AUSTRALIAN BIBLE CHURCH December 16, 2007
A CONTINUATION OF THE THRUST
AND BASE OF THE
OF AUSTRALIA ON BIBLICAL LINES …
THE ULTIMATE CHRISTMAS PRESENT
From Shame to His Name
From Power to Dower
From Death to Life Eternal
From Ageing Time to Living Eternity with God
Photo Matthew Donaldson
For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ,
I FREEDOM FROM SHAME
A) Shame’s Norm
The point of shame is the name of God. You can be shown imperfect love by man, or hatred; but from God is love with that discipline which brings reality home. Part of this is the truth, which always hurts at first, since man is a sinner. Thus it is shameful to abuse the available equipment that one has, bodily, mental or spiritual, by misuse of any of these features, and not least, by assigning life directing force to partial things, with inordinate desire, or consigning life to tedium, without hope. It is even worse, to congratulate oneself in pride on one’s attainments, moral or otherwise as you see in Luke 18:9ff., in the case of the self-righteous Pharisee.
In one sense ALL are self-righteous who judge themselves on their own standards, rather than those of God. HIS standards are perfection (Romans 10:5), whether in law or ultra-legal expectation, for He IS perfection and without it, one chafes with Him … Otherwise one needs to be PARDONED, and thus have peace! (Romans 3:22-24).
It is then, when this is done, through the divinely appointed means of the Cross of Christ, that peace is perfect (Philippians 4:1-6, Isaiah 26:1-4): for though the waters rage, yet the boat is sure and its Controller is peace!
This divine action by the Lord, when not received in faith, puts to an OPEN shame the sin which man descends into, whether voluntarily or not, for it is then not merely endemic, but desired. It moreover shows the sin in its dire nature, before bringing on the salvation through His atonement by His own blood, which is able to cover it. It shows no less the beautiful nature of life redeemed, when sin cannot grin, and grace in glorious solemnity, achieves its gift.
Thus there is NO SHAME for this Gospel. It is the new focus and Christ the new centre. NOTHING is wrong with HIM, so that I AM NOT ASHAMED OF THE GOSPEL OF CHRIST! In Him, sin is covered and shame is exposed, so that all things brought to the light, one can walk in the light.
B) Enormities – those of Shame and Of His Salvation
Shame however is not mere lack of perfection. Just imagine a child brought up for years and yet never even seriously enquiring who were these parents who paid for his food, provided shelter and schooling and concern. This is the case for everyone who, faced with the open Bible and the Gospel in it, does not check it out to find the source of life and the responsibilities and rules attached.
This is an enormity, and even where the Bible is not known (increasingly hard to find as missionary work proceeds with more means over more centuries, now intensifying greatly in outreach), there is still the startling irrationality of every other religion than that of the Bible and of Jesus Christ. For Him, there are simply no competitors in evidence, performance and purity. Imaginary salvation will never pass muster. The power of God to salvation must be found, like water, where it is!
Romans 2 makes it clear that some who have NOT heard the Gospel do better than some who reject it, because in them there is the unwritten but impelling law of original creation, so that there is some kind of seeking in these, as shame and hope contend, and ideals are sought. Yet even the best of these must meet the standards of God, in order to live with Him, and these are perfection. This alone prevents chafing and confusion, except there be pardon; and where in the end, that is granted and received, then there is a resurrection into that loveliness which does not fade, where neither curse nor sorrow remain, amid the spirits of just men made perfect (Hebrews 12:23).
Even those who have sought for goodness and God must ultimately be faced with the loss of self-service (whether the moral or some other self), and the necessity to be crucified with Christ, so that the lust of the will is replaced by the Lord of life and His composure of life (Galatians 5:24). It is gold found that makes rich, not gold hoped for. One must, in all truth, go where it is, and not try to bend it to one's own will! In this, the Gospel is an ultimate, final, finished, the will of God.
