AUSTRALIAN BIBLE CHURCH May 26, June 3, 2012
Presbyterian Church following the Bible without Qualification
and the Lord Jesus Christ without Compromise by Faith
WONDERS ON THE WAY
The Sermon on the Plain
Prayer for Apostles - it had to include the traitor
Jesus chose apostles in the mount and came down to the plain (6:12-17), where a regionally based multitude of people as far North as Tyre and Sidon, and from all Judea came seeking healing, and Christ healed all the sick (Luke 6:19); power as in Luke 8:46, poured out from Him. Though clad in flesh, this is the Creator (Colossians 1:15), and where faith addressed Him in this mission, it was like oil bearing rock! The power and the compassion being shown, Christ then delivered an epochal address, not unlike the sermon on the mount. Some have difficulty in such things, but just as we all have experience in this or that, so as an author, I have found it quite natural to have different collections of things, some alike, for different purposes and in different situations, arranged with intent and application.
A vast multitude met a vigorous complement of teaching moving like a sheep dog with sheep, on their backs, and brought home their need, which has echoed ever since. We take a brief survey of this in Luke 6:20-42,focussing on major topics as He did.
The Biblical Mass
Christ overturned many traditions and exposed basic principles. How pungent was Christ's attack on tradition as having equal place with the word of God (Mark 7:7ff.). It made VOID the word of God, like a swarm of bees descending on you, ruining your sight. The only mass in the Bible, in the sacrificial sense, is this, that when a mass of people came to Christ seek, a massive amount of energy and love and compassion was poured out on them, in a way like electricity going through wires to the trains, helping many. But this was personal and particular, involving the very creative majesty of the One who made man in the first place with a mass of information composed in commands: He spoke, and it was done. He contrived, and it was created. When Christ did the same dynamic on earth deployed in creation, they were all healed. This ? it was a work of restoration as that of creation, involving just the same species of power. He cleared the way on the cross.
But what sort of sacrifice has Romanism made, to reach to the heights, actually involving worship of what they ostensibly create, raised aloft. It is not a sacrifice of suffering or of blood, whereas for redemption you HAVE to have suffering, and without blood, there is no remission. Moreover that, His sacrifice, was ONE ONLY, and it was not offered by another, but personally by the God who made man, and made atonement in Himself, through Himself, without other mediator of any kind (I Timothy 2:5). It is His unique sacrifice in its singularity, which atones. It is not man-offered masses that we find in the Bible. The masses that we do find are those gathered to receive healing, from the incarnate word of God. It is those who in great numbers were actively shown the love of God to liberate, exposed to the power of God to heal, and the way of God. Helped, they were anointed as appointed (as in I Peter 2:21-25), the work of God through faith, and it was not by blindness, or stumbling (as in I Peter 2:7-9), or the provision of secondary motivation (Mark 10:17ff.).
There is nothing stingy about the love of God, the sacrifice which ONLY HE could and did perform, nor any narrowing of the arterial outpouring, but rather there is closure of the willingness to absorb it, and whose is that but the preference of the heart that WILL not listen (Matthew 23:37, Hebrews 7-10). A healed heart is a happy one, but not merely for its own sake: it is filled with the love of God and the relish of His magnificence, attuned to the desire to serve Him, who beyond all, is in Himself the massif of majesty, better in one than all sinners put together, and that by an infinite degree. He offered Himself a ransom: no more, never again.
The Biblical Poor
Luke 6:20-26, Matthew 5:3, Isaiah 66:1-3
To be impoverished is not in itself blessed. To be rich like Abraham is not to wallow in criminal activity. It often is; not always. Wilberforce was not poor but he made many rich in liberty, among slaves! The biblical norm for condemnation here is richness of self-will, self-love, self-adornment, self-fulfilment, using wealth for indulgence: indeed using anything for mere indulgence is undisciplined, ill-conceived and in a way like drunkenness. Ultimately it is a matter of the human spirit, as in Matthew 5, "Blessed are the POOR IN SPIRIT." It is exactly as in Isaiah 66, where the Lord looks to this man, one who is of a poor and contrite spirit and trembles at His word!
It is not what you've got, but what you do with it, and WHY! A self-satisfied spirit which knows nothing of the woes of this world, its anguish, of the meaning of deprivation because its whole way is to find and be replete, fashioning laughter for joy and abandon, reckless in insensitivity, boisterous in disregard: this scarcely touches reality. Thus, Christ joins this theme of poverty and riches, with being hated, excluded (Luke 6:21-22), when men call you an evil person: then great is your reward IN HEAVEN. Now there is a place for discernment, in any arousing speech especially. It is obvious that if heaven is the site for such weeping and reward, after such experiences of hatred and exclusion, then it is from heaven that these things come, and that it is for the kingdom of heaven that they are suffered (as explicit in Matthew 19:29).This was as in the case of John the Baptist (ďAnd from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the violent take it by force," Matthew 11:12).
