AUSTRALIAN BIBLE CHURCH – March 8th., 2009
A CONTINUATION OF THE
ORIGINAL THRUST AND BASE OF
THE PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH OF AUSTRALIA, ON CHANGELESS BIBLICAL LINES
THE ULTIMATE IRONY
CREATE, RESURRECT, EMPOWER:
TO THIS WORLD IT MAKES NO
QUITE SIMPLY – IT HAS ANOTHER GOD WHO IS NO GOD:
BUT IT SERVES HIM ANYWAY
DON’T PUSH, IT’S NOT THAT SORT OF KINGDOM
Jesus Christ had just told a parable, making a telling point concerning honesty, integrity and doing your work faithfully, not slackly or dishonestly, so that even if you did err, you set about putting it right AT ONCE, on pain of judgment deserved. A heart of goodness was required, so that for sin, you repented, remembered what was wrong, and sought in good faith, to rectify it.
The Pharisees were appalled. Riches were a love of theirs, and the thought of not maximising opportunities, with perhaps a certain flair, air, triumph and spurt, with not too much concern about details of results on the way, was apparently obnoxious to those of them who heard the parable preceding our text. They laughed at Him. What a yokel, what an unsophisticated! He did not know how real life went (really ? but He DID know where UNREAL life went, of what order it was, the place of rats who do not live in palaces, except amid the rafters).
In reply to the mockery of the Pharisees, Jesus made this declaration.
1) “YOU are those who justify yourselves before men.” He added this:
2) “But God knows your hearts.” Indeed, He enunciated a principle, in this arena:
3) “For what is highly regarded among men is an abomination in the sight of God.”
Thus their AIM was to look good. What really happened, what injuries, what travesties, these were only superficial. Get the stuff, get the name, get the place and HOLD ON TO IT. THAT was what mattered. Survive, accumulate, be important. There are many such.
The defect was this: that GOD the Judge, KNEW their hearts. Man is hoodwinked often by power and pretence, prestige and false glory, giving obeisance, bowing to abomination; but when it comes to the sum up of your life and its destiny, NO deceit can work. You shrivel to your spiritual reality, depravity or actuality! In the end, truth will out.
The law and the prophets were till that time, but Christ had come calling REPENT for the KINGDOM OF HEAVEN IS AT HAND (Mark 1:15), BELIEVE THE GOSPEL. This He taught. The Gospel had been preached, and as to the kingdom of God, “everyone is pressing into it.” With reality ? Of course not, for He was rebuking appearance in the face of reality, and the concept of PUSHING indicated the counter-productiveness of such action. Push or be accepted: there is no middle ground. Violence is irrelevant here (John 18:36); grace overflows, and it is free (Romans 3:23ff., 10:1ff.).
In Matthew 11:12, where Christ is seen speaking on the same topic, He declares that the kingdom suffers “violence”, and that the violent take it by force. As to that, He did not mean that by killing HIM for example, the prime example of vile violence, you could get a ticket for the place! You don’t expect to assassinate the King and THEREFORE get a ticket to the palace banquet … scarcely! rather to its dungeons. Christ is mocking their violent pretensions and ludicrous expectations, that they could even force themselves on GOD!
One remembers one Presbyterian Minister, who presumably on some such confused basis as this, declared (and acted it out): “I am a man of violence.” The poor creation made an ass of himself, undiscerning in his appointments and disappointments, in a path leading to an enormous ruin. Violence … blessed are the poor in spirit! They do not agree. Put up your sword, Peters (cf. Matthew 26:52ff.), for the only one that counts here is the SWORD OF THE SPIRIT (Ephesians 6), the Word of God, written, realised and released in flesh, in incarnation: this with impact in and on your heart.
IN FACT, to revert to our passage in Luke 16, Christ proceeded, dropping for the time His irony, to declare that not even the smallest part of the law or the prophets is going to evaporate (as some dispensationalists seem to imagine – it is statedly to stay or BE FULFILLED, obedience in itself never purchased pardon, only the sacrifice to which it led, and that, it depended on faith in the heart as in Deuteronomy 29:19ff. in the negative, and Psalm 32 in the positive domain).
God does NOT alter. His standards do NOT change. His word is NOT cancellable. Laws provided symbolism in ritual and education; but either this was fulfilled in a spiritual liberty based on what was wrought, or it was still applicable. Law does not save, Christ’s blood received in faith as HIS, this does so; but slither will not sanctify you. No not a tittle will be lost, Christ declared; there was no sleazy way to heaven, nothing for self-serving foxes.
So MUCH is this so, that in the parable which Christ went on to tell, the thing was staggering to the meritorious, an affront to the internally glorious and a staggering blow to the sin-dismissive, law mutative multitude.
