trust Him utterly ?
With repentant heart you may come and seek the Rock, to love Him and His word, and in Him, find strength and pardon and power and peace. It is to be found nowhere else; God is no one else!
He is to be worshipped in spirit and truth, not by bits and fits, but by a living faith.
This sermon on Sunday November 30, was taken only as far as point 4. Hence, on Sunday December 14, it is expanded for points 5 and 6, and to this the reader is referred.