AUSTRALIAN BIBLE CHURCH October 30, 2011
Presbyterian Church following the Bible without Qualification
and Christ without Compromise by Faith
in agreement with the thrust of the 1901 Constitution of the PC of Australia
THE OTHER THREE DAYS
THE VITAL THREE DAYS
It took three days to change this world. It took six to create it. It will take less to resurrect the Lord's people, this being in a "twinkling of an eye." It can take less than a minute to kill when an aircraft crashes, or a dagger cuts, while a child is born during a day.
In a moment an electrical circuit can become useless which was the source of vast power and productivity. In a moment, a life can be lost. In a day, the eyes of a soul can be opened, as with Saul who became Paul. When God works, whether in life or in death, just as we might write a poem in an hour, so time is no obstacle. A whole life may attest the work of a moment, for good or for evil; but a moment it may be in which the die was cast.
Why do men imagine a God after their own limited and often frazzled powers ? What is this disease which makes them imagine that though our thoughts may be as quicksilver, or the buzzing of the rapid dragon-fly, with massive eye-design and mighty motion almost translated from place to place, yet God is slow, lugubrious, a trier, sadly to be looked down on by our brilliant bias ?
It is one thing to BE a man, with limits both physical and psychological, where hands may be lost and mentality suffused with pride; is it therefore hard to realise that the One who made the multiplied, organised, mutually coherent systems in man, using programmatic language to keep this creation going from generation to generation, all complete and ready to act as called on, who leaves our technology for dead (as the DNA in fact does), is vastly beyond all our powers, as the very Maker of them! When we seem clever, His wisdom is infinite; when we find out, He knows. When we copy, He first did it, as in so many instances of natural designs in insects or materials, being copied by the latest of science.
Is God to be limited by the lore of man, and the beguiled laziness of his mind, the self-exaltation of his pride and the folly of his unimaginative sloth or bewildered wrath! He may be thought so, in the mind of fallen man, but not in fact.
In just three days, comprising an evening of arrest, a night of mockery and bludgeoning, a day of suffering, a night for the body of our Lord to be in the grave, the rest day of the Sabbath, commemorating the creation, and the dawning of the morning, by our reckoning the very minimum for the inventory of three, there was fulfilled a vast divine policy. It was a prodigy better than the creation that was wrought. Here came to fulfilment foretold over waiting centuries; here the glory was enacted. No more was there need for animal sacrifice: Christ, God embodied in flesh by incarnation, God the eternal Word, had paid the price of death and shame for sin. God had ransomed them from death as He foretold (Hosea 13:14), in the way He foretold (Isaiah 52-53), at the time He foretold (Daniel 9:24-27), for the purpose He foretold (Isaiah 55), and so dispersed judgment far from those who took this fruit of 3 days, forever (Isaiah 51:11, 54-55, Romans 10:9).
Likewise, He had emplaced mercy in one site, that same sinless, redeeming life and body of Christ as ground, His Holy Spirit as eye-opener (John 16:8ff.), and in one act (the death and ensuing resurrection) of that very body which fell (Acts 2:29-31), He had dispersed the rotting of death with the imperial empowering of life to resurrect that self-same body. It was this as site of His soul, which bore the shame and the guilt vicariously for believers.
Thus God acted. He did it in 3 days, as so often Christ declared beforehand, that He would (Matthew 16:21.17:22-23, 20:18-21, cf. Luke 13:32, 24:21, 24:6-7,46 cf. SMR Ch. 6). Creation was a work of 6 days, the ransom for a sinful product was wrought and verified in 3, while the return for the resurrection of those whom He has ransomed, will take 1 day only, the twinkling of an eye, a moment. If the energy enshrined in the atom is so great, that a vast city can be removed in hours in one day, how much more can God CONSTRUCTIVELY restore the 'cities', the bodies of His elect, whom He has foreknown before time, seeking all, finding some (as in the parable of Matthew 22:1-14, where those expected did not come, and the King instructed his servants to find whoever was available, even in the byways).
God is a God of power; so never therefore let this be hidden by the fact that He is also a God of exquisite patience, profound knowledge, deep strategy and amazing longsuffering. He lives in eternity, and acts in ways that do not change, eternal (Habakkuk 3:6), and the testimony to be there forever, it too is eternal (Psalm 119:89,143-144,152, 160, Matthew 5:17-20). When power is the question, He can use it, like one in an enormously dynamic plane, after cruising at times swooping, ascending; where patience is in view, He uses it, like one who is never hurried; and when decisive times arrive, He acts, whether for the individual, a nation such as Israel, or the race. He can land any project, or take off, in a dramatic moment, though the mission then be long!
