AUSTRALIAN BIBLE CHURCH
January 6, 2013
Presbyterian Church following the Bible without Qualification
and the Lord Jesus Christ without Compromise by Faith
Recently, in the Christmas season, our topic was newness. The newness was essentialised in Jesus Christ, incarnate God in flesh. There was a time before it happened, when it was predicted, then one when it happened. In impact, this was far greater than that of any asteroid; for this works for the salvation of many, that for their destruction. Once the greater event had happened, there was a visible FOUNDATION, poured out from its celestial source, and laid as foretold (I Corinthians 3:10-11). Today we look at its ASPECTS, its CONSPECTUS, and its RESULTS in terms of faith.
I ASPECTS OF THE FOUNDATION
The foundation for faith is laid. It was foretold in just such terms in Isaiah 28:16. A sure foundation, a precious stone was to be laid, and anyone believing in Him would not make haste - that is, not be in a flurry and a torment, in useless toil and fluttery uncertainties, being rather confirmed and contained in the surety of this provision from heaven, this foundation now made manifest on earth. This evokes a comparison. Flurry, scattery thoughts, foolish actions, scurrying ideas seem to have marked the government of Australia for some years now, so that in sum, we owe vast amounts to an atheist nation, and appear to be scamping our defence.
This for nation or for individual, is the wrong way: go back. It rejected a Bill of Rights by referendum, some years ago. Now the country is foolishly pondering what is a Bill of Wrongs, its new song, almost like a new patriotism in which facts and justice, truth and reality are given a back seat: in the driver's seat, instead, is FEELING of offence, EXACTION for causing it. There is no noticeable reference to a referendum.
Obvious is the vast SCOPE for criminals to abuse the upright with false charges. Presumption of guilt on the part of the accused starts, while a subjective ground continues in the examination of these potential victims of splaying law. Called an Anti-Discriminatory Bill (Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination Bill, 2012), it is heavily charged against those attacked by its means, these being freely able to spend in their own defence till near to exhaustion! What then is view ? is it voluntary torture that is under option in this grievous and dangerous Bill, law replacing understanding, and control, common sense.
That is a relevant application of the biblical text, society replacing spirituality, psyche truth and the worship of man's ideas, works and ways, those of God. It is like a call to fall before the subjective psyche. Thus appears the sleepy substitute, in this Psychic Idol and Social Authority, for the reality of justice and truth, of feeling for fact, the ways of God ignored in its apparatus, misled and misplaced. Should this therefore pass, it will institute in this way a new religion, for this our land, as in parallel was done for Israel of old. Then what ? Then it is looking for a trouble, one which this land has scarcely seen. For this it would wait.
In Isaiah 28:15, the prelude to the announcement of the Messiah, we learn what He is replacing. Their situation was so like ours now, if the nation falls for any more of this riotous subjectivity.
"Because you have said, 'We have made a covenant with death,
and with Hell we are in agreement;
when the overflowing scourge passes through, it will not come to us,
for we have made lies our refuge, and under falsehood have we hidden ourselves:
Therefore thus says the Lord God..."
The following message of divine displeasure is this: He is going to lay a sure foundation with a precious and tried stone, what will last and not break, endure and not end, and he who believes in Him will not act hastily. Instead of their fictitious fascinations and intrigues, God states that He will make JUSTICE the measuring line, and RIGHTEOUSNESS the plummet. Instead of what you feel, or what attracts or offends you, your whim, will, caprice, what is true will be real and what is just will not waver. Power given to these or those without equality before the law will end, and evidence as the sure certainty above all, will resume. Rules will not be based on unruly concoctions of thought and prejudice, but actuality, with due regard to motive, method, plan, purpose and result. Truth will have dominion, and mercy its place (Psalm 72). What is right will once again replace what is desired, or merely felt or made an object of virtual worship. Man will cease to be the criterion, and the Lord whose law is given to our race, will resume, amid a redemption which tunes the heart.
However, if this be not believed in, as was foretold to happen in Israel and did (Isaiah 49:7), if this sure foundation is ignored, then this was the message:
"Your covenant with death will be annulled, and your agreement with hell will not stand;
when the overflowing scourge passes through, then you will be trampled down by it."
In all things, it is well to consider what you do; for there is a price associated with it, and whatever flurries of man arrogantly opine, the word of God has its outing in its day. The "lucky country" is not so blessed that folly may not point it to its ruin. It applies to one, as to all, and all nations are facing the results of faithlessness, humanism, secularism or sundry idols, as in North Korea quite explicitly, in the form of two huge statues, available for worship.
In Isaiah 46:4 however, we see a "remnant" who DO believe, as have many both in Israel and in other nations. The message to these continuing believers is this:
"Even to old age, I am He, and even to gray hairs I will carry you! I have made, and I will bear; even I will carry, and will deliver you."
