AUSTRALIAN BIBLE CHURCH February 21, 2010
Continuing the work of the Australian Presbyterian Church (Union 1901),
following the Lord without Compromise and the Bible without Qualification,
VOYAGE OF A LIFE-TIME AND BEYOND
from Colossians 1:9-14
RECEPTORS OF REDEMPTION
In the structure of nerves there are to be found sections which receive stimulus from other nerves, and are thereby stimulated. These are receptors. In life, there are to be found entry points where one may be stirred to act, and to receive what is presented. If there is damage or death to these, that may not occur; and those who are without Christ are dead to God, whatever glimpses and intuitions they may possess. The stimuli fall in vain, the nerves of the heart of man do not respond; his spirit is dead, not to the world but to his Creator (Ephesians 2, 4).
To KNOW God you have to receive information and illumination and possess pardon being given grace, through God's own provision for you. Like a berth for a ship, a nest for a bird, an entry permit, a visa for a country, it is given. If here on earth, then ever so much more in this domain, man does not strut up to God and demand access, though to seek the Lord in sincerity is entirely different; but when one does, as with a visit to any great eminence, there is a protocol, except that in this case, it is not merely formal but elemental. The sinning soul is separated from God, until the blood - the death for sin on the part of Christ, covering sin and enabling truth to enter, the actual knowledge of the true God and not phantom, phantasm or psychological substitute - is received by faith, so providing the pass for entry.
In our text this morning, we find Paul praying for the church at Colossae, that they may be filled with the knowledge of His will, in all wisdom and spiritual understanding. Now you cannot be filled, unless the entire process of entry and enlargement of the gift is at work. Notice that being FILLED with such knowledge is very different from a grudging allowance which enables you to nibble and fret. There is in this presentation a certain exuberance, which is precisely that of which James speaks in James 1, in terms of wisdom. Ask in faith and find it without equivocation, parsimony, but with liberality and without scolding, and that, freely!
This is the normal situation for the Christian, since Paul is praying this for them as an entire Church.
REDEMPTION ITSELF - ITS FRAMEWORK
The ground for it becomes clear in Colossians 1:13-14.
There has been a deliverance, as with refugees, as with pilgrims, as with those struggling in the sea after a shipwreck, and a translation or conveyance from the former state to the ship of Heavenly State, that is to the acknowledged present of God, who enlisting you, and finding you, moves you up on board and you are then enlivened by your stable and sure security on the ship. ALL on this ship, in this situation, with this acceptance (as in Ephesians 1:6) are in the Kingdom of Christ, the Son of God (Colossians 1:13). Called, come, acknowledged, given a basis for their citizenship of this kingdom, they become acquainted with their inheritance, gift status, post, position and place. Each has redemption. Paul clarifies this instantly.
It is "through His blood" which is utterly and entirely different from being received through your performance criteria, curriculum vitae. It must be realised that this is as relevant as what socks you are wearing in an employment interview. If you foolishly said to your potential employer, as he sought to elicit information from you, to help him decide if you were to be employed, that it was a matter of pride with you that you had purchased for this interview a pair of red silk socks, then your chance of employment would recede markedly, since you would seem obsessive, superficial, at best.
If you seek to concentrate on what you have gained by your discrimination, purchase, energy and training, then of course you do not know God. He is to be found by the reception of a FREE gift (Romans 6:23, 5:15-17), that of His own righteousness. In a way, it is rather like spraying or dipping sheep so that they might be free of communicable diseases and so safe in your flock. The state of their fleece is not here to the point; it is the state of their infection. Here the infection is called sin, a free-wheeling liberty to do as you please (even if what you please has some resemblance to morality) irrespective of the will of God for you.
God assures us that ALL have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God and if you wish to argue the point, it shows not only your blindness to the gap between the purity of God and your own heart, but the presumption to imagine that you know Him, gain entry to Him automatically, like boat people, expecting to arrive into a land, leaving all the others waiting long, behind and just barging in, almost literally. All sorts of methods may be used to seek to tilt the receptor country to allow entry, but in the end, there are in any country, certain requirements. In God's own country, these are a total dismissal of all charges, actual and potential, because of clashes with God, ignoring of God, departure from God, brash self-assurance concerning Him and the like, at entry.
