AUSTRALIAN BIBLE CHURCH ... Sermon January 18, 2009
A CONTINUATION OF THE THRUST
OF THE PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH OF AUSTRALIA
ON BIBLICAL LINES …
YOU DO NOT KNOW WHAT KIND OF SPIRIT YOU HAVE COME FROM!
THE PASSION AND PROSPECT OF ETERNITY
WHEN GOD SPEAKS: FOLLOW HIM!
IN PRECISE PERCEPTION OF HIS WORD AND WAYS
THE DISCIPLES' SUGGESTION
Jesus had been transfigured, revealed in radiant, shining light with whiteness and glory, speaking with Elijah and Moses concerning the death which, as a saving sacrifice, He should accomplish.
The disciples were then told of that salvation by death: "Let these words sink down into your ears, for the Son of Man is about to be betrayed into the hands of men."
This was not the first time they had been told of this (Matthew 16:21 is before the transfiguration). Indeed, there had been the announcement right from the first, by John the Baptist, popular preacher and renowned prophet (John 1:29): "Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!" he had cried, pointing disciples from himself to Jesus the Christ. John's honesty and fearless courage were notorious. Some then turned to Christ Himself (John 1:35), after John had again said this of Jesus: "Behold the Lamb of God!"
Was it not clear ? Isaiah had written of the Redeemer who would come to Israel, only to be rejected and indeed sacrificed in unbelief by the very nation to which He came (Isaiah 53:1, 4-6).
"He was led as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so He did not open His mouth" wrote the prophet (53:7).
"He was taken from prison and from judgment ..."
Thus, "when you make His soul an offering for sin, He shall see His seed..." Lacking through death, in children of His own, He would have spiritual children in those who put their faith in Him, and so being changed, became children of God. I John 3:1 puts it like this -
"Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called the children of God!"
This then was something of the background when one day, Jesus and His disciples came near to a Samaritan village, one in that territory which had once been a part of Israel, but now having been repopulated by an invading King of Assyria, long before, had a different race of people in it. Its capital city and name, both, were Samaria. There was little attraction between Israel and this neighbouring country. It was no easy thing for people of that land to listen to anyone of the Jewish race!
Disciples went into the village however to ask them if they would receive Jesus, and they declined.
The thought occurred to the disciples that maybe this would be a good chance, opportunity to do what the prophet Elijah once had done, indeed twice, in calling down fire from heaven to kill killers sent for him, soldiers at the word of an evil King.
"Lord," they asked,
"do you want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them,
just as Elijah did ?"
After all, Elijah, a prophet to a declining nation, long held in evil and sharing other gods, had been confronted by the prophet and since his work was not then complete, God had removed the soldiers sent to arrest him, until they realised that he would come only on God's terms. God had things to say and murder would not stop Him!
Could not Christ do the same to the Samaritan village! they wondered.
THE DIVINE REBUKE
In His rebuke to them, Christ declared a wonderfully deep and penetrating fact, founded on knowledge and from then, to be construed. "You do not know what quality of Spirit you have come from!" He revealed. In other words, what God was like, His nature, character and purpose, His style and nature of Being they simply did not know. They were working with His Son, His only begotten Son, but did not know His real nature!
At once, notice the comparison. John in I John 3:1ff. marvels,
"Behold what manner of LOVE, the Father has given to us,
that we should be called the children of God."
Christ, in this Samaritan instance declared,
"You do not know what manner of SPIRIT you come from!"
The two are parallels. The love is astounding, the adoption of us who are sinners, to be cleansed, changed and blessed with the divine name as that of our adopting Father is a thing past all normal conception! So too the realisation of the manner of Spirit with whom we are moving, this is a thing of wonder and marvel, and to know what manner of Being He is, this is a revelation of the utmost wonder!
We are so accepted because HE IS LIKE THAT! You have to come to KNOW GOD. Without that, no litany or repetition will serve you; but if you want to serve Him, then you have to come in repentance and faith, receive His sacrifice, and being redeemed, learn the ways of sacrificial living in the love of the Lord.
