AUSTRALIAN BIBLE CHURCH March 18, 2007
A CONTINUATION OF THE THRUST AND BASE OF THE
OF AUSTRALIA ON BIBLICAL LINES …
STARTING WITH LUKE – SITED in Ch. 18: PARABLES WITH PUNCH
INGREDIENTS OF DESTINY
In Luke 18, you have some of the ingredients of destiny.
Thus in the first two parables, we find that of widow and the unjust judge, focussing the point of insistence on the part of the weak (the sinner) towards the strong (the Lord), the point being that EVEN the unjust judge was moved by such importunity! Then there is the parable of the tax-collector and the Pharisee. In this parable, each party is demonstrative, but in the one, it is self-demonstration, as if to call God to witness his glory, while in the other seen at prayer, it is the abysmal acknowledgement that ONLY mercy could help him! This applicant to the Lord went away justified rather than the other, Christ declared. GOD IS A SPIRIT, and the spirit of a thing is crucial.
In the second parable, that of the tax-collector (from the Jews FOR the Romans, the occupying power) and the Pharisee, we find what the Lord detests. Thus here, the Pharisee made rather a demonstration of his own self-judged righteousness, yet Christ made an assessment of many such, as seen in Matthew 23: and these are VERY different! The parable from Christ is as surgical as the later denunciation Even in his prayers, the Pharisee boasted; but the tax-collector had no hope except in divine mercy.
Thus in the first parable, you see the testimony for perseverance and importunity in spiritual things. GO FOR IT! Do not relent, be impervious to difficulty, and let nothing intervene (Luke 18:1-8). Then you see in the second parable, the diversion which may occur into the imperious, spelt a little like impervious, and even reminiscent of importunate; but it is as far from these as sea from desert. Thus, whilst the importunate like the imperious, knows no stopping, yet the one seeks, and the other directs! Again, while the impervious resists all re-direction, like the imperious, yet it is resistant to what would change it, whereas the imperious simply seeks its own will. One expresses itself as criterion; the other seeks the Lord as confessor, cleanser and He who forgives.
LITTLE CHILDREN AND GREAT FAITH
We come to the third parable in Luke 18. It is that of the
little children, where, as famously as anything else in the Bible, it may be,
Christ rebukes the stern disciples, who bid the children go away, and had them
instead brought to Him for blessing. Whoever the person may be,
"UNLESS," He declared, he
"receive the kingdom of heaven as a little child," that one "will by no means enter it."
Firstly, you come by faith, not presumption, arrogance or assumption. A child often has just such a faith, and acts on it. "I pray," said a little lad one day, when one would never have imagined it. It tends to come more naturally when the need is obvious, the dangers are vast, the family is spoiled, the heart is tender and the security is missing. This may indeed not have been saving faith, but it had a first ingredient: reliance and hope and seeking God with genuine need by prayer : as in Psalm 145:17-18 - He is near to “all who call upon Him in truth.” He will “hear the cry” and “fulfil the desire of those who fear Him.” Faith in and fear of God refines desire.
Secondly, as to entering the kingdom as a little child OR not at all, you come by trust in the one to whom you come. It is not only faith in the authority or reliability of the structure to which you come, it is a personal trust in a visible person, in the case of Christ, who illustrates and defines the invisible reality of the Deity (John 1:18, 3:13, 5:19-21, 8:58). You actually TRUST Him, who lives.
Thirdly, you come with expectation. Not merely do you accept the structure of salvation, convicted as a child might be, because of sin, nor is this an empty trust the person, for in addition you EXPECT what He says to happen. He has the power as well as the heart, and the simplicity of faith accepts that.
Fourthly, you do not chuck your psyche here or there, as in an existential moment, but you ENTER the kingdom. You are translated, conveyed, transformingly travelling to enter its offices, and find in Christ your eternal visa (Ephesians 1:1-11, Hebrews 6:19, 9:12, 10:10,14)). You do not dally at the gate; you enter through it (John 10:9,27-28). You do not doubt you will be kept, for you have been TOLD this is so. Your entry is irrevocable, if by faith in this, the Lord's Christ, unmixed.
In passing, one might enquire how this relates to Christian Biblical Apologetics. IF you come as a child, WHY think as an adult, before coming ? It is all a question of how you place the emphasis. IF as a CONDITION of coming you have to be satisfied in the embrace of your mind, of everything, then since you lack insight, when would you come! (cf. I Corinthians 2:14). This however is merely the beginning of the matter. SINCE you have a mind and are exhorted to USE your talents vigorously and fully, then using it is certainly not only right, but scriptural enjoined IN THIS SPHERE (by Peter, in I Peter 3:15).