Similarly, for long Winter's plants may be quiet; but then in Spring, one day, there is the bloom.
What is programmatically sourced in much of creation, is purposefully wrought by God in His own time (cf. Galatians 4:4). Christ came in HIS time and acted briefly to bring eternity to light, and immortality to light (II Timothy 1:10). No mere figurehead, it was He who wrought it, bought it, achieved, consummated it and is ready to apply it! You don't have to look amid the stars with the USA moving toward Mars for wisdom, nor to the depths, with Russia and its titanium flag. WIsdom is found where God put it, and for man this is in the Gospel which Christ brought to fruition in Himself, focussed in the short-term work, crucifixion and resurrection in just 3 days.
THE OTHER THREE DAYS
Even during the long months of Christ's Messianic Ministry, it is not hard to find a similar dynamic, another 3 days, and this encourages us all so that even, as with Peter in prison (Acts 12), when the end of hope seems to be shutting the eternal doors, God is able to act in a moment.
There was a period in the midst of the ministry of Jesus, when three days sufficed for some of the most brilliantly famous actions. Take the time from His hearing of the death by beheading of John the Baptist, that very one who introduced Christ to the crowds and foretold that it was He who would be the lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world (John 1:29, Isaiah 53). It was this John who declared thatl, so far from being the Christ himself, he was himself not even worthy to loose the Lord's sandal straps (Luke 3:16). Here was a grievous loss, as if a seat should suddenly be removed as you were about to sit down. But the Lord did not depend on man, even where he was appointed to act in his designed mission.
Yet He felt it, this gruesome death, and went to go away in solitude (Matthew 14:13). Despite this due feeling on His part, the crowds had other ideas; for here was a healer never before equalled, one whom nothing seemed to daunt in mind or spirit, death or disease, in discourse, in argument, in confrontation, and who had grace for all applying (John 1:14). Why lose the chance to find Him! Therefore, when Christ left by boat, the multitudes followed on foot to find his place of landing.
On that day, Christ was not grieved anew, this time by their sheer persistence, like flies. On the contrary, He was moved with compassion (Matthew 14:14), so that when He went out and saw not silent countryside but a multitude, He healed the sick. That is what the Lord is like. In His direct format in flesh, His prodigality of mercy was tremendous, and while God as in Job, deals with sickness as one ingredient of life to be used or lifted, yet here He was lavish as He illustrated through this means the breadth of His mercy which being spiritual at heart, must be met spiritually, and is released in His own wisdom. He wanted to show the hand of health in the process of holiness amid the impact of His own unstinted suffering, and so He did.
This, however, was not all. It was a deserted place (Matthew 14:15), so His disciples thought it good to send away the crowd, now so serviced, to get themselves food, where they could buy it.
Not so! declared the Lord, who then directed the disciples with that authoritative knowledgeability which was His, telling the crowd arrange themselves, on the grass. Then, looking up as if to signify the source of such power, in communion with His Father, He blessed the lunch of one boy, and broke it up to serve 5000. In this, He advanced even on the feeding miracle of Elisha, in his day (II Kings 4:42-44) who with a little. expanded it to feed 100. This miracle done, the disciples distributing the five loaves from a boy's lunch to the 5000 (John 6:11-13), and even took up fragments of these same loaves, afterwards in 12 baskets, such was the divine liberality.
From John 6:14-15, we learn that many then realised that this was the foretold prophet to come; greater than Moses was He (Deuteronomy 18). Moreover, they even wanted to make Him king, as if this were the butt of His mission. Once more, not so! He went therefore alone to pray, and sent His disciples away in the boat, making two nights and one day so far in our 3 day tour of triumph within the many months of His ministry. Having completed His private and prayerful liaison with His Father, in this way, He proceeded from power to purity as is most fitting. He then took His time to be once more with His disciples, for He is rich in fellowship with His own (as in Revelation 3:20, James 4:8). To reach them, He walked across the waters, and when the disciples recovered from their fearful impression that it was a ghost, Peter called to Him, that if it was indeed He, to let Him ask Peter to come to Himself on the water. Peter was practical.
