AUSTRALIAN BIBLE CHURCH December 25, 2011
A Presbyterian Church following the Bible without Qualification
and the Lord Jesus Christ without Compromise by Faith
THE ALL-SUFFICIENT SAVIOUR
Christmas is a season, repeated; Christ is the Saviour, once and for all.
A THE SAVIOUR
I THE PRELUDE - LUKE 1:59ff.
Zacharias is the priestly party in the prelude. An ageing priest, he and his wife had to this point had no children, but now by revelation he is shown that not merely are these two to become parents of a child, but of one, John, whose birth is to be a scene of rejoicing. Great, to be filled with the Spirit even in his mother's womb, going even in the spirit of Elijah, he would bring men to the Lord. Far more, he is commissioned by God to prepare the ways of the Lord (Isaiah 40:3), a forerunner and activator. Concerned with the mechanics of birth, Zacharias is rebuked, and becomes dumb. When the Master is present you do not need to worry about the mechanics, for if God says it, He will do it. When the time for birth later came, the mother said his name would be John, as told by the angel to her husband, but the matter was referred to the now dumb Zacharias, who wrote, 'John', having received enough reprimand! Then at once he could speak again, and this became a measure of the might of God, who can make dumb what is to speak, and speak to the dumb that they should continue! Truly, in these things, all is of the Lord, and it is truly spiritually dumb to doubt it, far less act on such uninspired ungodliness. We now move to the time of the birth of the Lord Himself, on this earth.
2 THE PRINCE
Here is the common touch, so dear to the Lord who having done all the wonders, does not need to have man congratulating himself on how wonderful he is (Isaiah 66:1-2). Shepherds with their sheep by night, met by an angel declaring that on that VERY DAY a saviour was born in Bethlehem, who was "Christ the Lord." Angels sing a message to them, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men!". Precisely what is missing in the EU and the UN, in the Madrid Quartet and milling bad mouthings of this world, with more and more murders, suspicions, slanders and slaughter, where Christ also is not taken into their counsels, is what was given.
The Shepherds, unlike this present world, receive and believe, then go and see for themselves, wondering and marvelling. Communication has come from heaven, in line with what the Lord had long said. Confirmation was given on earth, and its form and format featured a babe, not surrounded by marshals and warriors, but seemingly fragile in littleness, surrounded with humility, salient in non-pretentiousness. Indeed, the contrast is one of vulnerability and power, that the glory of man and his fleshly fulminations should be left like the guns of battle, continuing when a war is already won. It is however necessary to TAKE the peace of this Lord, and become a member of His kingdom, which is by no means the same as going to some multi-slanted church in order to here the power of man and his ways all over again. The Shepherds went to HIM, the same being their desire as our necessity (John 5:39-40).
3 THE PROPHECY
We move to the time for circumcision, after 8 days. Mary makes an offering since she is a sinner, and they meet long saintly Simeon in the Temple, and he taking the babe in his arms, predicts much. Simeon now feels free at last to pass on to the next world, having finished the course in this one, because what he has waited for, has now come, and he takes the babe personally in his arms and declares, that "my eyes have seen Your salvation, which You have prepared before the face of all peoples, "a light to bring revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of Your people, Israel."
To be sure, Israel has taken a long time to realise this, but it will come (as in Zechariah 12:10ff., Romans 11:25ff). Meanwhile He has indeed brought revelation to the Gentiles, who are now in such a degraded state that they become answerable for their lapse into carnality, striding into secularism, scurrying into worry instead of moving in wonder and in much, following greed instead of grace. They can scarcely live a day without multiple murders and threats, oppressions and gloatings of one kind or another. In this, it is now with them precisely as it was with Israel, and the entire world this time is facing battle instead of babe, now grown, fulfilling all for salvation in Himself, risen and soon to return. Indeed, as Simeon was on the threshold of his earthly life, so are we on that of Christ's return. To each generation its path is assigned, to begin or to end.
Simeon notes in addition, that this babe would be for the rise and fall of many (those saved and those hypocritical, by Him to be exposed as in Matthew 7:21ff.). It would be as a sword wound to Mary, since His salvation as foretold so often (as in Isaiah 49-55), would be by slaughter, not of men, but by men of Himself! How fragile the Saviour seemed, held in the arms of an aged man, talking of departing! How fragile likewise seems the salvation through Christ, held in the heart of man. In each case, however, God puts it there, and sustains what is sent from heaven to earth, till earth yields it back to where it came from! (as in John 6:62ff., 17:1-5). Sent it finds its own, and these it keeps till they are secured where salvation came from (Hebrews 6:19). Prophecy has been a major feature of God's dealings with man. Telling truth to renegades, giving destiny to believers, the Lord sustains His predictions because they are a focus of His truth, arresting because so far-seeing, questing for man, fulfilling themselves with that ease which power can deploy (Matthew 5:17-20).