Christ is not congratulating Herod for beheading John the Baptist, the case being reviewed there. He is in fierce irony exposing the degradation of those so deluded, as is the case with many Communists and Moslems alike, who may imagine that force breaches the battlements and brings you home to glory. It is not so. Christ suffered force too, but could only seek divine pardon for the perpetrators of this blind folly, if by any means any might repent. He is not idolising over-reaching violence, but exposing its misconceptions. Kill John ? take the kingdom of heaven by force indeed! Such is their imagination, but those rich in self-will, do not achieve anything but their own inglorious estate in the after-life. "But woe to you who are rich..."
The biblical poor, as in Paul, must suffer persecution as Paul told Timothy, and hence we find him citing from the Old Testament, that what obedience brings is rather this, that we are slain like sheep to the slaughter (Romans 8:36-37), or shipwrecked, or suffer hunger or need as we put ourselves out for Christ, to bring others in (I Corinthians 15:31, 4:9ff., II Corinthians 4:8ff.). It does not have to be dramatic; but it is earnest, as all who love tend to be, and those who love God are groomed to be, by the work of the Holy Spirit. Great then is the reward of these poor, as we see all these verses together, Luke 6:20-26, and with all the kindred parts of the word of God.
The Biblical Blessing
There is a lavishness about the work of God. Consider all the life forms, command for their creation all written in enormous detail in their genomes, kinds and sub-species, with the intricate means to accomplish this variation about the hub of a kind, a mathematical marvel. What billions of specifications, what hordes of designs, how brilliant the choice of alternate methods to accomplish things! In terms of the fast-moving science of micro-biology, there are shown clear-cut distances between many kinds, even many apparently rather similar, a mathematical precision of arrangement, quite contrary as Dr Michael Denton points out, to anything but intelligent direction, a fact formally equivalent to the refusal of information to be produced anywhere in practice, but by intelligence (cf. Agitation, Cogitation, Aspiration and Conclusion, Ch. 2). It is as Professor Hoyle of Cambridge pointed out, an intelligent universe, formed, conformed. It stubbornly refuses so to create information, symbolically to inform, without imaginative intelligence, directly or indirectly. In the whole domain of creative imagination: for that, this is necessary.
Creation is a practice of mastery at the level of the universe, of life, as of eternal life. In life spread, there is pure imagination with unlimited power, in so many basic kinds with such elaborate creative nous, that it seems more like the fantasies of Disney; except that these we have, and they are not fantasy but life. How hard it evidently is for many to see what is before them, their eyes closed by culture that ignores the entire scope of it all. It is a virtual paradise of mental acrobatics and engineering feats, so that even now, time and again, scientists look to living things to find brilliant ideas they then try to copy.
The prodigies of the outpourings of forgiveness, in similar style, are vast toward many for much, but there is but one kind for sin's pardon, the ransom through the Redeemer (Acts 4:11-12) as one language for DNA throughout all creation, and one Mediator. First, and finally, the love is from God and to man (II Corinthians 3:18, Romans 5:5); thence from man even to enemies. So there is an enemy! "Love your enemies!" It is not a question of elemental evil, but of those who do evil to you, or curse you, or seek to pillage your property, in the normal interchange of life. Pray for your enemies, bless those who curse, fear nothing of predators, give and seek goodness in your heart toward all. It is not to agree with or submit to evil, but not to hate, rather seeking good because of the lavish goodness of God, if by any means, a channel for its outlet may be found.
You see something of this in one of the later stages of the battle for Berlin around 1949, when there was the utmost sensitivity about all the little points that different Western groups felt so important, when the real need was Western agreement, with compromise where not of principle. When once the underlying idea became central, this was to enable liberty and meet the Communists jointly and in timely fashion, while they used hideous duress to force the unwilling. The mission clear, then originative capacities soared, things spun like a fighter plane diving and the ground of things became clear rapidly, agreements surging like Spring winds and the thing was accomplished.
The USSR found great things in place, and confusion repaired so that they no longer had an easy target. Indeed, after many such things, Berlin was ultimately liberated. What a marvel indeed it was, this Battle. Thus those Allies who had been pulverising Berlin in answer to Hitler's evil dynamic, were now bringing in food for it, by an airlift of historic and brilliant proportions, immense in sagacity, energy, courage and endurance, BECAUSE they sought to love those who had had been their enemies. How they all needed to endure!