As our God has made us, so will He, being in agreement with our resting on Him and His foundation, carry us, and deliver us. It is in this to Jew as well as to Gentile believer (Isaiah 42:6, 49:6). As a mother bears a child, so we are born again (John 3); as He has borne us into very existence spiritually, as well as physically, SO in proportion and responsibility will He carry and deliver.
That is one aspect of the Foundation, the Christ as in I Peter 2:6-8. God WILL BEAR His people (A).
The same thought is found in John 10:9 with 10:27-28, for where one enters into His kingdom through Him as the door, salvation is sure, and these His sheep know Him, hear His voice and follow Him, and it is impossible for their spirits to perish, or to be condemned (John 5:24), for He has borne their sin also (II Corinthians 5:17ff.). They also follow Him, not some substitute; His word, not some revision of it, let alone a contradiction; and they do not follow some slithery substitute, however named.
So the second aspect of the foundation is this, that the salvation from sin and judgment, in and on this basis, is sure (B).
The third is found in II Timothy 1:9. Those saved are so according to the purpose of God (C) and His grace, given to us in His foreknowledge before time began. God never fails (Zephaniah 3:5).
It is also a foundation for an active faith (D), which like a drop of concentrated acid in a base, is inclined to cause quite a fizz, a response. Faith is seen in operation in Malachi 3:16-18, when those who loved the Lord got together and made their names plain as His, when evils mounted. It is just as clear in Malachi 4:1-2, where the height and depth of contrast is shown where the proud innovators and idolaters, whether of man or objects or ideas, worshippers of something not worthy of it, are as stubble to the flame; and where for those who reverence the name of God, "the Sun of Righteousness shall arise with healing in His wings." Such are free to go an to grow.
Of faith, you see the Gospel which enshrines it with the Lord its object, with Paul set for its DEFENCE and CONFIRMATION (Philippians 1:7). Here the Lord acts in word as also with amazing deeds of miraculous and enduring character (I Cor. 4, II Cor. 4, Acts 16ff.), as wrought through the apostle; and both these elements cohere. Indeed in Hebrews 11:1 and the applications which startlingly and categorically follow, there is the account of faith's NATURE, vested and resting in what is invisible, like man's spirit, but much more, in the inventor of spirits and the Lord of all domains. It involves ASSURANCE, and CONVICTION, the latter both in certitude and evidential reality. When you know God, you know His hand as well as His heart (Jeremiah 9:23-24).
As to faith, which rests in this tried and precious stone, this Rock, and ONLY GOD is the Rock (Psalm 62), its activation is seen in Acts 2:14-17, as the Lord acts and enables, desiring all, in love saving those reached and foreknown. This is not for what they will do, but through the foreknowledge of Him who in love seeks all for all in sincerely in reality, and knows who are His (II Timothy 2:19).
II CONSPECTUS for FAITH
If faith is well founded, it will not be confounded. This is part of the message both through Jehoshaphat, noted in II Chronicles 20:10ff., and Isaiah as recorded in Isaiah 7.
1) With King Jehoshaphat, there was an invasion afoot, multi-national, potentially horrifying. Nations not despoiled as Israel entered into their divinely chosen heritage, had made an alliance, and the King rehearsed the reasons why this was an exceptionally gratuitous and evil thing, before the Lord. Wisely, he stopped off at the God stop, before going on. Then the Lord sent the prophet Jahaziel. Do not be afraid of this great multitude, he challenged, for "the battle is not yours, but God's." God had accepted Jehoshaphat's heartfelt referral of the matter, taking account of the promises of God, and sent this prophet not only with this message. Tomorrow, he directed, go down against them, and he informed them just where the enemy was located.
"You will not need to fight in this battle. Position yourselves,
stand still and see the salvation of the LORD,
who is with you, O Judah and Jerusalem."
Such we find in II Chronicles 20:17. As the day came, so the godly Jehoshaphat gave the message:
"Believe in the LORD your God, and you will be established;
believe His prophets and you will prosper."
As to faith, with what does it deal here ? it has in its ambit, the promises of God, the citation of need, the appeal to the One whose promissory note, in each case, is found in the Bible, and in reliance, it rests on the Lord. Do NOT fail to TRUST Him; do not fail to do so in terms of His WORD! It is like the Great Commission found in Matthew 28: preach the Gospel and teach all the commandments, to DO them. Some formalistically neglect to trust, some negligently forget to make obedience a supreme target, yes in terms of ALL His commandments as specified in Matthew 28. Neither distortion by omission is sound. Neither is founded aright: both elements in integrity are specified. If you put sugar and milk with your tea, and omit the tea, or substitute what you want instead, you make something else. God specifies; we do. God is a Spirit, but He speaks: both aspects are applicable.
