AUSTRALIAN BIBLE CHURCH February 7, 2010
Continuing the work of the Australian Presbyterian Church (Union 1901),
following the Lord without Compromise and the Bible without Qualification,
WAY IS NARROW, THE TRUTH IS VAST -
Part I: Luke 11:5-28, 12:35-48
Some may bewail themselves, sad to be so constricted on so narrow a path as that of Christ. I for my part rejoice that it is so narrow, so lacking in diffusion and breadth, so limited. When we go to Pt Lincoln, it is great that the way is just wide enough for a pleasant journey on our own traffic lane, and that those going the other way can pass without posing too many problems, having a clearly defined path of their own. There is no confusion, no room for playing about, intermingling in circuits that invite collision. As far as the way itself is concerned, there is a wise and sound provision. SO with Christ: there can be no confusion about what is required for you, and for that matter provided for you. If you WANT to get there, to His side in heaven, then there is no need to be consulting abstruse maps. The way is clear, narrow, well-constructed, sharply defined. That is the teaching in Matthew 7:15ff., and it is shown also in our text this morning.
Consider first ...
First, we consider the case where you have an urgent need, not resulting from any oversight of your own perhaps, but pressing. Your sense of duty and goodness inspires you to look after a friend who has come to you late at night, on his journey to some place, and you wish to provide. You have no food for him. You think of another friend, who may have extra to enable you to be giving kind hospitality to your friend in his travels. You hope, you knock, but it is not convenient; for he and his family are in bed, the lights out, the retirement from the work of the day over.
What is to be done ? This is made the type of many events in our own lives in the application. Your friend even goes so far, being content in himself, as to ask you not to trouble him. But is it so great a thing to get up and allow you to look after a traveller ? Is he, to whom you come, going to have great grief at arising while still awake, and handing you bread, whereas your friend whom you want to care for, the night being well on, is in real need. You keep knocking, you do not relent, you are not weak or confused, you do not cease or give up. Satisfied that this is what you ought to do, you do it. So your friend in bed, getting up, troubled at the trouble you are causing, gets up, gives you what you ask, and you then provide for your traveller. This teaches godly persistence, for it is to our heavenly Father, those of us who belong to Christ and so are adopted children of God, that we make OUR request. Earnest eagerness has its place, even with Him, who is our life, not to turn from sloth, but to recognise crucial reality from the heart.
Although of course,
HE is not unwilling or in bed, YET He is not to be treated in a purely casual
(Hosea 7:14, Jeremiah 29:12-13), as in casting a shot at some carnival, so that you have a distant hope
but not much. If it is worth calling on Him, then proceed, continue, persist, knowing your point is sound,
and be expectant, even if it seems contrary to nature. God MADE nature, so trust Him,
when persistently asked in godly faith, to provide.
Yet ask in
abiding faith, as
for without that it is mere weariness to all concerned (James 1:6ff., contrasting Malachi 1:13 as to attitude).
PREVAILING - 11:9-13
The record of Christ then moves to asking in a serial manner. Asking, when you are serving God in the kingdom of heaven - for all these things concern the kingdom of heaven - is the prelude to receiving. You may receive a sharp rebuke, if for example, you asked for beer with which to get drunk, drugs with which to dope yourself or funds in which to indulge yourself (James 4:3); but not if you ask for genuine need for what is required for the kingdom of heaven. You may find that your prayer is amiss, since secretly there is a false motive, and you may need to be taught HOW and for what to ask; but what is in line with the Lord's desire for you as His servant, this will come.
But then, you feel troubled. How long will He show you more principles and grace, before providing the power to prevail ? You SEEK. It is as when you are baulked by some mathematical problem, you find it is not in you to let it go: so you persevere, you persist, you drag in this and that consideration, not willing to let the answer escape you, feeling that this would make you wooden-headed. It must not be, for you have a task and it must be finished. Then says Christ, you will find. So first in sequence, it may be, you ASK, next you urgently SEEK.
But yet again, what if even this for the time, seems unanswered. Perhaps you back out before really travelling far in your SEEKING. You must have more energy of desire, purity of motive, understanding of heart than that, and so you KNOCK. You come now, as it were, to the teacher's door and make a personal request, almost persistence personified, and then at last you prevail, and the door being opened, the result pours out in abundance of wisdom and grace, for yours is power to prevail. ONLY God is THAT teacher (Matthew 23:8-10).
