AUSTRALIAN BIBLE CHURCH January 22, 2012
A Presbyterian Church following the Bible without Qualification
and the Lord Jesus Christ without Compromise by Faith
in agreement with the thrust of the
of the Presbyterian Church of Australia, 1901.
The Path of Pilgrimage in Christ the Conqueror,
This morning, we
continue our theme from last week. Meanwhile let us note that with John
12:22-26, we have moved on to WORD FOUR, showing the reality both of the
challenge and the life in Christ, thrusting in His spiritual vitality of
conquest, not in imperial pomposity, but abundantly into life itself (Ephesians
GRAIN AND GAIN
As a grain apparently just dies, but in fact has a closely related but entirely different life in the visible light of life, arising after the hidden little life in the earth which preceded it, so would it be in the victorious working of God in His people. In other words, to "love" your life is the way to lose it, and far from a victory if you achieve its ambitions at all, is the most miserable of defeats, a defiance of deity and contrary to the necessities of living before God.
Positively, He proceeded, IF you so die like the seed, not evaluating your nice plump and perhaps golden seed condition, but freely abandoning this for life in the Lord, as provided, then you will bear much 'fruit'. Stalks arise and each may have much grain, jointly a marvel of multiplying productivity. It is profitable spiritually, personally productive and a work of God in you. Indeed, if you could even be said to "hate" your life, that is realise that so far from being the 'real' you, it is detestable and as infected has to be seen in its sinful source and in Christ overcome (I John 5:4), then it is the properly planted eternal life. It is this which constitutes the grant to the surrendered grain, to the pardoned person, arrested by the Christ now seen, and endued with the gift of eternal life. It is one of the special features of this victory, that faith is its means, so that the gift being given, the discipline and growth follows (Hebrews 12), and the task being assigned to the newly reborn, there is no turning back except by transitionists, those who only fell a little in mid-air, swirled about, and never hit the earth for regeneration into a growing plant.
But WHEN the seed falls to the earth, and WHEN repentance has led it so to do (as in Luke 13:1-3), for this is always prior, and WHEN the heart has a new Master and life a new dimension (as in Titus 2-3, John 3), THEN eternal life is already present, so that categorically there is no passage on to judgment, and there is a steady state. It is one having passed from the past turmoil preparatory to eternal death, to the present estate of life (John 5:24). Hence John 5:47 simply states that "he who believes in Me has eternal life," while I John 5:11ff., signifies the need to realise this and Matthew 11:27ff., the need to rest in Him who gives it, as indeed does Hebrews 4.
What however of the person who is thus adopted as a child of God (as in Eph. 1:1-11), who has in Christ already "obtained an inheritance" as in I Peter 1:3-7, where it is reserved in heaven ? Then the case is this: WHERE I AM THERE WILL MY SERVANT BE. It is so at the present, where the Lord sends, it is so in the end, where destination becomes a glorious destiny in Him and with Him, who has gone to prepare a place. It is so in toil on earth, in rest in heaven, in preparation and in consummation. He will NEVER leave nor will He forsake His own. He is to be consulted, for He is King; and He is to be followed because He is God, who having come to this earth, now deals in diligence with us.
THE CAPTAIN IN THE CONQUEST
AND THE CATAPAULTING INTO THE FIELD
John Newton, famous for his 18th century womanising, slave-trading, Christ-mocking, horrendous reception of lashings and oppression when his enemies gained power over him, as for his humiliation and his continuation till deliverance came, was unlikely to be called ? In one way, yes: for such a prelude does not bespeak such a passion as became his. However, just as not many are great who are called (I Cor. 1:27), so some are much abased who are delivered from the ranks of ruin, flamboyance, notoriety not to be desired and positive evil, to placement by God in His service. In between are many a mental, spiritual, moral or intellectual concussion, yes or even physical; and there may be seethings of spirit which are precipitated into scorching volatilities that assault the soul. Yet in the end, there is God and there is man, and there is no limit with the Lord.
Consider Newton's prelude to becoming a famous proponent of anti-slavery and a mighty worker for the Lord. He was flogged for failure to keep to ship's orders, kept in slave-like humiliation by a proud slaving family, among slaves, and seemingly had a bullet pass through his hat, but not his brow, when out hunting. He was nearly overcome by a mutiny, despite his attempt at especially merciful treatment of crew and slaves, nearly lost with a broken life in a drifting ship on his way back to England; and thus sensitised, but not sanitised, he was at last brought to realise his errors and come to his senses ? ...