What however is the use of it then ? You do not enter by reason, but by faith. Yet, before you enter, you do not cease to have a mind, and in seeking all knowledge you are yourself in such a case, perhaps nearer than you think to finding the truth. For one's own part, reading the book of Matthew, and in particular, the Sermon on the Mount, was such a contrast to the willowy, sometimes proud, arrogant and as often as not, zealously superficial or confused works of philosophy, that it sounded like a bell in a rural landscape, after one has been in an industrial city, like gulls when one has heard rock music dinning its non-dainties.
It is NOT BY this that one comes, but it may well be AFTER it. As Paul declares, “Brethren, do not be children in your thinking; yet in evil be babes, but in your thinking be mature" ( I Cor. 14:20, NASV). The fallow-ground should be broken up in any way one can (cf. Hosea 10:12, Jeremiah4:3). Moreover, WHEN one has come, then the spirit of illumination and revelation in the knowledge of Him (Ephesians 1:17) may indeed show you more and more of the unique validity and verity of the word of God, to the point that if one called did not write it down, or speak it, it might be the unscriptural burial of a talent!
The body of Christ has many members with amazingly diverse gifts (cf. I Corinthians 12, Romans 12, Ephesians 4), and their use is not a matter of competition, but complementarity; and the needs both for and from the body, in its testimony to the world, are many and diverse. Each specialist has a place, and each recipient in and out of the Church is thus met whether in answer to request, challenge or appeal!
Moreover, apart from this serviceable function, there is the ultimate ground of ANY action: that it is in accord with the will of God, glorifies Him and attests Him before all, men, angels, powers, celestial, terrestrial.
THE EXCLUSION ZONE
There is, on the other hand, an exclusion zone. Thus if like some sheep being mustered, you REFUSE the door and the direction, so be it. OUTSIDE IS the exclusion zone, where wander those preferring their autonomy, or that of their idols, which alas is merely an imaginary thing, but nonetheless oppressive, as is a road in a sun-stricken land, out of the irrigated pasture, its escapees persistently tramping the hardness of a track not made for them. To follow that resisting road is hard; and the discipline on the trotters might be far greater than that in the pasture; but if you so elect, then you so must direct your feet, though it be but so much needless pain.
In particular, in Luke 18, we see the reflection of Christ on the point that it is exceedingly difficult for the rich to enter the kingdom of heaven. The Lord had just seen a wonder of potential, a rich young ruler, keen on morals, careful in life, seeking eternal life with all his being, and coming running to kneel in supplication, at the Master's feet. What a dénouement, perhaps, of a decade of seeking on the part of the young man, now in full possession of his property. Here the path back was open.
What eagerness, disdain of convention, fearlessness of being laughed at, disregard of dignity he had, and what gusto! What a lively young man, but alas, in one moment his life grew old. When he heard the requirement FOR HIS CASE, then perhaps it was rather like that WHEN one has a cancer, and right THEN one may have to have it cut out, and perhaps a major operation with it. What did he do ? He baulked. You don't need such an operation, if you don't have the cancer: and fear may banish the opportunity. It is easier to ignore the fact, the cancer, and to cancel the operation! Conviction of sin can be such that as Stephen put it, "You do always resist the Holy Spirit" (Acts 7:51).
Maybe something else might require another treatment, but this one seems dangerous. The young man was unwilling, in his prudent, cautious, alert and watchful way, to lose the strut of a lifetime, the riches. Need was impelling, cost dispelling. The call that led him to kneel, was recalled, and the pseudo-sanctity of the mere power to purchase overcame the power to live! He did not enter the kingdom then, and perhaps ... never.
This is simply one illustration of the fact that, with diverse individual impact, there is a 'cost' of entering the kingdom. It has nothing to do with paying your way or for your place, for all this is a grant (Romans 6:23). It has everything to do with preparing your heart, for if you cling to possessions of culture, prestige, power as a joint ground of hope, how then do you trust God ? Now if you do not cling to them in this way, there is no need for their removal: they are not a challenge to faith, or an example of an impure heart. Yet where the disease indeed was, there the resistance continued, and the disease with it.
Spiritual pathology is like that: the very best examples of many qualities may at once disappear when on test, the basis, ground and height of the hope is found to be lacking. It is like a house, all architectural style, then, but without foundation. Thus the faith of the little child is willing to trust the heavenly Father; but the mind of the self-willed man is not. What then is the way when trust flows and inhibition departs ?
THE CALL THAT IS HEARD
There is then for the call that is heard, a certain requirement. It is expressed positively in Psalm 145:20: "The LORD is near to all who call upon Him, to all who call upon Him in truth..."
No devious, insincere, squalidly self-seeking desires may be expected to move the Lord. If you WANT eternal life, you must ask for it without blinking or winking or carrying kinks. One may say, But how COULD you so ask if you were not already converted ? Indeed, the dynamics of curing are the Lord's, but it is quite possible for the heart that so calls, to be already so imbued with the presence, power and pardon of the Lord, that it is in germ converted already, and the call simply articulates the fact!