What! says Christ in effect, does a SON ask for bread and get a stone ? or for an egg and find in his bruised hand, a scorpion ? Though evil lies in abundance about the heart of man, and some even serve it, yet the children of God for all that, know how to satisfy their children's needs. If we, far from perfect, know how to care for ours, how much more does our heavenly Father WHEN that is what He is to us, through faith in the redemption in Christ Jesus, regeneration attached; for none of us is an adopted child of God, who has not been born again, INTO His kingdom.
Notice in passing how ridiculous it would be, for a father to hand his egg-seeking son, a scorpion! This dispels at once the fatalism of some, the insincerity of some seekers, as if "Now THIS!" is their real and negative expectation. Need ? ASK! James tells you of wisdom, ask for this by FAITH, and you will receive it, and not a lecture. That MAY come later, but the urgent genuine need will be met. Far less will worse come! Learn to live like a rider on a horse, bound on your course for Him, not looking so far ahead that you do not even see the stump in front; but keeping to the track, here the highway of holiness as in Isaiah 35, ask for what is at once needed and expect it (I John 5:14-15). Indeed, ask in love, knowing your heavenly Father and trusting Him. If HE opens your eyes to see what you had missed, then be glad and ask for that.
Now in Luke we find another element also, and it is one of great interest here. HOW MUCH MORE, if you do this for your children, will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him! In other words, between child and father there are many bonds. For one thing, the father begets the child, the mother has it in her womb, together they proceed to its birth, and it turns out to be rather like them in its nature, in general. How close are the bonds, for why, it is their very own!
The bonds of nature and nurture are strong, and you tend readily to give the child who asks, his bread; indeed normally give it anyway. So with your heavenly Father, you ask, and there are bonds. The great bond for those already redeemed by Christ THE Son of God, is the Holy Spirit.
Thus God gives the Holy Spirit to those who asking for salvation, and desiring HIS near presence as Father, therefore come not in the womb, but in the Holy Spirit (as in Romans 8:9), into life. He, in turn, inspires our thoughts, directs our desires and insists on holiness. If anyone is not so linked, then by the word of God, that person is not a child of God, and therefore should at once seek the Lord, crying in sin for forgiveness, mourning for sin, imploring pardon and trusting in the Lord's death and resurrection as a highway for entry, move rapidly by faith to receive His glorious offer. THEN, in the path of surrender and sonship, daughterhood, the saved sinner has the connection. You hear of having connections on this earth, to help you; but this is the connection with heaven!
PURITY - 11: 14-23
Christ Himself ALWAYS received what He asked, His Father always being intimate with Him (John 8:29, 11:41-42), there being in Him no hauteur, never the spirit of the provocateur, no grumbling, bumbling. His humbling was intended and vicarious for us who believe; and how He yearns. Notice in the latter case, the raising of Lazarus from the dead after 4 days (as if to make it clear when HE Himself would arise after 3 days, that the power of God is abundantly sufficient), this crucial element. Christ THANKED the Father BEFORE the corpse came out! Beforehand, He told this to Martha: "Did I not tell you that if you would believe you would see the glory of God ?", and again, He cried beforehand, "Father I thank You that You have heard Me, and I know that You always hear Me, but because of the people who are standing by I said this, that they may believe that You sent Me."
In other words, He DARED to assert that it WOULD happen, and to thank God for it before it did so, so that if it did NOT happen, He would be exposed as a fraud, His Messiahship finished, His life ready for judgment. Why ? It is because He knew His Father so closely, being with Him before time, that there was no doubt. As adopted children of God by faith (Ephesians 1:1-11), with an assured inheritance, Christians who are Christians indeed (not because they are so good, but because they have taken the trouble in travail to be BORN into the kingdom through the Spirit on the basis of Christ's redemption!), these know God. Their knowledge is still imperfect, like that of a child of his own father, but it is THERE. In this, they live and act and work, and with Him, they go on their ways.
1) In Mischievous Thoughts about God
With Christ, it was almost continually the case, that if He WERE NOT the One whom He professed, the eternal Son of God who came, He alone, from above via a virgin, if He WERE NOT that One, then He would be shown up immediately. It was so in the case of saying that it was easier to say, You sins are forgiven! to the paralytic, than to ask him to take up his bed and then walk! for imagine the case if the man had still lain there; but God worked and the man in this test case, assuredly walked. It was so no less in the case of Lazarus, as also in the feeding of the 5000 and again, the same crucial test was apparent in the order to the wind and the waves to be still; and on and on, it was so.