No, far better than that, to gain vision and understanding of his Lord (Jeremiah 9:23-24), whom he at last recognised as having preserved him not once, but often, from a deserved death in a storm of mocking, spiritual antipathy, to a doomed end. He had intervened in mercy and in majesty. How amazing the Lord's grace, how special His deliverances, how singular His provisions, how personal His interest, how provident His grace, how powerful His control, how utter His wisdom! Here in essence, liberty finds love, love Lordship both authentic and divine, and man is rescued from secession of spirit.
GRACE COVERS ALL ACCOUNTS
All this, it is true of the Lord; and Newton was staggered by it, delighted and awe-stricken, as well he might be. He later encouraged the delightfully merciful and devoted William Wilberforce, whose tenacity for deliverance of slaves is one of the choicest of career characteristics, in his crusade against British slave dealings; and then went on to become a famous preacher and hymn writer. One hymn, the internationally beloved "Amazing Grace," is indicative of his sense of selection by grace for service in faith. A copy of some of it follows.
Amazing grace! (how
sweet the sound)
That sav’d a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now am found,
Was blind, but now I see.
’Twas grace that
taught my heart to fear,
And grace my fears reliev’d;
How precious did that grace appear,
The hour I first believ’d!
Thro’ many dangers,
toils and snares,
I have already come;
’Tis grace has brought me safe thus far,
And grace will lead me home.
There is a local position of every Christian for God: be it as in Newton's prelude time in slave trading and debasement, as preparatory to conversion, or as in Paul's many episodes of imposing chains or floggings. There follows a vocal time, a testimonial day after divine deliverance. Thus Paul willingly himself suffered these very things in serving Christ, that he had earlier imposed on others (Colossians 1:24); while Newton, former slave-ship Captain, in his testimony before Parliament, deep, detailed, empathetic laboured to help slaves, his writing knowledgeable and convincing. This helped Wilberforce, seemingly almost like a son to him. So does the Lord move in particularity, whether to bring repentance in terms of both the severity and the kindness of the Lord, or to bring precious goods of spiritual life to those without them, the case requiring suffering for successful transport of the report to the site of need.
There is a place in grace for every recipient: foreknown, foundering but granted faith, forlorn but finding repentance, feeble but finding strength from the Creator, one that endures and has wings (as in Isaiah 40:26ff.). There is nothing haphazard to the sheep with a Shepherd, total in sincerity, indefatigable in care, sure and steadfast in salvation, a rock in every tempest, a cover in every scorching sun.
There is appointment, as with Paul and Barnabus - Acts 13, and disappointment, as with young John Mark, who evidently left a missionary program too early - Acts 13:4-13, 15:36-40. There is reproof and restoration, as when Mark is chosen by God to give his name to the Gospel of Mark, one of only four! and by contrast with earlier failure, is asked by Paul at the end, to help minister to him in old age and suffering (Philemon 24 and II Timothy 4:11). While Paul was being betrayed and judged in preparation for death that seemed impending (II Timothy 4), was it not to Mark that he looked for special help! So does God localise, particularise, vindicate his selections and institute His corrections.
Divine appointments of the redeemed include direction, protection, reprimand, realisation, restoration and in service, that special blessing of the Holy Spirit which attends obedience (Acts 5:17-32). It is not in psychological extravaganzas that blessing rests, let alone in solicitation of self-centred comfort; nor yet is there exclusion of seeking the Lord's face for understanding, direction and nearness that one might KNOW Him truly and adjust continually to His leading, as by sails, a craft may to the wind.
Let us turn from the maritime to the agricultural, for one theme can bring many images. Intimacy with God is in falling to the ground, taking root (Matthew 15:13, Ephesians 3:17), and hence bearing upward the fruit, result of that digging downward, not with pick and shovel, but through the Lord bringing devotion and surrendered joy, reaching to the grasping of the very depths as one later reaches from there to the heights appointed, to grow and to show the wonders of the Lord, being rooted and grounded in the love of God by faith.