This He did. There is much to learn from that. IN a case of NEED, things unheard of may be done by the Lord, and it is always unwise to imagine to the contrary. Christ here wanted, it seems, both to test and to augment Peter's faith for practical action, and so calling him, saw him fail, sinking as the waves took his concentration away from Him who called! So often this happens in Christian life: someone is doing very well, when suddenly the sheer enormity of what has to be done strikes home, and the person staggers, absorbed temporarily in horror or recoil from duty and divine power. Yet the Lord stabilises on call, and Peter DID then make a further call to the Lord, a call to save him. Catching Peter in time, the Lord then took him back to the boat. Imagine the case if Peter had drowned, that Christ's power had not been unlimited! It was not so, He acted in time. The disciples worshipped, seeing indeed that this was the Son of God (Matthew 14:33).
On the following day (John 6:22), people hunting up hints found out where Christ had gone, and they followed Him, so that a deep conversation occurred, focussing on Christ's ransoming and restoration, the redemption and the sacrificial power which was His, to bring spiritual life to those who so received Him. Some felt offended by the sheer personal emphasis, that Christ's very body was to be the sacrifice. He reminded them that He was going to heaven, so that the thing was not to be physically understood FOR THE EATING, though it was for the fact of His dying (John 6:54,62-63). Some nevertheless were unwilling to find God in a personal manner, one so intense that it was indeed a case of knowing and understanding Him, so missing the point magnificently. Perhaps they preferred a nice vague God who was never too close for comfort, or too decisive for sin to have a nice hold on them! Peter's reply to the Lord, who asked if they also would go in offence, was notable.
"To whom would we go!" responded Peter. "You have the words of eternal life."
THE DAY OF OPPORTUNITY
So far, in this Gospel application of the mighty miracle of the 5000 and the other of the walking on water and saving Peter, we have covered two nights and two days. They crossed over then by boat to the land of Gennesaret, on the North-West coast of the Sea of Galilee, a place enormously fertile. Here there began a time of healing from those from the whole region, people being carried on beds for this divine dynamic. So began this further healing time, and He was placed ready for it.
Three days! What days! If then in three days so much could occur, what might be done in one day in the life of anyone who is seeking the Lord ? Faith should be stirred to see that with God weakness can be opportunity (cf. II Corinthians 12:9-10), and our being nonplussed can be His scope for giving wisdom (James 1). What a transformation in Peter's apprehension AND experience came in these three days, and what a testimony all saw in food and drowning peril, in healing and in compassion, in those same days. What a bounty the Lord showed in walking on sea, praying to avoid the appeal to become merely a king, healing multitudes, feeding them, putting away a natural desire for solitude and even healing in the midst of its interruption!
This is our God, and you can bring on all your nice little man-held posts for those who routinely abuse power and show their lack of wisdom, and allow them to regale themselves with absurd payments and superannuation in many cases, while they distance the Lord as here is so often done in public places; and you can love your paralysed heart and deadened mind, being like a living corpse towards the God who made you, till your life comes up for judgment (Ephesians 2, 4, II Cor. 5:17ff.). You can do all this if you so desire, and adopt this or that cult whether secular or religious; but if you do not find Jesus the Christ, you miss both the direction and protection of God, the very point of your life, and are like spilt chemicals, which instead of being used by precise specifications in some experiment, merely mingle uselessly on the bench. In this, you might get some reactions, but not the desired ones!
Instead, COMMIT your way to the Lord, TRUST also in Him, and HE will bring it to pass (Psalm 37:5). Again, make of yourselves a living sacrifice to Him, that is, be ready to serve as He directs, not following some body which usurps His power, but as God Himself shows by His word and Spirit, as with others in counsel where HE is the Lord and no other (Matthew 23:10-12, cf. Acts 13). THIS, says Paul (Romans 12:1-2) as the Lord inspired him, is "your reasonable service." It is also a delight to serve one so competent, capable, unlimited, so authoritative as to power and so personal as to its use, so glorious in holiness and so gracious in manner.
Why trust in man ? It is cursed (Jeremiah 17:5-10), culpable, superficial. TRUST in the Lord and do good, out of the joy of salvation, and not in order to obtain it (as in Romans 10:1-10), knowing this, that if you confess with your lips the Lord Jesus, and believe in your heart that God has raised him, unrotting, from the dead, then you will be saved. It is not poetry or philosophy: it is practicality and reality, and your focus is either on Him only, the Lord God, for your salvation and so you walk with the Lord, or it is based on a medley or some other option. With God, there is no option but rejection. Seize therefore the opportunity if you lack Him, and with Peter declare, as you come in faith to Him, there is nowhere else to go, for "You have the words of eternal life!"