Here then, this vast and repetitive test was passed, that what was done in the light of His total communion with God as His own eternal Father, ALWAYS happened, however enormous the request, however contrary to the normal limitations of nature (which after all, He made, and thus into which like an engineer, He could at any time move). This was no small embarrassment to His enemies. Perfect score even when acting as God! what a mountain to surmount for them! Truth spoke through Him. It is exactly so with creation: NEVER does information nicely make itself up without a programmer, thinker, and just appear in classes and categories of code. Of course not, for this involves concepts and thoughts, and that is its own realm. Yet they WILL NOT believe in God even when their very bodies are now shown to be run largely by just such a code, the DNA!
Indeed, Christ once indicated that even if one were to rise from the dead, dedicated God-disbelievers still would not believe (Luke 16:24-31). In fact, that is just what happened to many. Their hearts and their heads had a great divide, and what showed God clearly, their hearts would not let their heads take! Hypocrisy was their life, lie was their milieu, folly was their wisdom, wilfulness apt to become their perdition (Matthew 28:17). You get this with husband and wife in divorce: WHATEVER the facts, they have no bearing. DESIRE of one kind or another clouds thought, and fighting often replaces understanding. Thus the haters of Christ would not believe that despite His routine casting out of devils that no one else could, despite of His total control of such sickness situations, spiritually or mentally or physically, and of all challenges. In the light of these or many other criteria, His place as Messiah was indicated. Yet, instead, they worked out an escape method. What if, they suggested, it was BY the devil that He was casting out devils ?
Thus the haters of Christ would not believe that because His routine casting out of devils that no one else could, as because of His total control of such sickness situations, spiritually or mentally or physically, and of all challenges, therefore, in the light of these are many other criteria, His place as Messiah was indicated. Instead, they worked out an escape method. What if, they suggested, it was BY the devil that He was casting out devils ?
Supernatural ? of course, that was the case in question here; but just because EVIL spirits were cast out and many clouded in lives of horror were being constantly delivered from this by the word of the Lord Jesus Christ, as King of Creation, of which man is part, they were not convinced: they fussed. That does not mean that the GOOD supernatural being, God Himself, was doing it, they urged. Perhaps, they rasped, Christ was in the devil's kingdom! This line of thought was moving into its own realm: that of the unforgivable sin, we learn from its coverage in Matthew 12:24-32. Why that ? Clearly, if you disdain and reject and poison your mind and heart against the ONLY cure, despite overwhelming evidence, then you are left to your poisons, and poisons kill: that is why! Spiritual rigor mortis sets in...
But Christ answered them clearly also, concerning the case. What! in effect He exclaimed, are you sanely suggesting that the devil has Me as an employe, sacking and beating up his kingdom ? What an agent! to ruin the devil's own works! Is a house divided against itself to stand, or is the devil, in his dynamic employing Me to ruin his kingdom ? How insane are your protests, useless your reasonings! Take heed to yourselves therefore! Also, consider this: If your sons sometimes cast out devils, by whom do THEY do it! Such was His devastating response.
2) In Failing to be Protected, through Mere Moral Rearmament
Christ proceeded in Luke 11:24-26, to pursue the case of those who being religious, yet do not know Him, the Saviour; who dabble in religious things, as they were doing, and yet have no idea of what they are all about, or He, who is their centre: who do not understand what is the criterion of godliness, therefore. It is like a house, He said, where the evil spirit is made to exit, and goes into haunts for its own unholiness. The man, now freed at last, grows energetic in his cleansing of his whole life from such things. Happy is he! but then, being unprotected, and merely acting in his own moral rearmament or religious superficiality, once his own house is just lovely, what happens ? What is its defence then ? It is like a computer without an electronic firewall! Accordingly, now the devil that was there and left, seeing it so inviting, decides not to be lonely, but to have seven worse devils come with him, and re-enter; for there is now more to eat up and spoil. Accordingly, the position of that man at the last, is even WORSE than at the first.
What then must one watch, as a child of God, being sincere and desiring to do all in one's power to be honest and filled with grace through the work of God ? It is this that we find next. A woman, loving the power and purity of Christ, given without limit or measure, exulted, saying, "Blessed is the womb that bore You, and the breasts which nursed You!" Here was the sort of Son to have! But no, said Jesus, "More than that, blessed are those who hear the word of God and keep it!"
Love God ? Love His mouth then, for His word is wonderful. Love God ? Love His will then, for His way is wonderful. Worship God ? Do not dispute His dealings then, but seeking always to understand, rely on Him, abide in His words and let THEM abide in you. Great is the blessedness of such living, in the life of the Lord (John 15:7)!