Indeed, Paul makes it clear that in predestination, logically preceded by foreknowledge, not of our ‘good’ but of ourselves and the Gospel impact, God has already chosen His own (Ephesians 1:4), and that though He would have ALL reconciled to Himself (Colossians 1:19ff.), and this with great passion, yet He forces none as Christ shows so clearly (John 6:65). While He yearns for all (Matthew 23:37ff.) and even laments their loss, truth does not move and none enters in deceit, or is excluded by unfortunate omission!
Many of the most self-contained varieties of mankind are too self-absorbed, even if it be with their self-appointed showers of morals, to find the escape root from shame to God, or to value it, and this is the great enormity. They judge themselves by themselves, and not being God, err profoundly!
Matching shame in grace, there is on the other side, the enormity of love which is not satisfied with divine words such as are strewn like flowers on the path of time since about 1500 B.C. till now, then gathered up into one vast floral panorama in the Bible, composed in beauty and filled with fragrance. This love of God does more: it even acts; and not content with acting, it acts to cover sin, and even then, not replete with a mere cover in the abstract, it builds that cover in the Person of His everlasting Word (John 1:1, Micah 5:3), the incarnate Jesus Christ whom many celebrate for His coming, at Christmas (an option - Romans 14:5), and all Christians worship (Revelation 5:11, John 20:28). This cover makes one discover the love of God, for He became sin for us, He who knew no sin, that we might receive the very righteousness of God as a gift, and a valiant one! (Romans 5:17, 8:1-11).
Thus the enormity of sin and that of grace are parallel, and it is only at their intersection in the incarnate Christ and in the central Cross of pardoning power, that the one overrules and brings blessing to the sinner who thus becomes a child of God (I John 3:1-3), soon to share the resurrection of Christ in his or her own!
C) Its Burden
Great therefore is the burden of shame, but for the Gospel and in it, there is no shame. It is not that man becomes shameless or sinless, but with sin no more having dominion over him (John 8:30-31, Romans 6:8-14), and pardon having its wings spread over him, he has peace in the One who bore the shame and killed its content on the Cross (II Corinthians 5:17-21). The shame is no more his own; it is Christ's, who being immune to shame in Himself, as sinless, and discerning of all things, as God, removes it from interplay in His own death, and imbues His own people with His Spirit in His own resurrected life (Romans 8), so that in His name the beauty of holiness, untrammelled with carnal control, might manifest itself (II Corinthians 3:17-18).
Thus the plant is given a systemic aid towards immunity to sin's molestations which, though they strain to control, are severed as they seek. Sin shall NOT have dominion over the people of the Lord (Romans 6), though the disciplines may be severe and the excavations deep! (Hebrews 12).
It may seek as a Hitler to invade, but despite its bombings, it is repelled; and if it find a place, this becomes a site for victory (I John 1:7ff., 5:1ff), in the name of Him whose is the imprint.
It is this imprint to which Paul is referring in Romans 2, in terms of the thoughts of the more moral among men, as outside revelation, they seek for goodness. Many do; they are idealists, Marcus Aurelius' kind of tribe. It is a feature which is inscribed within (Romans 2:14-15), without the Gospel, but it is never liberated to share the power and place of God while the salvation of Christ has not restored the broken shafts and rubbled structures of truth in life.
As to this imprint which has desire, which seeks and probes for good: It is defiled, but it insists. It is harrowed, but it remains. There is that yearning which makes man vulnerable to every kind of malice from the molester, the devil, the adversary, and yet superior to the endeavours of that dark fountain of evil, and dissatisfied with his vices, advices and viciousness. It may be misdirected into the follies of programs of cultural conception, as empty in heart as in head; and in this, there may be millions slaughtered as efforts are made to secure control of the race by the adversative dynamics of devastation. This now all but rules this world.
The imprint may be distorted past recognition or squashed as if in a black hole; but it is there. In many, there is the upward search direct.