The point is well illustrated in Luke 18:35, in the case of the blind beggar, Bartimaeus. Sometimes it is easy to forget that those like Bartimaeus, like the Lazarus of the parable of that beggar and the rich man, are not mere failures, or objects of pity. They are in fact people with past, present and future prospects, however degraded or humiliated or weak they may, at any one moment, appear. Christ LISTENED, and RESPONDED to the call of Bartimaeus.
Blind though he was, he had to ask for what he wanted. There was no vague sentimentality about it. "WHAT DO YOU WANT ME TO DO FOR YOU ?" (18:41), came the direct call. He was required to put everything into perspective, and find whether this was the riches denied him, the home, the children, or simply what was most obvious - sight! He asked for this, and was granted it. Jesus replied, "Receive your sight. Your faith has made you well."
Thus, you do not need to flutter about in the entrance halls of salvation, like some demented moth or scatter your wits in every corner like an endlessly enquiring cat: the cost is clear, you or your choice, or Christ Jesus the Lord of your life. The credentials are if possible clearer: an incompetent, called man, versus the God of all power and truth. In which are you going to put your trust ?
Man's created facilities of imagination and intellection do NOTHING to help here, for the case is by its very nature beyond all this. We are speaking of the domain of man's spirit, creation and destiny. And endeavour to control these without the word of God, is a dream, popular indeed, but one well-tuned to become nightmare, as the human race in its self-exalting folly is finding in increasing and practical ... details.
You ASK for the gift of eternal life, or AFFIRM your desire for it, and REPENT of your sins, without in the least trying to cover them up, mitigate them, explain them away or excuse them, FACE your life and its intemperance or puniness, pride or arrogance, false humility or self-serving canniness or whatever other distemper has marred or maimed it, and casting yourself on the mercy of God, receive its point and crux in Christ crucified; and resting your confidence in the power of the God of mercy, look for a resurrection as real as the bodily resurrection of Christ (Romans 10:9, I Cor. 15:1-3, Luke 24), on whom all depends. If you prefer to trust systems you did not create, a mind you did not make, a will you do not entirely control, a scenario you cannot fulfil, to 'nature', your co-partner in creation, so be it.
If not, if delusion is not your director, then ASK! Specify what you want, TELL the Lord of His promises. In the case of Bartimaeus, the request was to someone who at least ASKED HIM what he wanted. The blind man told Him. Acts 2:37ff. is very explicit about what is promised, as is Romans 10:9, 4:25-5:11. For my own part, I should have no interest in living if life were not eternal, if God were not my Father, if grace were not the method (as in Ephesians 2:1-12), and the beauty of holiness were a distant dream and mockery (or for that matter, if perfection were an entrance or retention qualification! - I John 1:7-2:2).
Bartimaeus WANTED SIGHT more than anything. He got it. You need to want eternal life in God more than anything: the cost is defined in this way quite simply in Luke 14. You forsake all that you have does not mean that you gambol about exchanging cheques with those who are trading in theirs for yours; but that you CLING to nothing, DEMAND nothing but what God promises; and that is magnificent (cf. Isaiah 55, John 10, Hosea 14, Jeremiah 31, Hebrews 6,9-10). It is as in many fields, quite out of the question to cling to your preferences while in a vast endeavour. Whether it be fatty foods for an athlete, or laziness for a researcher or late nights for an Everest climber's preparation scheme, there is always a cost in type, relative to the aim in view. If you really want the result, you willingly pay the cost; or maybe do a Hamlet on the sadness of a divided mind, if you do not. That, in turn, it does not help. The case remains.
It is important, then, not to hanker and hunger for the things of this world, even the beautiful ones, so long as the MAKER of it all is one's friend. If you know Him, you know the Author of all, the Creator of all, the Saviour of any, and in His family, you have a future which is a consummation and not a desolation. The commission remains, as in Matthew 28:19-20; and to the contrary, an unfaithful servant is scarcely given up to God, one who cannot even take seriously what his Lord has said, by faith, with the overwhelming support of reason, but instead must make new christs, or new commands, or delete old ones, as if God were a market place, and His words were to be carved in some sand-stone instead of rock.
In obedience there is bliss, for His commands are not grievous (I John 3:23-24, 5:3,10-13), and they centre on both love and truth, on pardon and power, on adoption and enablement, on fidelity and on His faithfulness. It is a world this world knows not of; and it is one where the novelties of mere cultural necessities become as needless dross. Who wants what man says, when what the Creator of man is available! Some do, but the choice descends to the finite, whereas the work of grace is for the infinite; and when the One is good, then infinity is not more than enough.