Daniel was selected, be it noted, not only by Babylon for cadetship, as an exile from Judah deemed capable for higher service for the Empire, but by God AS he sought to follow Him in all his ways. Thus he came by faith to meet a deadly peril with which he was confronted by the imperial monarch who, being weary of the pretensions of the wise, wanted a religion or approach which WORKED manifestly and incontestably amid the actualities of history, and one's life in it. God having determined to answer the seeking sovereign in ways most notable, used Daniel to do it, and in so acting, delivered from the Lord, for all time the very heart of what was coming for all, Jew or Gentile.
In what way ? Daniel was used to show the power of God, the wisdom of God, the purity of God, the ways of God and the will of God for the salvation of man, including the date at which the crucial part of it, a sort of constructive rocket to rain not doom but deliverance, would come. That was done by simply referring to 70 years which Jeremiah, the prophet, had predicted for exile of the nation for their chronic sinfulness, in Babylon, and in a vision, showing Daniel that 70 lots of seven would make for not a mere return to Israel, but for the basis of all righteousness to be shown, and of crucial salvation through the death of the Messiah, to be accomplished. (This has been shown in detail in such sites as Christ the Citadel... Ch. 2 and The Christian Prescription Ch. 2, and pursued in SMR pp. 886ff., 959ff.).
As always in such matters, what was prescribed, whether in divine action, prediction, power, purging, discipline or enduement, duly arrived on time, and the results remain unobscured.
Thus Daniel the cadet, the prophet, the maker of dates, not with fast women but with steadfast history by inspiration from the Lord, became a particular person, sited where he would not in the flesh like to remain. Rather was he appointed to serve in strange places, and it was there that there he served in unusual manner, with outstanding result. What then of Jeremiah, strangely called and divinely appointed by the wisdom of God before even he was born, as seen in Jer. 1:5-13 (for time is merely a venture into a type of reality by the Lord, in one way, rather like providing a setting for a novel, but this is not fiction but fact).
Let us then REST in the Lord. Jeremiah had to meet challenge of integrity and sincerity, as shown in Jeremiah 15:10-21, where we see him momentarily flinching, then being challenged, his spirit discernible as responding to this with readiness to continue. It is this which those who are born of God come to show, though they may have occasional altitude drops like some airline carriers, that can to a point, create some damage! David and Bathsheba is one noted case (a telling repentance seen in Psalm 51). This neither deleted the site for service given to King David nor slighted his connection with the Lord; but it DID lead to a discipline as deep as the disorder required (II Samuel 12).
It is however not only the great and the famous, of which Christians show no majority by any means (I Corinthians 1:27), that so live; for it is enormously hard for those rich in funds, favour or fancy to humble themselves to the Lord, rather than revolving around their own personal suns, natural or invented; and self-satisfaction can be most beguiling (Matthew 19:24). Many are those whose lives do not reach record, or whose names have been covered with slanderous filth, because of jealousy, persecution or convenience in saving face for persecutors and the like; but they are as vitally impressed into service, by a mixture of constraint and submission that is yet voluntary, being born of the Spirit, as others simply to fame.
The Lord knows both how to reach them and to sustain them, as foreknown in the thrust of a loving desire for all (Colossians 1:19ff., Titus 2-3, Matthew 23:37ff., II Peter 3:9), and found in the wisdom that knows no barrier, but that of liberty, divinely interpreted and applied, so that things unseen taking wings, events arraignable submit to the sovereignty of so gracious a Saviour, and before judgment each is found. All who are found are written with the pen of love, the ink of mercy and the cost of His blood in ransom.
Liberality and liberty meet with grace to produce peace: always with one focus,
"God forbid that I should glory
except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ
by whom the world has been crucified to me,
and I to the world."
One must notice an option: Let my will, says the unbeliever in essence or in heart, whichever or in both, forbid that I should glory in the cross of Jesus Christ, where I would crucify him afresh, if it served me, to keep my autonomy. Through much confusion, many may not allow their minds to frame their discourse in that way; but ONCE their will is consulted, from the first to the last, before time or in it, despite knowledge and appeal, ANYTHING must be sacrificed to secure it as a worshipful thing, the most immense and intense thing in life. If the ear must be closed, the eye shut, so be it; and whatever else it takes, to delete vision and destroy the entry of reality into the soul.
The world therefore so trained and so misguided can become incandescent with hated of truth, and make for more reversals for Christians, as if to reassure itself that it is supreme!
Next Sunday, Lord willing, we shall proceed to Part III of The Path of Conquest in Christ the Conqueror.