AUSTRALIAN BIBLE CHURCH
January 17, 2010
the work of the Australian Presbyterian Union (1901),
the Lord without Compromise
and the Bible without Qualification,
The Rigorous Exclusions and
Marvellous Inclusions of
The Kingdom of Heaven
Matthew 18:21-25, Luke 17:3-7
Introduction to Part II
We have been considering the divorce between much that is SAID and what is the actuality, between fair words and foul deeds, between claims of goodness, faith, spiritual insight, propriety, virtue, reasonableness, and the realities. We continue to examine cases, illustrating both how EASY it is to enter through the divine door, which is hewn from the wood of the Cross, put together with the love of God, and kept ajar with the mercy of God (John 10:9); and, on the other hand, with what calamitous facility, what astute agility, sin snares, deceit envelops and a ready passage to eternity with the Lord, becomes a mere strident sedition, self-deceived, or more blatant in the end.
There is a dividing and there are grounds for it (John 3:19,36, Matthew 23:37ff., Luke19:42ff., Hosea 7:1, Jeremiah 51:9).
Thus there are marvellous inclusions in the kingdom of heaven, for you do not have to be great (I Corinthians 1:27-31), but to receive the Lord who is; and there are amazing exclusions, for cleverness with words or sneakiness of heart achieves nothing but its own exposure, unless the Lord Himself - acme of truth, its basis, centre of knowledge, its production site, and discerning love with all of its passion and restraint, in ultimate purity - is really received in repentance, and His gift adopted (Ephesians 1:1-7).
Fraud on Forsaking
At the end of last Sunday's sermon, this was pointed out: Being 'in the zone', where it matters, is not a mere matter of feeling, but of faith, which placed firmly in the Lord's Christ with no mutations in person or work from man, is still what saves, what each Christian would seek for all, whatever the outcome.
Before we proceed, let this be added. As to the walk in Christ, the mode of life, this issue of forgiveness arouses one close to it in certain outcomes. It is that of partnerships in business; and as each involves a parallel discipline it is well to mention this in passing.
Thus when the issue is not spiritual association with the cordially unrepentant, but with someone who indeed is an unbeliever, not involved in a forgiveness issue, but merely in a wholly contrary approach to life, partnership is similarly forbidden in the Bible (II Corinthians 6). You are not to be 'yoked' together with the unbeliever.
These are two cases with one outcome. It means that nothing of an intimate, a closely collaborative character, involving joint moral and ethical issues, marital or commercial, is to be chosen by a Christian. If it is an impersonal commercial matter, not dependent on personal relationships, that is one thing; but if it is a PARTNERSHIP, then this is expressly forbidden. The reason is simple: how COULD you use and choose things when you have contradictory bases, as if a body of arms and legs (each a person in this illustration) were to ride on two different horses. Stress and strain only end in compulsory division of the body in the end. It is required not to begin it at the outset! While confusion can readily arise, in this case, it is a trap.
Indeed, this is one element of a broader position, and here the case is simpler. Another way of avoiding the kingdom of heaven, beyond lack of forgiving spirit and heart, is to FAIL to sever from carnal control by evil talk (I Corinthians 5:11, 6:10), the swagger of the verbal dagger, sex play, drunkenness, covetousness, Paul there tells us. It is a transcendental matter. IF it is your spirit which is to be saved, then you cannot be Christ's while joined to a harlot. Would you, if a part of His body, join it thus! Do not be ludicrous! Would you have a part of His body slandering away with complete abandon ? Scarcely, for there is no place in heaven (Revelation 21:27) for liars. How does truth compound with lies ? Not in the light!