B THE SALVATION - LUKE 2:8-20
Salvation to many seems not only weak but deflating. Swords tend to do that, when anyone is puffed up especially. But the babe is its basis, the power of God is its means and the wisdom of God its meaning (as in I Corinthians 1). The three steps concerning the Saviour are now mirrored in three counterparts in salvation.
1. REPENTANCE - ITS PRELUDE
It starts with repentance. As in Luke 13:1-3, without this, you are like those on whom a wall can fall at any time - as it did in the case to which Jesus the Christ made reference. EXCEPT you repent, you will perish. In 6 words so much is shown, and in almost 350 times 6, in years, most have ignored, despised, scorned, bypassed, toyed with the truth involved. Some however, every year increasing the tally, DO repent, and it is not for nothing that it is called REPENTANCE INTO LIFE (Acts 11:18). When you find your roots in the wrong soil (consecrated by man or not), and you need new seed for your life, to be planted by God Himself in the soil of faith, which nourishes and grounds, then what is found is indeed a repentance as deep as life. The sight of sin becomes as revolting as death for the unsaved, for it is then but prelude to judgment for the twiddlers and fiddlers and the scorners. It is in a little like a holocaust, an inferno, the base of a mushroom cloud, for the former things pass away in their place, and all things become new. What was highly esteemed readily becomes abhorrent, and what was abhorrent may in much take new place as praiseworthy!
2. APPROPRIATION - ITS RECEPTION
The shepherds, like millions in this world if not billions, have heard. What did they do then ? Having found the babe, they returned "glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told them," Luke 2:20.
Do YOU also want to go away ? Christ asked His disciples, after showing that the NEW and FINAL sacrifice, that in His own flesh, personally, had to be 'eaten' as the paschal Lamb had traditionally been eaten, that is, His sacrifice in its meaning had to be appropriated; for as He pointed out so very clearly, there would not be flesh available when He returned to heaven, for He said, "My words are spirit and they are life," John 6:62-63. While animals could be eaten to signify intimacy and personal involvement to the uttermost with the Saviour this would be a ludicrous misuse of the point, for He is but one, and that one would go, till the Gospel Age was over (as in Acts 3:19ff., Matthew 28), to heaven where unavailability for such hideous misconceptions would obviously preclude it, for He was man indeed (Hebrews 2) as fitting and needful for the Saviour of those in our own race.
Yet the imagery of His utterance was perforce intense. It was no idle moment of religious sentiment or questing intellectual satisfaction which was involved, nor some kind of mere entente, as between two equal parties: rather was it an entire reliance on Him as food (John 6:51) as Israel had relied on the manna from heaven, for spiritual nutriment and vigour of heart, mind and spirit for living, and on His sacrifice, taken up in heart in the innermost sanctum of being, for life eternal as destiny (John 10:9,27-28), and abundant as now (John 10). It is like entering a fold by the door, in this case, in the parable, the Shepherd lying at the entrance to the fold, being effectually Himself the gate. IF you so enter, then you are in His fold and go in and out and find the means for life in Him; and NOTHING can snatch you from His hand, for His heart is shown already, as is His power; and thus you never perish. Perishing is so denuding, degrading, dissolute seeming. How simply glorious to be free and quit of all that!
3. FAITH - ITS ENDLESS OPERATION
Such then is the prophecy, the word of God concerning the eternal life of His sheep, proof against any advent, these kept by the power of God to salvation reserved in heaven (I Peter 1:3-8), surrounded meanwhile with the mercies of God, whose light never ceases to shine, whatever the tests may be (I Peter 4). The gift of God, this salvation replaces the wages of sin, the death and devastation, denuding and degradation of death (Romans 6:23). NOTHING can separate from this love of God (Romans 8:38-39); and His people are not only victorious, but "more than conquerors," a matter which has infinite and intimate appeal to me! To stress in sweat and attain is great; but to be MORE than conquerors through "the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord," this is delectable. What was predicted, is now what is found.
One loves a hero who is proficient, efficient but above all is loving and gracious, courtesy and kind, fearless and critical if need be, reliable and intensive in understanding, missing in nothing, and people often worship such. That however, one finds repugnant, like worshipping someone's foot. These are all imperfect, and one would not dare have another hero but Christ, another Lord, another Saviour than the One who was sent, paid, and having paid, broke death, and having visibly broken it, confers the power for the coming resurrection on His people, His saints, His who entered by that door and are thus His to the core.
Thus, you do not trust in your faith, but in your Prince; not in your own saving capacities, but in your Saviour. You do not rely on your perception but on His word, which is written just as He was smitten, both coming amid trial and test, grounded, founded and never confounded. You do not become a satellite for Him as centre - ready to be flung off as the centrifugal force may dictate, but are founded on a Rock, the only ROCK (I Cor. 10, Psalm 62, II Samuel 22:32-33) for the spirit and life of man.
Speak of it in living terms: Christ was "a root out of a dry ground" (Isaiah 53), so let the believer, duly and truly planted by God Himself with no help from man (for there is no other Saviour - Isaiah 43:10-11) sprout in the soil of salvation and grow in the light of the Lord, watered from within (John 4:14), drawn from above (Colossians 3:1-3).