THE KINGDOM IS A GIFT, NOT A GRAB -
A poor man lay outside the gate of a rich man of repute. Dogs licked his sores. The rich was not interested. In heaven, the poor man soon found himself; but the rich one, now in hell, asked if the poor man from his heavenly bode could possibly be sent to his damned condition, with a drop of water for his seized tongue. Abraham advised him that he had already had his good things; and that besides, there was a great gulf, impassable, between them. Poverty had not saved the poor man since God is a Spirit, and by grace THROUGH faith you are saved (Ephesians 2); but apparently this had operated in his heart, and though to THIS WORLD he remained a piece of human refuse, amid its glitter, fraudulent power and push for position, he for all his poverty, had entered into eternity where grace ruled.
In Christ’s parable, the rich man then pled then with Abraham to have someone sent to his family to warn them: No said Abraham, they have the law and the prophets, IF THEY DO NOT BELIEVE THEM, NEITHER WILL THEY BELIEVE EVEN IF SOMEONE DID IN FACT RISE FROM THE DEAD.
This is a most revealing parable. In fact, you see this deviation from any concept of righteousness as a key, in the Dawkins crusade against God, the God of the Bible, the Old Testament part of which – in fact, inseparable from the New*1 – he vainly seeks to attack. Indeed, more directly, the God of this part he seeks to deliver from existence in men’s minds or elsewhere. One has written a 20,000 word refutation of this meta-mythical muddle, this libel on the Lord; but it is apparent that either the Spirit of God awakens a man to repentance for what he is, and for what he is NOT! the negative failure to do and the positive failure to BE, or else he stays dead in spirit, in heart, his mind catapulted to the pit in its spiritual ignorance (cf. Ezekiel 37, Acts 11:18. John 1:12-14).
That God before all time chose His own (Ephesians 1:4), and that He equally would like to win all (Colossians 1:19ff.), are facts. None can possibly enter hell except in the sight of God, there is nothing else for it, except force; and as to that, He declines to use it in salvation: for how would force alter the truth of a spirit, such as man has! The forceful seek to push into the kingdom of God by force, by their end is not admirable, as the parable shows.
PERFORMANCE IS IRRELEVANT TO THE BLIND
Now the ultimate in ironies. You can imagine the smirking mouths of the Pharisees: They would not believe though one rose from the dead! Christ said. How ridiculous … of course they would believe! – such might well be the musings of these lordly Pharisees. Surely ANYONE would believe in such a case: rising from the dead is ultimate, it shows a power beyond man, that which made Him and hence is the destining power. You can imagine fresh chortling from them, at this statement from the Lord.
But THIS IS PRECISELY WHAT DID HAPPEN. FIRST, Lazarus was in an elaborate experiment (as far as man was concerned) allowed to proceed for 4 days of rotting after death, and was THEN raised in the sight of all, coming out with his grave-clothes still on. Did they believe in the Christ who, calling on the name of His Father, wrought this resurrection (not the first from His hand) ? Of course not; for there was a slavish spirit of this world which did not want lowly people to do mighty things and to have a grace of the Gospel crusade in their midst: they STILL wanted to PUSH in and to GRAB. This was their nature; and the leopard loved his spots.
But this led on to the supreme irony, on the substance of which hangs the whole unholy history of this world since that time: and it gets worse as it grows older, this history, this earth. It is like gnarled old flesh; but this is spiritual life, inveterately reared in vice and exhibited in pride. It is more than gnarled, for it is gross.
They were given the maximum exposure. CHRIST Himself was surely a better one to send than anyone else. It was not Lazarus the beggar, back from the dead: it was God supremely committed to "ransom them from the power of hell," and to "redeem them from death". Indeed, as He declared in Hosea 13:14, "Death, I will BE your plagues" and "Hell, I will BE your destruction" - NOTHING, He indicated, would turn Him from this most blessed and benevolent task, though it was He, God Himself, who would do it - as in its time, He did!
If God came in the Person of His only begotten Son, sent from the eternity of heaven, that glorious Messiah whose works were predicted, whose words were of limitless dominion over nature, who could deploy spirits and send them, and HE HIMSELF was torn by the sins of calculating men, and then resurrected in three days as repeatedly foretold: what then ?
Was this sufficiently spectacular for them ? summary enough ? Was it not elevated to the heavens and brought to the earth itself ? Was it not accompanied by enough dynamic in the healings that preceded, and the resurrections Christ first performed, at the very date predicted by Daniel (cf. Mini-Messages ... Ch. 10)! What then indeed ? Did faith flower like seeds watered in Spring sunshine ? Far from it. Did reason work ? Did the obvious prevail ? Did in fact mere eternal life count when current power and glory were to hand! It did not.