Yet once more, there is always room for the poor in spirit who, admitting with horror their sin, seek pardon and beg for it, seek help and trust in Him who gives it, and expect Him to do what He has promised (as in II Peter 1, Mark 11), in moving mountains. You are not excluded for slipping on the way up the mountain, but for walking down, or even delighting in the fall, and practising it, as if skiing down were the name of the game, not pious ascent as the view increases in glory, and the spirit is chided, trained, refreshed, revived and reinforced as one walks with Him whose mercy is profound. What more telling than this in Micah 7:
"Who is a God like You, pardoning iniquity and passing over
What a wonder is the Spirit of God! How marvellous are His works, how gracious His love, how He wells up in the fallen and works in the weak, who poor in spirit, seek His cover and protection, power, grace and pardon; for it is He who is the God who pardons!
This then is where the case applies: UNLESS you forsake ALL that you have, says Christ as recorded in Luke 14, You CANNOT be My disciple! Honey may stick to you, but that is a problem of cleansing, not will. In spirit, one MUST disallow all evil, turn one's heart from it and to the Lord, as He enables His children, and loves to do for those who come; but it must be without exception. Then the pardon is without exception. Children are ever His, and the spirits of the contrite, who tremble at His word, they are those to whom He looks (Isaiah 66:2).
Fraud on Commitment
But what if, seeking Him thus in all fulness of heart and poverty of spirit, one is suddenly trapped. In a normal if slightly risky cultural setting, common before one became a Christian. What if one is suddenly confused as people speak to you in their old mode, and it becomes strangely embarrassing to correct them or at least testify that for your part, Christ, and not what is being said or done, is the way! You fall, fail, are weak, all but contemptible. The spirit is numb, the heart withers. What is to be done ?
Repent! Think of the seventy times seven from the lips of Christ, and rejoice; and repent; and seek to put it right if you may, and never to repeat it in any case, and like Peter, find the way in the light, in His sight who strengthens (Ephesians 3:16, Luke 22:32). Christ's word to Peter, about his coming denial of Him, was followed by this, "and when you have returned to me, strengthen your brethren."
The Greek term here involves a turning of oneself, but also tends to imply a turning from one sort of thing to another, and hence repentance. It thus here means this: when you see your error, turn in appalled horror of what you thought you never COULD do, and so turn to Christ for pardon and peace, strength and restoration. Then, having learned your lesson, by a gracious strength, give help to your brethren, knowing what it is to fall, and to be picked up, both!
It is thus not some one instance of weakness which is the fraud, for God specialises in the weak; but rather it is NOT to return to the Lord, like Judas who instead hanged himself, though others simply hang about, unrepentant. Again, you cannot ride on two horses going in opposite directions at the same kind. This would be not to quarter you, but to half you, a sort of spiritual schizophrenia.
Commitment spiritually to God in heart by His grace, through received redemption in the midst of true repentance, through Christ as Saviour, breeds a new birth, with results inalienable (I John 3:9, 5:11-12). This, the new birth, is not the saviour but part of His savour. Leaning on Him and learning from Him, in intimate commitment, is like breathing. Thus, while you can hold your breath for a time, breathing is inescapable. The spiritual child breathes in the Lord and breathes in His vitality and lives according to prototype! Do not lean on the new birth, but on the Lord who gave it and sustains it with virtue and vitality.
Fraud on Accessibility
Again, some do not like the intimacy of Christ. They sin, they are rebuked. He stands at the door of their hearts. If they are His, they hear. He knocks. The heart, whosever it is, responds: Go away! not today, I am busy with sin, myself, my thoughts, my ambitions... Otherwise, it may say, Please enter. You are always welcome and I thank you for coming to seek me out. I surely and sorely need you. Look, I throw the door open and rejoice!
If not, then how is a car to be serviced at a distance ? By proxy ? but you cannot electronically put a distant car into the mechanic's hands, nor can you put a distant heart into those of the Lord.
This fraud in accessibility, so that you simply are NOT AVAILABLE! and DO NOT DISTURB! is written on the office door of your life, makes of you then a hypocrite. How talk of Christ, call yourself a Christian if to Christ for whatever reason, you are simply not available. In Revelation 3:14-22, where this case occurs, we should consider the preliminary to the picture of Christ knocking on the door.