WHY should they not do as Elijah did ? It was clear. The case was entirely different.
The circumstances were different, the need was diverse, the occasion was of another kind and above all, the mission of Christ was highly circumscribed: He came AS Saviour and not to condemn or fight against the world and its forces, at some physical level (John 3:17), since the mission was not only spiritual, but one which deferred judgment in terms of its own glowing centre of grace (John 3:15-16). Judgment could come later if need be (John 3:19,36); but THIS, the advent, the attestation and the actions of Christ constituted a crux of grace. It could not be defiled by an ingredient of judgment at the physical level.
To be sure, when remedy was removed, there was a result in the very spirit of man, but this was the nature of the case, and by no means an insertion of intervention. Man without Christ, denying Him, IS up for judgment; but this, this was the day of invitation (cf. Luke 19:42ff.).
The only blood to be shed was that of Christ Himself, the Saviour.
Christ could articulate the nature of judgment;
yet He had not come to apply it to man, but to have it, though due for man,
applied to Himself AS man:
this format a function of His mission to sacrifice for sin, and to do this to whom ?
It would be to no other Person than ... Himself (John 9:39-41; 10).
It was not lack of insight that called forth judgment so much as making sight a criterion of one's life, when in fact one was blind! NEW SIGHT was needed, insight from the Spirit of God and concerning God Himself!
To think oneself able to see, when yet blind, this is an illusory condition, which does not generate any thrust to find sight, and so remains, a condition ready for judgment. This is as in John 9:42:
"If you were blind, you would have no sin; but now you say, 'We see.' Therefore your sin remains." We see! if uncorrected by knowledge, is a mere statement of mirage. ONCE they did see, once they KNEW what manner of Spirit they came from, THEN they could understand.
Force would NOT be used, as Christ was quick to remind both Peter with his swift sword-play (Matthew 26:52, and Pilate as He showed what manner of Spirit was He, who came as man, who would not EVEN have His OWN servants fight to defend HIMSELF!). NO FORCE can be used to make the kingdom of heaven work. Its use is to exhibit the folly of unspirituality, not to insert faith, or bring about insipid and unspiritual allegiance.
This is the day, the Age of grace. That is not to say that there was no grace in the day of Elijah, but that there was the veritable downdraught of judgment, whereas here, in Luke 9 which we search, there was in the day of Jesus Christ on this earth, the Saviour, a vast Niagara of mercy and so, the very torrent of grace flowed freely and without admixture.
The relevant episode, in the day of Elijah, was a work where judgment was rollicking in a race for hundreds of years asking for it; here was salvation for a people who for centuries had been waiting for just that, as you see in the case of Anna and Simeon in Luke. Here was the Lord Himself to show the right spiritual way, not to be entangled in crushing with power the terrestrial bastions of the wrong one. They would meet their come-uppance in due course, Jerusalem in A.D. 70 and indeed Rome in its later overthrow by invaders.
More than this: Elijah was rebuking a King in theocratic office, that he might find the irrelevance of royal domain and whim, caprice and will, including false gods and tedious draughts of intoxicating spiritual liquors, for his task. There, Elijah had work to do, and when his life was about to be extinguished, God simply extinguished the means of extinction, for the prophet still had more to do; and even here, Elijah was willing to relent when the crass use of force was distanced, and so spared the third group of assailing soldiers, when its captain sought mercy.
That prophet's task was to startle and introduce a nation amiss, at the official and formal level, to its sins. When Christ came, however, the judgment was near enough, but this was for the time, a focus on grace, THE FOCUS ON SPIRIT IN SALVATION, which would come only once, though great was the mercy shown through the prophets. Here was mercy essentialised, grace concentrated, the fallacy finished, the truth wrought in heart and spirit and in mind, constructive and not destructive. Here was a kingdom born and effulgent, one which was inspiring and not declining, invisible but powerful with a dynamic that was uplifting and not degenerative, as was the official priestly framework. Here was as it is, the kingdom of heaven.