Faith does not shrink from either; rejoices in both; sees its way and is refreshed; indeed in Acts 2:22ff., 3:21, we find that to come in the period between the ascension of Jesus Christ, the incarnate God, and His return to rule and to judge, there are to be seasons of refreshing, that His Spirit is to be poured out. So is preparation duly made for that restoration and implementation of His rule. Faith as a subject for navel inspection is vain, a psychic oddity; but faith with an object who has the power and makes the promises to act on specific grounds, this is operational in reality; and the 20/20 vision here of Jehoshaphat makes sound testimony, amidst obedient action.
2) Accordingly, there is a negative to such effectual proceedings for faith. You can equivocate, lawyerize, prepare pronouncements, neither true nor relevant. You may make of faith one sort of extension of your own person, with God called in so that He just might lend help to you. That is not faith, but presumption. You either find and believe, or you merely hope. Hope entertains thoughts; faith beds them down, in residence, and treats them as welcome guests.
Not so did King Ahaz, who defiled the office of King in his own day, and this in reply to one of the most magnificent offers in all of history, to fill in his own bill, rather like being told in an expensive hotel, to order any room, food or favour you please. He, however, merely muttered, muzzling faith with mistiness. I WILL NOT TEMPT the Lord, said he mystically, in reply to the unqualified OFFER from God through the prophet. There was no faith, so no receipt, and as we shall shortly see, the cost was enormous. Faith is clear-cut, and resides in trust in the One in whom one believes, in His power and promises, reliability and adequacy, and does not bother to doubt, any more than your faithful spaniel bothers to doubt that your goings warrant accompaniment and are a delight and a joy to follow.
III RESULTS in terms of FAITH
The result for King Ahaz, and those who suffered him was inglorious. From this, be advised: remember it is in a democracy, YOU who vote for a particular government, either bother to check what it offers, what presumptions of power or humility of grace it shows. or do not. You are not powerless. If you are interested, probe, pray and proceed. If God wills to punish a nation, so be it; but your prayer will not be in vain, either in this or that aspect, whether in your own physical deliverance or your use as a faithful testimony in the midst of the mêlée.
For some 700 years, Judah awaited the Messiah whom Isaiah was moved to promise, showing both His sufferings and provision for pardon, His meekness and His power. Israel, delivered from a minor contretemps with invaders, was NOT delivered from a far worse one to come, captivity wrought by Babylon, to be followed by the complete, permanent and acute devastation of this, their oppressor (Isaiah 14:3-9, 13:17-19, Jeremiah 25, 50-51). Thus God showed them mercy (Isaiah 39-40), but first faith failed in Ahaz.
Instead of such a national lapse and idolatry, faith sees the light of mercy, and proceeds to it with all diligence and energetic expedition. Psychic self-reliance, whether or not God is given the occasional glance, in terms of what a person is doing, as an extra in the caste, is vain. Customised religion is inconsequential. When you are dealing with God, remember this: HE is dealing with you, and His word IS law. In it is the beauty of holiness, but also the reality of truth.
The result for Judah included 70 years in exile to the Babylon which would come, after the escape from the initial ravages of Assyria (Isaiah 39-40, Jeremiah 50-51). Skew the view and you meet reality with a crash, sooner or later.
Take the other case noted. For faithful Jehoshaphat, the result of his tender-hearted, God-fearing presentation of the issues of concern, to the Lord, rehearsing the case with care in terms of the very word of God, was twofold. Firstly, a prophet showed precisely what to do, and gave confidence in the outcome, which was stated in amazing detail, an utter destruction of the invading army, without even a fight! Secondly, this is just what happened, and the army was singing as they went to the site shown them, and rejoicing as they returned.
This was a special case, since it did not involve suffering; but then, each case with the Lord is special, as His wisdom works and His love attests in so many ways, often by the faith of His people, His goodness and His provision not just for mankind, but for ANYONE who calls upon Him, calls in faith, according to His word. From physics when it accords with scientific method, you may get some idea of the nature of the working of this universe; from the Bible in your operations before the Lord, you get all you could properly wish to discover in the working of God toward man, His provisions, promises, desires, morals and mission for you and love. You are told how to enter; how to proceed. Faith seizes the offers, and joy abounds.
It is useless to construct in your imagination universes of another kind, when trying to cope with this one; and to seek to construct other words from other gods, since there is but one source of the language of life, one language, one Creator. Dependent on no system, either express or implied, wholly independent, utterly reliable, showing His law and order, predictions, promises and personal intentions and plans, amidst the flurries, worries and wickedness of man, without ceasing (cf. Matthew 5:45), He has sent the Saviour and done all. Worship Him then, avoid the mark of the beast in its psychic, moral and religious sanctions, and live in the truth and love of God. B reasonable, be righteous but not self-righteous for the righteousness of faith receives it from Him (Romans 5:17), and rely on the Lord. In all, do not by any means forget to FOLLOW HIM. He is foundation, and so foundational in all things.