It is this: "I know your works, that you are neither cold not hot. I could wish you were cold or hot." Ambivalence, neutrality, formality, superficiality is so far from God, that to those who insist on RETAINING so woeful a heart, He indicates this: "Because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth." Notice clearly that this is not a summons on poor performance, but on FAILURE to ALLOW Him access; and what child by faith of God Himself, would do that. He IS the Father. The heart IS His! But this finds out fraudulence, while giving the deliciously kindly and pitiful call to allow Him to enter.
Fraud on Faith
Finally we notice fraud on faith, where not Christ Jesus, crucified and bodily risen, but some substitute of the mind is made up, either by oneself or by one's own 'theologian' or 'school' and one follows that vomit. Consider the insult implicit in following someone's vomit in the place of the Lord's food! II Corinthians 11 speaks of another Jesus, another Gospel and another Spirit. Having no mind for the Lord's Christ, they duplicate Him.
Such may be wrought in Pentecostalism where it uses the "Spirit" in divorce from or movement beyond His word, and so runs precisely this risk. IF as in the Alpha Course, there is scope for advances beyond the word, such as seen in the alliance of the author of that course with Romanism as acceptable, and criticism of such large 'church' bodies as not; then you are running off the highway of holiness. This thus changes the Jesus into another, because it is the WORD of God which defines Him, the Spirit glorifying Him and sent by Him, and not speaking on its own authority. Following such false apostles is like trying to walk on water.
It can be done; by God; but when man tries it, not watching the written authorised word of God, then this displacement means that man displaces water and sinks! Such a result is fair enough. Instead, KEEP to the word of God and be safe, build on that rock and be sure: do not import concrete, nor dabble in various doctrines, driven by winds (Ephesians 4:14),
"carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men,
in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting."
Making up the word of God, seeking to 'progress' beyond the word defining the Lord and the Gospel for man (as in Matthew 5:17ff., John 14:23-26, Galatians 1, Revelation 22, Proverbs 30:6), is mere driven snow, dirty while reminding one of good, a mess while once so pure. This is fraud in faith. Such as follow such ways are named by Paul as "false apostles" and "deceitful workers" (II Corinthians 11:13), "transforming themselves into apostles of Christ."
Fancy even daring to use such a term as apostle, when there were 12 definitively (Acts 1), so that one having fallen, had to be replaced by one; and using such an extension indifferently, as if one could make news for the Bible, and deliver an Appendix for it from such inspiration! This contradicts Ephesians 2:19-20 likewise. Evicting the biblical Christ, it is itself ready for eviction.
Alas for the frauds. But the other way ? It is that of faith. Be therefore faithful, relishing HIS faithfulness who pardons you your iniquities, does not stay angry forever, "for He delights in mercy" and who in glorious addition from His OWN heart, proceeds to "cast our sins into the depths of the sea" while engaged in this delicious enterprise, that He will also "subdue our iniquities."
What will a tennis player seek to remove every kink from his serve, a golfer from his drive, or putting, and we consider the removal of all iniquity as too hard an aim, to searching ? May the good Lord forbid, and His people ever rejoice that His mercy fails NEVER! Faith has in Him an everlasting resource, so to Him put your course, to Him take recourse. God never fails (Zephaniah 3:5).
Glory in His Goodness
It is the wonder of His grace, the glory of His goodness and the magnificence of His holiness, that HE is not disdainful, and prefers a poor spirit and humble and contrite heart to the most massive parade of self-righteousness. Nevertheless, in all honesty and integrity, let us not lean to our own understanding, but prefer toying with a death adder, to defiling the glory of God, by distancing God, deleting His word, delaying obedience, or at all or ever being 'above' His commandments. Millenia pass; wisdom does not alter: Fear God and keep His commandments; love God and put His word as a signet, a ring on your finger, as one married and refusing to mar His glory by dissociation, deviousness. Instead, insist on His highway of holiness, that blessed path of peace and profundity, where God rules.