Most moving was one grateful Berliner, very aware of the airmen who had sacrificed their lives for the deliverance of Berlin. It went like this, in one particular case of two Allied airmen honoured amid the citizens of Berlin. "Two American officers became victims of the Berlin blockade here. You gave your lives for us. We stand deeply moved on this spot dedicated by your death. Once we were enemies and yet you gave your lives for us." (This is cited in The Berlin Blockade, p. 241, by Ann and John Tusa). How well this illustrates the thrust of Matthew 20:28, where only CHRIST JESUS THE LORD pays our ransom, for those who receive the funds of pardon, but others are encouraged to act in the same spirit of service. HE did not come to be served, but to serve, and such is to be our perspective likewise, who serve Him: in morals, principles, love, commission, grace and the power provided.
The Biblical Liberality
It is with this same liberality of love that we are told this: "Judge not, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn and you will not be condemned." Indeed, the concept is to GIVE liberally, pressed down as it were, in the sack and flowing over; and this being the will of God, acting in this same spirit you will BE blessed. As you see in Matthew 23 by the example of Christ, Himself, this does not mean NOT to apply the word of God, but NOT to be carpingly critical, minimally gracious, thoughtlessly provocative, just for your own selfish interests, fulfilment or pleasure! Just as the grace of the Lord is sufficient, so let us be efficient, and not cumbersome with it. Be liberal in understanding, slow to condemn, but when it is truth you defend, do not amend! Be like Christ. Meditate on and follow the only mediator between God and man (I Timothy 2:5).
There are principles involved, and one is the love of God which overfills and spills out in wonder. In this zest to deliver, there are many examples, for though man as a whole is divorced from God, there are many who have been reconciled to Him by the death of Christ and have received IN Christ, that reconciliation. It is not merely that they now feel better about God; it is rather than God is able now in Christ to accept THEM!
So often man seems blatantly willing to make it all depend on himself, as if he were some god. He is not, being born without permission and dismissed with no authorisation, according to what God has planned for him amidst the many judgments he continually brings on his race. God GIVES a gift to ENABLE a reconciliation in the face of man's sin, in this, that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8). Once then by faith we are reconciled, have even been justified (Romans 5:1), because the raging torrent of sin is stilled on the Cross where Christ absorbed it selectively for those who diverted it to Him, according to His grace (cf. John5 :24), "much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him," Romans 5:9.
At times, even unconverted people, still in their sins, have such a residue of the grace of God left in their hearts, that some great passion will move them, and they will lay down even their lives, to secure the safety of others. Such a case, though the motives may not have been single, yet they were pronounced, may have occurred in the Berlin airlift, where airmen lived to deliver and died in the process.
For the Christian, this is not to be some episode, but a METHOD of living. We, said Paul, die daily, are like sheep to the slaughter as we expose evil with the pronouncement and publication of the Gospel of peace, and find hatred or contempt for our efforts, lurking in many a scenario. Satan loves his world, and plans by confusion and deceit to keep on ruling it. His time is short. His end rushes forward, his intemperate aspiration to rule will at its time become most manifest. It is not hard to see. In Russia for over 70 years, you saw endless tyranny, heartless evil, man depersonalised, millions slain; and then under Mao in China; in various Africa parts on a smaller scale, some of which still continue. It is simply this, that at its time the WHOLE WORLD will have a deluded tyranny, just such aspiration to absolute rule, control of finance, a scorched earth, not in land, but in souls, while control is sought with satanic passion, to destroy all that will not conform, that serves and obeys God.
That is the macrocosm. In the microcosm, the INDIVIDUAL is also surrounded by sins that desire entrance, cultures that want obedience and obeisance, forces that insist on lying or fellow-travelling for income or social approbation, and this private war continues. However in Christ it is met not only by the power of God. It is met also by the internal procedure of dying daily: that is, divorcing from the appetites of the flesh, of the society and of the philosophic assassins, which seek to govern and make witless the minds and the understanding of man. That we saw in Paul at I Corinthians 15:31, and it relates to Romans 8, where Paul declares this:
"If you live according to the flesh, you will die;
but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.
For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are the sons of God.
For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear,
but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, 'Abba, Father.' "
Then we found in the case of the Berlin airlift over nearly one entire year, the feeding of millions of persons, the keeping of their lives amid the desolations left after World War II by AIR, an example which is an eloquent testimonial to a zest for service, to help what faces a deadly ultimatum.