In Colossians 1:14, we find that the Christian has something. It is not something he or she provides, but which God provides; it is received, and being taken, it remains like a standing wave, in place. The death of Christ is to take the curse (Galatians 3), remove the guilt, take over the wasted assets (even if in pride they seem enormous) which are spoiled and soiled in spirit before Him, and so grant pardon from Him whose standards of purity are perfection, in which alone is peace. God absolves by this payment, and grants His own righteousness as pure gift and ultimate credit, through obliterative transfer (II Corinthians 5:17-20), at infinite cost.
While no man fails to sin, even when redeemed, yet here there is cover, as in insurance, and the price is paid not by our subscription but by Christ's subjugation to the payment of the Cross, the presentation of the price for sin, namely death, in His own case, as Saviour for those who will receive it, receptors of salvation. With this, quite naturally, we find in this same verse, comes forgiveness of sins. Transferred to His kingdom, we realise and relish the new life with God.
In being given a clearance of spiritual debt, you are delivered from being a debtor person (like the USA and Australia, hideously in debt), and through unlimited credit not from an atheist country, but from the God of creation and all grace, you have access to Him so that you might be "filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding."
AIMS OF THIS KINGDOM'S CITIZENS
Paul lists several major aims at once for these citizens of Christ's kingdom. First is this: that they might be worthy of the Lord. Who in any team, wants to have those who play tiddly-winks when the task is to soar in alpine splendour, over traps and heights until the course is finished. Courage and conviction go with consequences and, through the power of God, victory. In other words, you aim to be and enabled to be as an ideal, to which you seek by all hope and labour to draw near, to be "fruitful in every good work." There ARE sour grapes, but the purpose of the fruit is not this acidulous acerbity, but pleasant help and refreshment, encouragement in every form of duty.
This you aim at, and of course, as under your Team Leader, the Truth Himself, Jesus Christ, roused and raised from the dead so that His flesh did not rot, exemplar of victory and Saviour from sin, you find yourself as you go "increasing in the knowledge of God." How would you not as you counsel with Him continually through the office of the Holy Spirit, despatched into the heart of every Christian that ever was, is or will be (Romans 8:9).
If you constantly work with your coach as you train, develop and seek to be fruitful, how would you not increase in knowledge of Him! unless it was all a fiasco where your heart was elsewhere and training sessions were quite frankly a bore. But then, are you thankful (Colossians 1:12), and indeed, have you received that redemption which is both ground for gratitude and scope for energy and enterprise in His service!
On the contrary, as a Christian you seek to be "fully pleasing to Him", and you find that you are as you seek Him, "strengthened with all might" - nor is this some psychological lift, but rather it has dimensions of dynamic. It is this "according to His glorious power" - which being infinite, will do (do what ? whatever is needed as in Ephesians 1:19, 3:16).
This is living the life God has expressly commissioned for our race, sinners all, all in need of redemption, loved, and when found, filled with the knowledge of God, increasingly, as service proceeds and duty is done. In this, you are dealing not with natives, but with what is far more challenging, those reluctant to be found, fighting against the kingdom of heaven, seeking to disrupt, to deceive, and more often perhaps, being self-deceived, rejoicing in hurling dirt, spears of slander or some other evils at those who present the message concerning redemption in Jesus Christ, Saviour from eternal death and giver of free pardon.
They mock it, scorn it, and scorning life, find their regular reward in disgrace at last, whatever men may say of them. Indeed, so rigorous is this effort to escape escape, to avoid deliverance, to avoid God, to be autonomous, to follow your own desires, whether with a chosen leader or not, that Christ stated that the time would come when people would seek to KILL His servants. Not only that, so deluded would these potential assassins be, that they would THINK THEY WERE SERVING GOD in becoming murderers in this way (John 16:2)..
For example, in the latest edition of Israel My Glory, there is a page indicating how many people in one place have been beheaded by Islamic sectarians, for being Christians, killed for becoming Christians, each one an assault, a destruction of the body because their spiritual receptors received redemption, which has no place in Islam, just as Christ has no place, and they even constructed a new one without even changing the name! In this world, said Christ, what is highly esteemed among men is an abomination before God! (Luke 16:15). The self-based (personally or by proxy) works of men as key to God was a chasm of misconduct (16:14), justifying yourself before men. God has His own unique, divine way of salvation, not to be found by the presumption of man: its worth is not for appearance but for reality.