Such people do not by their desires, whether misdirected or merely nullified by lack of opening and entrance to God, because they know no Gospel and find no way, become superior and ready for acceptance by God. Such stirrings from the very nature of the imprint of the image of God in their creation are desirable; but men often desire without deliverance, being misdirected. Nevertheless, if in the day of the exposure of the fruits of the Gospel, some such are to be found, having been predestinated by the God who foreknowing all, misses none, it will not be because of their yearnings, however sublime in feeling, that they are to be found, but because in the sight of the all-wise God, the Gospel of grace has been seen to belong to them, and they are realised as those who receive where, past all sin and all dysfunction, before God they are seen as His own who foreknew them (Romans 8:30ff.).
This is neither by travesty of grace, as if God did NOT desire all to receive Him (contrary to Colossians 1:19ff.), and merely took what He wanted, nor by exaltation of human will (contrary to Romans 9:16, John 1:12), as if some discerned the better in their mere selves, and so were saved. Where sin does not make derelict, in the sight of the God who knows beyond pathology, there is no superiority or inferiority, but truth. Will being the cited ground of exclusion (John 3:19), despite the desire for inclusion by God, becomes thus relevant to God but not operative in this, by man, who is here aspirant but not effectual; for it is God who effects.
God knows, He foreknows; yet in the meantime, to our point at issue, it is this imprint of the image of God which makes man restless and yearning as he walks on the polluted earth amidst its cultural follies and petty programs; and the burden of sin which failure requires, or of unexpressed defeat, which mere aspiration can communicate in its deepest recesses, remains until Christ through the sacrifice of His own life in His own body, makes the spirit of man free once more. Nor is this enough for individual release as an historical act; it needs ultimately translation into reception, just as does a blank cheque which, though if entered will work well, is a piece of paper until registered, and no more. The DEED is done but the DELIVERANCE requires application of that deed. The deed is adequate, Calvary and resurrection in tandem, but its result is both individual and personal, applied by the living God without fault or failure to His people.
Ah but when those who have sought find, then is their rejoicing in heaven more than for myriads, for love has found its release in releasing what was bound, blinded but desiring, seeking but without light except from the embers of the image of God, still burning in the heart. Now is the imprint alive, and now is the grace endowed; for when the power of God in the Gospel of grace sublime works in a man, then imprint becomes imprimatur, and hope fact, regeneration restorative and election complete.
As to this imprint of God, it is like the depiction of beavers found in Lars Wilsson's 'My Beaver Colony'. It was found that when domestic arrangements were made for young beavers, in his own home, or in similar circumstances, that there was an IMPRINT. One beaver whom he especially loved became convinced, he felt sure, that he was the family portrait, the parent picture, the KIND emblem. It had, it seemed, more urge for fellowship with him than with its own kind. He had taken the place of parents and this was the orientation stamp which controlled its thoughts in certain regards of affection, affiliation and fellowship function.
Just so is it with God, but more also. Thus our imprint is not merely one of earliest nearness, it is one of creation. With the availability of ontological resources, the structure and function of being, of the soul, of the life, of the spirit of man, there comes a yearning, an aspiration which, squash and squelch it, carnally manipulate or manoeuvre it as you may, despise or regret it though you might, comes like wood to the surface of the ocean, to float despite the waves, and to arise from the sudden depths to which salient currents may temporarily assign it.
It is this which leads to what Paul describes in Romans 2, where Gentiles without the law may be yearning and burning and even in measure turning towards what is good and hopeful and eternal, though they do not have the map to direct their thoughts to the door into that divine reality where the basis and the outcome for such things might be found.
It is in the day when God "will judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ, according to my Gospel," as Paul declares, that all will be revealed and complete, the entire work in the Gospel of grace by the God who foreknows, who gains children of grace without the restraints of flesh, and beyond the mind of man, but not beyond the truth. Love is not selfish, but it is selective, and this selection is not on merit but despite demerit, not for reward of attainment but to enable its fulfilment, not to dictate but to grant and its exclusion as before God, past the mind and blight of man, is where before God the ultimate infernal preference for darkness dissipates in the light and the Lord finds His own.
It is not knowledge but receipt which matters; though without knowledge, no door can be found, though its outline may variously be discerned as may specks on the oceanic horizon.