Most moving, as we saw, was one grateful Berliner, who declared "Two American officers became victims of the Berlin blockade here. You gave your lives for us. We stand deeply moved on this spot dedicated by your death. Once we were enemies and yet you gave your lives for us." How well this illustrates the thrust of Matthew 20:28, where only CHRIST JESUS THE LORD pays our ransom, for those who receive the funds of pardon, but others are encouraged to act in the same spirit of service
Let us ponder this further. Berliners were in a mess, menaced by an evil passion of misled materialists from the USSR, who discounted human personality BY human personality, so that if they were right then they had in due turn to be wrong, for what you dismiss you cannot use. They well knew the boundless raping and pillaging zest they had suffered in the initial flush of devastating Communists, whose only vision seemed to be dimness. Having been misled by a parallel vice themselves, Berliners had no moral standing left AS A BODY. But while they were still in this state as a city, without hope as vast armies of plundering passion awaited the opportunity to remove any Allied presence in the city, and consume it with devilish desire, without liberty, without love, without meaning by a certain sinking into slavery, then there was the Berlin Airlift. It meant death for many, to whom death did not as yet belong. Airmen died in the endeavours to feed them over that year, rather than let them have to capitulate.
Berlin did not want the ruthless oppression of Communism. The city deserved it in terms of the oppression of the regime for which it was the capital city. But there were those who did not want to see it happen; and they included Berlin's former enemies, indeed, those whom their nation had bombed with prolonged vigour, and who to overcome Hitler's regime, had bombed Germany almost in the ground. So be it, but here was a case for deliverance, whatever had happened. There were better things than that for man! That was a good moment, it had a certain liberality of spirit however many other motives may have applied for some. But with God what HE has done is far better.
So let us move from the things of this world, with episodes like that, to the celestial work of God, where what was for a moment here, in the case of Berlin, is forever there, for any who receive it among the whole of mankind! This time, we find not Berlin but ALL MEN under penalty, not merely of some pagan power, but of death itself, and that not from a human force, but from divine justice.
What was justly indicted as the death of sinners for sinners here, became death of Christ the Lord, of Him who is infinite in existence, power and in purity, for us sinners: for those without hope, facing calamity, needing not human but divine aid.
But does the term 'sinners' offend ? Let it not do so. What does it MEAN ? It means that if you were an arrow, you would not have hit the bull's eye, not have been perfect, had wandered or wavered, or not been sent aright. It would mean that all your life you have not worshipped God, or if you had, you had not even known Him personally and so had not served Him intelligently according to His word.
Have YOU done this ? and never varied at all, but been fully impassioned with putting Him first in all things, and meeting this criterion all your life ? If this were so, you would be an outstanding Christian from birth. Since this is not so (Psalm 51:5, Romans 5:19), you are deemed a 'sinner' . Anyone who thinks otherwise is deluded as well (I John 1:7). But when you realise this, it is like having a cancer. You really need to do something about it. Since Christ has already died the just for the unjust, to bring us to God (I Peter 3:18), all that is needed is this: to repent and by faith receive gratefully His salvation, pardon and peace, and indeed Himself, and live in, by, with and for Him(Romans 12:1-2, Hebrews 12:1ff.)..
So Christ in His grace and wisdom brought to earth, to this world, not an air-lift but a care-lift, and came with food celestial (John 6:50-54), to produce peace, room for living that needs no expansion into the territories of others, but the personal knowledge of God.
He died to do it, but was careful to escape the rottenness of sin, borne in His case vicariously, by irrupting from the grave in resurrection (Acts 2:23ff.). Thus He DID have it both ways. Firstly, He died to save. Secondly, He rose to keep! How great is the wisdom of God (cf. Hebrews 7:25).Moreover, He rose to return when the Gospel had had enough time to sink right into the piles of this world, sub-surface, and its challenge to meet head-on all the escapist trends this world so loves. Only then did He ever plan to return (Matthew 24:12), and rule and judge (Matthew 24:36ff.). According to plan is an approach exemplified to perfection by God, since no one can stop Him. His love has contrasted with panzer divisions, or social calamities, impersonal philosophies in the hands of highly personal men, and it is much to be desired! It is epitomised in this, that while we were without hope, sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8, Ephesians 2:12), to deliver us from calamity.
So we come to dwell on the BEATIFIC EXAMPLE OF CHRIST, unique in ransom, celestial in kind, eternal in conception, the Lord of glory as man, setting up account to pardon, and always knowing His own (I John 2:1ff., 5:11ff). Thus we come to the final aspect of the SERMON ON THE PLAIN, in Luke 6. It is this. This gives us inspiration also in the way to live, always aware of the foundational realities in your life.