Then the guilt of the murder which they intended and later committed, the horror of being displaced from the grace of God, the fear of God in this, that those who ran religious things in the theocracy, who even used His name, yet did not obey Him (Luke 6:46. Matthew 21:13) were confronted, exposed, and the desire to be lords would be countered: such forces inhibited faith. These things or others like them, and more, doubtlessly worked. As you read in John 11, the High Priest thought it EXPEDIENT - great word - that Jesus the Christ should 'perish' in order that the hnation should live (that is, escape the danger of Roman invasion because of their 'king'). To survive, then, they refused faith, and instead took two fatal steps.
Firstly, since Lazarus was such a good witness to fact, and to Christ, they made plans to put him to death, to ensure he died a second time! THAT was a measure of their willingness to act on evidence: they wanted their will, and were ready to kill evidence; and in this they are precisely in accord with such theories as those (for they are many, like ‘legion’ in the devil-possessed man) of organic evolution, which ignores the fact that every result of creation is found, and none of transmutation is ever observable, nor the means for it. THAT is the way of this world, and from such a base, NO ONE CAN PUSH INTO THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN. If survival is your name for creation, death your idea of what it takes to make man, then you will believe anything; but the truth will jar like a mountain falling on you: and in this, recall Matthew 21:44.
When Christ did die, He not put Himself in their hands a second time; nor could they kill the resurrected body. But the die was cast, and He instructed His people, empowered them, blessed them and having finished all things, departed till the Gospel did its universal work, in preparation for His return.
What other steps did the religious powers-that-were take ? Secondly, as to Christ Himself, they paid soldiers to say disciples abstracted His body while they as guards simply slept, thereby earning death for themselves; but instead these soldiers gained a reward, the price of a lie. What price insanity!
HOW could you tell who did what, when you were asleep ? How could you report what disciples did when you were dead to the world ? Has desperation no intelligence that it must maunder such follies!
Again, how could you, if a guard, give up your life by being casual concerning such a tumult as this crucifixion, or escape being made a towering example! Imagination was the basis, elevation was the evidence and the power of God in the apostles the confirmation. Moreover, the disciples sought no hell for being liars, nor were they cowardly as if frauds, but vital and commanding, fearless and testifying with frank defiance and glorious simplicity, they paid what it took and paled at nothing. Neither did fear intimidate them nor did priestly fury shut their mouths (Acts 3-5, 12): if to death they went, why worry ? If they should escape, that provided all the more opportunity to testify to the truth (as happened in fact, shown in Acts 5:20ff., a glorious example of impenetrable devotion to truth and fearless constancy under pressure).
They were irrepressible, could be slain, but the truth could not.
But what of the office-bearers who slew Him ? Look at the case. Not only did they not BELIEVE when He rose from the dead, and no rational reason could be found for the entirety of the evidence, but they harassed this time the only bodies they could get their hands on, killing people like James (Acts 12) and such a wonderful person, adorned with mighty works at the hand of the Lord, as Stephen (Acts 7). The one party was willing to die with glowing face and fearless conviction; the other just killed, imprisoned, blustered, threatened. Truth does not need to threaten; knowledge of eternal life, demonstrated, does not need to fear. Reality does not need to invent the ludicrous; it just uses power and proceeds.
In the case of Stephen, they rushed at him when he gave them the biblical and evidential testimony, cut to the heart and cutting off his life in a sort of dance-like, sinuous weaving of rage and death, in a mortality waltz, only to be forgiven by Stephen who came knowingly to the glory of the Lord.
Indeed, when Christ DID rise bodily from the dead (Luke 24, John 20:24ff.), how verified were the words of His parable concerning the rich man and the beggar: EVEN IF one were to rise from the dead, yet they would not believe. He did and they didn't - no, it is not that they did not rise from the dead, for that comes to all in the end, and assuredly they did not then: HE DID RISE and THEY DID NOT BELIEVE. This is another verification of the power and accuracy of Jesus the Christ. Even in this, He was not carried away: what He said was precisely true. If it was an amazing exposure of their dedication to unbelief, yet it was a verifiable and confirmed prognosis.
Indeed, THIS WORLD has another God (as in John 14:30, II Corinthians 4:3-4), and better love truth with the kingdom of God, than slay with those deflected by desire, inept through rebellion.
if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost:
In whom the god of this world has blinded the minds of those who do not believe,
lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God,
should shine into them.”
*1 See for example, Matthew 5:17-20, II Peter 1:19-21, SMR Appendix D, The Just One. .