Indeed, the inveterate seekers, though for the time without knowledge where the Gospel has not yet come, are the more vigorous a ground of condemnation to those, as Paul declares in Romans 2, who regarding themselves as teachers of babes, repositories of knowledge, yet do not take to heart the divine counsel, but merely conform in formalism, and have hearts unchanged. Though they are near in mouth, Christ declared, far are they in heart. It is the heart which matters (Matthew 15:8-14).
These diversifications being clear, however, we return to the fact that the Gospel, when received, brings the shame of sin to the name of the Saviour with expiatory perfection, and grace abounds for His people who, through His grace and place, find acceptance in the beloved. It is that same Beloved who built the vineyard (Isaiah 5) for Israel, and provides peace in pardon for the world, as many as receive Him, born not of flesh or culture or blood, or of the will, but of God. Alas for the burden of this world, many are those who want to be born of their wills, as if the imprint of godliness in their very creation enabled them to act despite the paralytic impact of sin in this field, but it is not so. ONLY GOD can deliver, or effectually call man, as you see so dramatically with Paul (Acts 9, Romans 9:16). Yet this is not to abort the relevance of will, merely to decline from its operational power; for it is as unable here as is a broken gear.
Very present, it is also very useless for this purpose until it is healed. It is God who both knows His own people to save them, and desires all people to reconcile them to Himself; but it is also God who loves, and love does not marshall by force or ignore the heart, but knows it - when it is the love of God. Rejoice therefore if you come to Him, and to not repine if you have not done so, but receive Him; for it is He who liberates, and trust Him, for He never fails who made, and who recreates by the power of the Gospel.
D) Its Target
Shame therefore has its target, for law has its place in our brilliantly constructed bodies, minds and spirits; but the new target is Christ (Isaiah 53:6), who became one by first entering this world (John 3:16) in and for a love which enshrines mercy and provides peace; and for Him, shame has no place, except vicariously, as He bears it for those others who find rest in His redemption, by His own blood. In death, He blotted out such shame; in life, as resurrected, alive for evermore (Revelation 1:18), He keeps His people (John 10:27-28) and keeps them clean (I John 1:7ff.).
E) It Misses its New Target
Thus shame cannot contact the New Target, Jesus Christ. He has tapped its force and swallowed it up. To Christians who have received the report and thus are ‘healed’, we find in Isaiah 53, He is the new Target for sin, since on HIM was laid the iniquity of us all. When then shame seeks a new place amidst a pardoned people, it seeks out the Christ who covers it, and cannot find a nook, since in His sinless perfection there is no cranny, crevice or speck to pick.
Ashamed of the Gospel of Christ ? Never. It alone brings life to fallen man, whose forsaken follies make even of the Christmas season a commercial picking rather than a reminder of salvation, as many seek the fruits of Christ without the function as Saviour and Lord. Hence the world wallows, but we who believe are not ashamed of their forsaken path to peace, as they war to virtual extinction, and wallow in folly. We prize the Gospel which is the power of God to salvation, though this world makes of it a butt for spurning.
II EXPOSURE TO THE POWER OF GOD
In the Gospel in particular, there is exposure of the very power of GOD! His power is very great and who can limit it! With God NOTHING shall be impossible (Luke 1:51). His resolution becomes reality.
This power of God is the basis for the energy stored even in matter, fragments of which may be used to make atomic bombs devastating on the release of just a small part of it, as no less for the vitality of life and the beauty of flower and cloud, lake and stream, and for the gift of eternal life, an even more exacting task which required the very blood of God incarnate (John 8:58, 6:50ff., Acts 20:28). His power, like His grace, is beyond measure, for God is without limit, as is His understanding (Psalm 147:5) and love (Ephesians 3:14-21). For Him and from Him, yes and to Him are all things, even the day of judgment as the way of salvation (Acts 17:31, Romans 11:36) is found or rejected (John 15:21-23, 3:36).