The Beatific Example
"Everyone who is perfectly trained will be like his teacher." Do you follow this ? Here we come to the more positive side.
If not, as with all the wisdom of God in Christ, then you are like the blind being led by the blind. THAT is what is normal, amid the nations, with their artful self-seeking, so that 'in the national interest' becomes the same as 'good'. It IS good to deliver from slavery to evil, but in the PROCESS, to have a liberal heart as well as a wise preparation. You object as so many do nowadays, though self-styled as Christians ? You say, No, but this world has other ways. Of course it does; but the Christian is more in line with Paul, of whom it was said that he and his associate were turning the world upside down! (Acts 17:6). DO NOT LOVE the world whether as a person or nation (James 4:4). Fail here, and you are rushing around a bend in a car driven by a person with eyes closed
It is, certainly, one option (Luke 6:39), and if you worship yourself, wishes, culture or self-chosen appointees, you may opt for it: the case of the blind leading the blind. Not however in the name of Christ may this be done; and this is so, whether or not you object to the way you are made sexually, physiologically or psychologically. You MAY elect to try to change it; but to do so in the name of Jesus Christ is precisely following the blind. It is worse. It is confusing the issue by trying to justify your behaviour in the name of One whose word has consistently abominated this and all such variations from the specifications made (cf. Genesis 1-3, I and II Cor. 4, I Timothy 1). It is simple: the design works wonderfully as provided. IF you want change in some way, then using the name of the Lord is far worse than profanity. It becomes misrepresentation of GOD Almighty.
Being a servant, with likeness to his Master, this is a far better option. It is here that the famed eye surgery to remove a speck from your brother's eye is mocked by Jesus, through the contrasting thought of a PLANK coming out from your own eye, to whack him over the head, as you proceed to extract his 'splinter' with your heavy-handed self-justifications, torrid excuses, wriggling counter-attacks or hostile depreciations. Be clean, then walk in the Spirit, dedicated.
You may prefer the time-dishonoured means of agitation, on to cogitation (in better cases, perhaps) and thence to aspiration (for power, rule, majesty, pride, domination, feckless peace by domination ...). You may prefer the self-seeking, self-centred, self-justifying, flightily decrying, and to follow your own intimations. Do so: but it is you as a centre the universe does not possess. It is delusion. Then comes a conclusion. You imagine new designs for man which are not there, and act on your own account; but for all this, you change nothing but your own assessment card. To this, this world is now justly rocketing faster than its best delinquencies in the heavens (Ps. 115).
Pangs and wrangles, truthless tangles, are one way, vying and denying, pieces of mortality acting as if God! A cut-throat shaver is one way, a safety razor another. The need, however, is for the foundation, the basis, the Saviour from such tantrums, the truth, and it is provided in Christ, all in one, once and for ever. He has paid so that man might gain it freely, even the means of access to God, in reconciliation and reality (Titus 2:13-14, 3:4-5).
Needed in Him are power for goodness, love not for self-expression but its own, in the grace of God... It comes with restoration, in the grace of His presence. But many do not want it! or fear it! Some even make it subjective, but it is objective. As a Christian, it is by the word of God as teacher that one lives (John 14:21-23). Much follows, but this precedes (Matthew 4:4).
Is it so hard ? Is it so intolerable to self-will that persons must alter the conditions, when it is in their keeping that the wonder of it all is fulfilled ? or alter morals to makeshift desire, traduce truth as if to dictate to the director ? Is not the liberty God has given enough, that it must be mocked, and His kindness made into some kind of contest, a matter of combatants, with devious dealings concerning what He has said! Does man have to break His commandments, distort His love, contort his own heart and wallow in self-absorption, as if bowels were digesting themselves instead of the food given!
Why not LOVE God and let His love so engulf you that it moves like a stream (John 7:37ff.) on the ground, even if it be parched, about you. Is it that you like Christ ? Seek then to BE like Him! in spirit, conduct and relish the way home to the Father of spirits, restored and commissioned.
Remember the three times Christ asked Peter if he loved Him ? It involved love in such practical matters as had happened, like disowning Him in temporary distress, and repenting and seeking pardon and then ? then prospering in truth and courage, not fainting but filled with joy and boldness. One of Christ's question's to Peter was more about a friend's love, another about a deep religious commitment from the heart. Friends tend to grow together, but in this case, for Peter, it was upward only. For the Christian, that is the character of the kind (Philippians 3:12).