AUSTRALIAN BIBLE CHURCH – November 16, 2008
A CONTINUATION OF THE ORIGINAL THRUST AND BASE
OF THE PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH OF AUSTRALIA,
ON CHANGELESS BIBLICAL LINES
COMMUNION WITH CHRIST
Continuance in Outage is no Less So
Genesis 6:5, Psalm 73:23, Nahum 3:19, Acts 6:4, Hebrews 13:15
FIRST, THE NEGATIVE THINGS Genesis 6:5 cf. Nahum 3:19
In Genesis 6:5, you see what, apart from the contemporary situation as predicted (cf. I Timothy 4, II Timothy 3-4, II Peter 2-3, Matthew 24:24), has been one of the most heinous seasons in this world's history.
Imagine if a teacher put in a report for your child, saying this:
"the wickedness of Tom is great in the school, and every intention of all his thinking produces nothing but evil all the day"
(or "is only evil continually").
You would perhaps challenge the teacher: What do YOU know of his intentions, and the pedagogue might reply that it was all too obvious to all. When however it is GOD who says so, it is time to repent. They did not do so and their 'world' was removed, so that a fresh start could be made. A Constant dripping can mar even stone, and a fiery heart can burn itself out yet more quickly. When evil DOMINATES even when a person RUMINATES, and products come to match, worlds fall, as this one did, and our one will!
That world the flood removed, enabling a fresh beginning. Yet it was not washed by the water adequately, especially in the heart. The next purgation is by fire! Even when Christ was on earth, He declared as He approached the sacrifice which enemies (conveniently) were going to make of Him, "If they do these things in the green wood, what will be done in the dry!"
As to that, this world of World War I and its millions chillingly killed, World War II and its masses incinerated, the Cold War and its prodigies of evil thought, the Islamic crusade and its calumnies on its enemies and brutalities on many foes, the many subversions, inversions of morals and all humaneness, the ruined lives and constant threats and explosions, the termination or ruination of the lives of many children the more to enjoy life in some imaginary paradise and the like: it will soon find out (cf. Answers to Questions Ch. 5).
Instead however of making of one's life a fateful experiment in evil, it is simpler and better to REPENT and believe the Gospel, appealing for acceptance through the love of God and the passion of Christ, to be given authority to become a child of God, and by faith receive the same with gratitude for the grace of God (Ephesians 2:5-8, Luke 13:1-3, John 1:12).
THE NEGATIVE and POSITIVE THINGS IN COMPANIONSHIP Isaiah 58
The Lord had been very vexed. His creation, man which had proliferated into mankind, had a dire situation which as we saw, led to the Flood, an event of destructive force far greater than the man-made one of Hiroshima. Much later, in the theocratic kingdom of Israel, He had had blessed times under David and much of Solomon's reign, with His people, but shame, mere form, lips that did not mirror the heart, slackness and slovenly behaviour, ritual instead of reality had made of the land a sickening and slick combination, largely that of slide and grasp, nominality and desire.
Into this pathological spiritual morass (as in Isaiah 6! and 1), God spoke with a promise. You fast! He declared, and wonder why you have no greater reward. But WHY do you fast ? It is for debate and strife. Suppose instead of these affairs, you were to consider need. Do you see those recklessly oppressed, ludicrously suppressed, do you even consider your own relations ? What if now your 'fast' were to take a different form of self-denial and instead you were to feed the hungry, bring relatives to your own house, even those neglected, deliver those wrongly put into outrageous circumstances of life ?
THEN "your light" would break forth as the morning, "your healing" would spring speedily to life, your righteousness would shine and the Lord Himself would be in His glory, your rearguard. THEN you would call and He answer, "you will cry and He will say, 'Here I am!' "
Now this is no new religion. It is an OFFSHOOT or if you prefer a FLOWER of what has already been planted in repentance, covered by sacrifice, sought and found in faith, engaged in devotion and found in reality. It is work for those spiritually established in the foundational covenant since Moses and Joshua (cf. Joshua 24:16-28); but instead of questionable antics, there is now an unquestionable result, a spiritual serviceability and a testimony in truth. It does not substitute for faith, for it is its very expression. It is not done for oneself or one's reward, for that is to be double-minded, serving self-and-Lord. It is done because GOD LOVES IT, and loving man, wants His love shown in those dedicated to Himself.
One remembers the amazing account of George Mueller's orphanage ministries, when time and again the exact amount needed would come as a gift, when the Lord simply undertook and kept the organisation going, but ONLY when it was moved BY FAITH; and it came in response to the FACT that His presence was continually involved. Such things are not always so dramatic, but the spirit of watchful service is good, and the seeds sown in the wasteland of abandonment can flower, and even find rain from above.
THE POSITIVE THINGS
1) Psalm 73
Psalm 73 is one
of undulation. It moves from grief to gladness, from underlying troubles to
perceived grace, and rejoicing that God "is the
strength of my heart and my portion forever."
The Psalmist shows satisfaction, nay satiety in this, that he has ONLY GOD in heaven, but what more! and on earth, who besides the Lord, for who in preference or competition is there to compete! It is enough.
Now what is his delight ? It is this:
"Nevertheless I am continually with You: You hold me by my right
You guide me with Your counsel and afterwards receive me to glory."
The chastening, far outstripping what happens to the idle self-assured in many cases, is thus received wisely, and for their episodes of disaster and despair, self-praise and confusion, he has this in exchange: I AM CONTINUALLY WITH YOU. It is not man but God who says so.