In the Gospel, you meet this very power of God, neat and direct. It is like visiting some huge atomic reactor powering scores of cities, and marvelling at the concentration of dynamic; but here, there is a limitless provision, and there is nothing, no nothing at all, too much for the power of God.
III ARRIVAL OF SALVATION
GIFT WITH GRACE TO ALL WHO BELIEVE and RECEIVE HIM
Here, apt for man, is that power directed to the attainment of salvation for man; for it has already laid down the foundation for it from God (I Corinthians 3:11), irrevocable and eternal (cf. Galatians 1:6-9); and it is the visit to THESE precious premises that can bring eternal life, and on entry, a place permanent within them (cf. I Peter 1:3-8). It is this Christ as Saviour, by this Gospel, who is by His Spirit, a source of exceeding joy and full of glory. It is He by this grace who is the gift that Christmas brings when it is UNWRAPPED! The power of God moving to salvation is this marvel, and as you see in II Timothy 1:8-9, this is what is predestined to every Christian, for he or she does not come by chance or the will of the flesh, as John is careful to note (John 1:12), but by the power of God and the foreknowledge and predestination of God.
This, let us be careful, is not a gift that breaches man’s image of God in his individuality, but it IS a gift which man in his sin CANNOT receive, except God Himself act to perform the work. God who knows all, KNOWS who are His and takes them (II Timothy 2:19).
If then you are one who has received His salvation, then it is the very power of God which keeps you to a salvation that does not fade away or become corrupted, but is reserved in heaven itself for you (I Peter 1:4-5), and it is by the POWER of God you are kept to this, says the Lord. Never allow sin to bring doubt to your mind, for this result is as sure as Christ is; but make sure that your faith is ENTIRELY in Christ, and NOT AT ALL in yourself, for man’s part in securing salvation is reduced to zero (Ephesians 2:1-8).
THAT is why it is sure, for who could contain so precious a thing and what power but that of God is adequate! Rest in that power and rejoice therefore, for the Gospel is the power of God to salvation. Moreover, act in that power, for it can banish the lordship of sin just as the cool wind removes the scorching heat of the day. Act whether Jew, whose nation slew the Saviour, or Gentile, whose nations slay Him in mind increasingly. Neither culture nor race, philosophy nor imagination will save you: it is the Gospel which in kindness is sent to humankind.
Trust Him, and put NO trust in your own works any more than you would trust in a flea for skin comfort (Galatians 5); and so your liberty in love will replace your fear of death in self-effort and self-affirmation (Hebrews 2, Matthew 16:24-27). It is not self-esteem which is needed, but self-crucifixion in Christ (Galatians 5:24, 2:20), and not self-trust but trust in the Lord which is rational, real and transforming WHEN you KNOW Him, whom to know is eternal life (John 17:1-3). It is not an episode, but forever. The power is not limited, but unlimited; and the trust is not in what is fallible, but infallible (Zephaniah 3:5, Hebrews 7:25, 6:19). It is in Him who has spoken, has come, has shown the way, has consigned it, has promised.
IV THE RIGHTEOUSNESS OF GOD MOVES FROM FAITH TO FAITH
In this way, it is the righteousness of God Himself, transferred by and in His own power, which you receive with Christ, who became sin for us that we in Him might become the righteousness of God (II Corinthians 5:21): that is, it is accorded to us, surrounds and encompasses us (Isaiah 61:10), so that we are covered by it, and walk in it, through the profound mercies of His action. That, it was in coming in the first place AS a man, and then dying in the second place FOR man, as many as received Him, and not some other, that Christ who is the Lord’s Christ, immune to manipulation and eternally the same (Luke 2:26 cf. Hebrews 13:8).
All this wonder, faith receives, and being justified by faith which embraces all that God has to give in the form He gives it and the Person who makes it free (Romans 3:23ff., 5:1ff.), the Christian lives in liberty (II Cor. 3:17), loving the Lord, beautified with salvation.
In Him, therefore rest, and there you find the very power of God to salvation, for which may His name be blessed for ever and ever.