How many millions have been slain in the Roman Catholic Inquisition, in the USSR, in China, collectively, in the Sudan, in India, and are still being targeted, children snatched, slaves made, and property spoiled! Do they think they are doing God service by daring to use His name in order to justify such theft and violence! Do they dare to deploy force against His property, and so murder by method and kill by conviction ? Is there no better argument then for them than force as at the first in Muhammad's forceful entry into Mecca ? If so, there is no room for faith, for force is always irrelevant to faith, which is a matter of inward conviction, not outward attack, by its very nature.
If however the atmosphere of service may be clouded by woes and wickedness, the interior atmosphere is vital like oxygen to the lungs, for one knows whom one serves and why, and Him whom one serves, and is lit like a flame from Him, to light the way to Him, and work with Him.
ATTITUDE AND ACTION
Nevertheless, this merely emphasises one aspect of Christian living, of life in the kingdom of heaven, as the authentic has time to show it. Christians are "strengthened with all might, according to His glorious power, for all patience and longsuffering with joy." Patience is one of the outstanding and authentic criteria needed for any sincerely pursued task. If you lack it, you need it, for tasks in this sinful world are apt to be challenging, if not because of their own content, then because of obstruction, inhibition, exhibitions of evil, and the necessity of dealing with those who do not know God, with all the latitude of conduct and morals which this suggests.
More than this, longsuffering is another of the foci, the features, the enablements that God gives to His servants, as they do that to which He has sent them. Irritable peckishness is no more acceptable than clouded vision, so that one erupts with angers or anguishes at slight provocations. Nor is that the sum: for this same longsuffering has to be, and in Christ will be married to "joyfulness". Now that is challenging.
Patiently to bear wrong is a difficulty, showing longsuffering as a characteristic is challenging indeed, but to do so with joyfulness, not even allowing oneself the indulgence of showing how wonderful one is in bearing so well with so much, this is another dimension altogether. Why however is there joy in such provocative situations ? It is because the knowledge of God IS joy; for here is more than Pacific Island (before it sinks) and peaceful environment (before it is torn up) and rest (before it is invaded). To know such a being as this, to know such a Person as Jesus Christ, alive from the dead, exhibitor of death's submission to life in His own person who gives this eternal life, and who does it with grace, this IS joy.
How could it be otherwise! This is the Son of God's own love, intense from eternity, immense in incarnation, sustained through death, working for ever. In such an environment, there is joy indeed, nor does God hold this delight to Himself, but gives and gives to the uttermost, being able to save to the uttermost those who come to Him through this Son of His love (Hebrews 7:25), and doing so, as if they had anchors cast already into the sacred precincts of heaven (Hebrews 6:19); for His death for life, covers all life which comes to Him at His Gospel gift, for ever (Hebrews 10:10,14, 9:12, John 5:24).
As He declares, "your heart will rejoice, " and as to that, "your joy no man will take from you," John 16:22. Why ? Because He would, as He did, overcome death and be restored to them as they to Him. Not only does He have the power for good, but He is good, and in Him, the Lord, there is no iniquity at all (Deuteronomy 4, James 1).
Free from the ravaging seas and their waters that enter the mouth and seek to swamp the lungs, on board the non-luxury liner of the Lord, knowing God and increasing in this knowledge with patience, and longsuffering with joyfulness, walking with Him and working for Him, strengthened with all might, there is a way for godly life. Now one's life becomes not sybaritic, not sequential in terms of some training or culture, not shallow with unvanquished questions on hold, but spiritual and in godliness kept by the grace of God; and with pardon for error, discipline for character, at the hand of the Almighty, known now as Father, there is a peace. It is one which passes all understanding, which is most understandable: it is without limit. Now indeed, one partakes of the inheritance of the saints in light (1:12).
Such peace is to be sought, not for self-satisfaction, but because for this we are made, not in mere listlessness, but in the love of God, as an accompaniment of life, lifted to the Lord who made it, our adoption as children of God making for all cover and conduct, duty a joy and the point and purpose of life made clearer than the masses of myriad stars at night, profound in conception, empowered in sustenance, giving light. Christ is our light, not as a mere example or ideal, but as the living, resurrected and returning Son of God, who gives life as do waters in the desert.