Is there a period of challenge ? then He is continually there. Is He less manifest ? nevertheless, in consolation and continuity of grace and goodness, there He is, not distant, but like a Father, available even if one fails in something, showering kindness and mercy, providing discipline and direction. Yet even this is not like a spiritual mechanic, but so personal as to be apt; for man is not machinery but person, spirit with equipment of mind and body. Houses may come and go, as may good governments and sound colleges, but Christ continues right there, available to call, to seek, to find, to provide rest and peace past all accounting.
If once man was continually evil in all his thoughts, now in Christ there is continual input, through the Spirit, from the resource and recourse of man: that is, when man IS man, is completed by attachment to his own source, base, Father and King. Thus it is by faith and not by rebellion, as in breaking commandments IN PRINCIPLE, as now some 'churches' churlishly do. So says Paul, "put to death by the Spirit the deeds of the body", the last in this context referring to 'flesh' (v.9, cf. Galatians 5:18-20), which is another name for an independent spirit, conceived in culture, content with nature, serving its own nature and no stock-holder in God by gift or otherwise!
Here is the certainty that follows the regeneration, the reality that is implicit in the redemption and the restoration which means life in company with Christ, indeed, with Him who is "in you, the hope of glory" - Colossians 1:27.
Far is this from ignoring His words. On the contrary, as in John 14:21-23, obedience is a touchstone of love, as anyone with significant thought about human relationships of those who are in the image of God, may readily perceive. If you LOVE someone, something around about their wishes is NOT and decidedly not the same as what they actually ASK. Their inwardness and subjective thoughts are CHERISHED; and how much more is this so with God, whose we are, and who in Christ has died for us, being offered to all, and effectual for those who receive Him.
Again, far is it from any misconception about Paul's use of the term 'letter' as in II Corinthians 3, where he states the that 'letter' kills, but the spirit gives life. It is apparent in Romans 7, that 'letter' kills by virtue of its being an edict from God which disobeyed, brings curse and death. That is the nature of LAW between God and man. Thus when you serve "in newness of the Spirit and not in the oldness of the letter" (7:6), it is in conjunction with 'the law' in terms of which we DIE.
This law of God is not deprecated but appreciated: it is deadly to sinners! Paul continues concerning covetousness, how the very word aroused desire in his heart, and so
"when the commandment came, sin revived and I died, and the commandment which was to bring life, I found to bring death."
THAT is the apostolically defined way in which 'the letter kills.'
The LAW, however, it is just and holy: but it requires for sinners the antidote, the antibiotic to the lively lawlessness of sin, and as to that ? ...
"what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh,
God did by sending His own Son ... on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh."
THAT is not what is wrong with the letter, the law, but what is right with the true and ever righteous God who BORE ‘the letter’ so that we should be content not without it, but without the death which guilt by it, provides! It is utterly useless, as Paul dramatically shows in Romans 10:3, to attempt to rectify the accounts by one's own righteousness: this is delusion, just as it is to imagine that the 'letter' is not the law, or that the law is not right or good or holy, as Paul affirms it to be (Romans 7:12).
The death to be avoided is not from wrong laws but from right ones; and the remedy is not to deny the validity of the law, but that of oneself, and acknowledging this, to repent and thus receive where the heart now has room, the mercy of God in the Cross of Christ.
2) ACTS 6:4
Another aspect of Christian life is continuity in GIVING ONESELF to prayer and the exercise of one's gifts. In the case of the apostles, these were those of an apostle, including proclamation with authority of the word of God, ardent care for the churches, resolution of difficulties by governmental gifts and healing; but especially prayerful communion with Christ, who by the Spirit CONTINUED to act as He had done when on earth (Luke 1:1), via many channels. The redemption is finished but the love continual.
Thus Paul speaks in Ephesians 6 of all that they be
"praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints",
adding his request for prayer for an effectual ministry for him, which a wise church does for its Minister and elders.
3) HEBREWS 13:15
Now we find the Lord through this writer of the scripture, exhorting people who after all, have no CONTINUING CITY (Jerusalem was destroyed in AD 70 and as to Rome, it was then as now, a pagan city, involved with idolatries cf. SMR pp. 911ff., 1032-1088H). No, it is not in a continuing city that Christians find rest, but something else continuing, is to be CONTINUAL. That, it is a substitute in one sense, for the continual sacrifice of animals which had occurred in the Temple in Jerusalem for so many centuries.
Now it was, with similar fidelity and conspicuous endurance and zeal, to be this.
"Let us," He says, "continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name."
Instead of the fruit of the soil, there would now be the FRUIT OF OUR LIPS. Would you want a poisonous, an 'insincere' or rotten, an unwholesome or unnourished fruit, one which gave no refreshing ? Not from the soil: nor does God want it from our lips which like a good plant, resting in the rich ground of the purified heart, are to produce fruit that endures!
Fruit is in spirit (Galatians 5:22-26). It is in works. It is in words; and here the words are stressed. These in their own way are works, for they are lines of access to God, whose promises do not vary from the days when they were written; and it is they, more than the pet dogs which need exercise daily! Therefore begin at the beginning, continue to the end, remember the 'end' of it all (I Timothy 1:5), and in the midst, pray. Provide sacrifice from the lips, in praise to the Lord.
Be diligent in mercies, effectual in the use of your practical gifts, and make short work of any failure in repentance that brings life to the parched soil of error, and receive the rain of blessing (Acts 3:19-20) from that Lord who is CONTINUALLY making intercession for His chosen ones, those who have received Him AS HE IS, by faith (Hebrews 7:25).
Moreover this one stresses: PRAY FOR HIS RETURN (I Corinthians 16:22, II Thessalonians 2:4ff.), who is the final and ultimate, perfected and profound, divine and eternal Bishop of our souls!