C THE PLANTATION - ISAIAH 61:2-3
As in Isaiah 49:6 and Luke 2:32, this present sent to Israel is also available to the Gentiles, and it is for our own harvesting.
Those who come to Him by faith find themselves trees of righteousness, and how this ? It is because they are the planting of the Lord. There is no fault in His seed, already endued from the first to last to the last, for it is a spiritual seed - I John 3:9, 5:11-12.
Moreover, they are "the planting of the Lord." On the other hand, those who are NOT planted by God, will be rooted up (Matthew 15:13). What was the message to the shepherds ? "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth, peace, goodwill toward men!" Such was the message of content. This is the attitude for those with this gift by grace. If to continue in this peace and this goodwill, you have to resist the devil, flee from all unrighteousness and be bold in the faith, you do not use violence, though violence be used upon you, in the proclamation and the presentation. Goodwill can bring a warning to the unwary as readily as a bottle to the thirsty, a challenge to the mighty, and as much as a compassion to the needy. But the spirit of peace and goodwill must be there, as surely as leaves on a tree.
This planting is of a godly seed (I Peter 1:23), "not of a corruptible seed", but of one that endures forever, the promises of God the premises of its power. As I John 3:9 declares, THIS seed remains in you: it is your spiritual genetics, indissoluble, and hence in I John 5:11-12, you are assured that you now are to KNOW that you have eternal life, and life of this quality is as eternal as God is. Grace is like that, it keeps its face, through whatever distortion it must endure (Ephesians 2:5-8). Christ was a root out of a dry ground; let the believer grow in the soil of His salvation, in the light of the Lord, watered from within (I John 4:14), even with enough to give to those without (John 7:37-38), for once in His fold, you are never without Him, and what is in Him is liberal. It is like mail TO you continually sent, and giving power THROUGH you, constantly dowered, even that of the Spirit of the Living God.
In this plantation, like pines in their rows on a hill-top, sun-crowned, soughing in the breezes from above, the persons of His planting have the soil of faith and the sun of righteousness to bring health to their foundation, leaves to their lives and form and shape to their structure. Uprooting for this seed is out of the question, but guaranteed for all else; for this is the guarantee, "He who believes in Me, has everlasting life," John 6:47. ONCE this applies to you, so does the promise, for this is its premiss. Hence, as in John 5:24, such a person does not come to judgment but is already passed from a state of death to one of life. Therefore box as you may to overthrow the tests from the devil, or to conform to the hests of the Lord, John writes that you should KNOW that you have eternal life. It is like a Christmas greetings letter in the mail, not from man, but from God. This is the superior greeting that does not pass away.
I spoke recently to an old friend who is a physician, and used the term of a mutual friend, "passed on." It does not matter, I noted, whether this ageing body comes or go. It, like a piano, grows old, but the pianist is something else. I used to go from Melbourne to the suburb of Heidelberg and then I passed on. Indeed, I passed on to my home and residence, relief and joy with the family, as we who know God, do at the end of our line in this life, pass on to the next context, no more vexed, but in the presence of our heavenly haven, our eternal Father and the First and the Last (Rev. 2:8), from whom we came, to whom we go. This we do, not as a mere physical progression, but first in spirit and then bodily in the resurrection I Cor.15), moving from domain to domain, predestined - for none come to faith who are not - being called, regenerated, restored and then resurrected in that Conclusion to the Book of Life, written from the first (II Timothy 1:6-12), and in the kindness of God toward man, received in our hearts (Titus 2-3), and secured by His power. Thus is the reaping of divine love, found at the first, realised to the last. Then we find the blessed rest in which there is no more travail, but abundant life for ever.
I spoke recently to an old friend who is a physician, and used the term of a mutual friend, "passed on." It does not matter, I noted, whether this ageing body comes or go. It, like a piano, grows old; but the pianist is something else. I used to go from Melbourne to the suburb of Heidelberg and then I passed on. Indeed, I passed on to my home and residence, relief and joy with the family, as we who know God, at the end of our line in this life, pass on to the next context, no more vexed, but in the presence of our heavenly haven, our eternal Father and the First and the Last (Revelation 2:8), from whom we came, to whom we go. This we do, not as a mere physical progression; but first in spirit and then bodily in the resurrection (I Corinthians 15), we move from domain to domain, predestined - for none come to faith who are not - called, regenerated, restored, then resurrected to His sublime presence, as in that Conclusion to the Book of Life, for each written from the first (II Timothy 1:6-12). This divine work, this reaping of His love complete from the first (Romans 8:30), in the kindness of God toward man, received into our hearts (Titus 2-3) and secured by His power, is thus realised to the last. Then we find the blessed rest in which there is no more travail, but abundant life for ever. He who would have all (Colossians 1:19ff.), does He have you ? If not, will you come now ?