Here, oh world! here is your answer, the divine solution, the direct, uncompromised, wholly distinct, definably monolithic, indisputably gracious outage; and here is its intensively loving entry.
"Say to the cities of Judah, Behold your God!"
says Isaiah 40 in the midst of the Messianic predictions (40, 42, 45, 49-55). The results of failure to find, to focus, to relish and to receive this same Jesus, they would come in a generation when Jerusalem was to lie as flat to the ground as were its authorities in Christ's day, flat and unbelieving in spirit. The opportunity for triumphing in Christ, in grace, in gift, in pardon, in the good pleasure of God, in the cost-free salvation, one that cost more than the earth to its Maker: this coming once, came in utter purity of content, nothing mixed or added, no other work gaining either purchase or thrust.
Thus those who now hear of Christ are in precisely the same position: if it is a question of force or murder, of violence or political thrust, of social powers or personal panache, it is not even relevant. It is PAST all that that Christ works. He did not come, He gave as reason for His restraint concerning the Samaritan village, to destroy men's lives. Rather it was to save them (Luke 9:56 cf. John 3:17!). "The Son of man did not come to destroy men's lives, but to save them!"
THIS was the testimony concerning the FAILURE of the disciples to realise what manner of spirit they were seeking to serve, that One from whom they had come in creation and to whom they would answer as now they followed the Word of God Himself. It is a testimony to one and to all, to that day as to this, to any and to all who name the God of creation and redemption, the God of all comfort, indeed the one and only God of all truth, whose word verifies itself continually, He whose Son Jesus Christ, only begotten is no less the only way by which man MUST be saved (Acts 4:11-12).
There is no other
God, no other unguent of grace,
no other salvation,
no other sustained
and ratified, testified and triumphant,
valid and verified word from God but this of the Bible (cf. The Shadow of a Mighty Rock),
personal as Christ Jesus, worker of miracle, healer of multitudes,
speaker of reality, erupting beyond death in risen body,
a light to darkened counsel and relief to the unredeemed.
v There is no other way for man, no other peace and no other place for this race.
If anyone does not seek His face, the very face of God in this way, there is no other mode, mission, mandate, testimony of ages or work of wonder; and here only is the Creator of our own minds and spirits, bodies and world, available. Make another ? It is a world already made which is in view; and for those made to imagine they can make another 'God', the thought is mere mirage of mental exuberance and spiritual defeat.
The contortions of violence in the name of God, are the foibles of folly, the clangours of the tormented, alas also of the tormentors. While man must defend the weak, yet to extend one’s ways and wealth and lands by the testimony of mere force, as to seek to enforce one’s ‘faith’: this is mere folly, as if one were to seek to force man under the water, while his lungs slowly imbibe the wrong medium.
Christ had no such intention. It is redemption, not destruction which fills the air of the Age in the declamations of God. Yet mankind in this Age, in ingratitude and self-esteem, desperation and irrelevant incantation, performs such antics and contortions of grave irrationality with flaming eyes and lordly hearts, that disgrace is the ingredient poured out instead, while agony replaces the Redeemer’s ransom, and anguish becomes nurse to hatred.
This is not the way of God, who has done all, to whom evasion is as search for aridity with tongue hanging out, while water, fresh and clear, clean and cleansing, is on free offer (Isaiah 55). Where this error is made, in this way or in that, they know not what manner of Spirit created them, and need to find the One to whom all must go, except they desire a judgment without mercy, which nothing can then deter. What do we read of the word from Christ in John 9:41 ? It is this:
“If you were blind, you would have no sin! but now you say 'We see,' your sin remains.”
What refuses the light of life, has only death to relish; and then the taste is waste. What finds Him where He is, through His living word, finds eternal life, indeed all things (Romans 8:32).