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Economic and Ecclesiastical Angst
The Despair that takes the Air
The Confidence that is not Cavalier
Power in Parables,
like reflections of mountains in lakes,
found in the roar and reality of what they reflect
Here in Rippling Mood
Matthew 20 and Luke 7
A. The LABOURERS and the EMPLOYER
In Matthew 20, there is a completely fascinating parable. It concerns people who were taken on as day commenced, and left when it was closing down, and were paid as agreed, the daily rate. There is nothing remarkable about that. It is the rest of the story which is arresting, a great teaching lesson coming with seeming simplicity, and complete directness.
Thus, later in the day, the employer finds men waiting for work, ready to work, but without a call, so he summons them also to work, agreeing to pay them what is “right”. He repeats these labouring increments throughout the day, until only an hour or so remains for working. To each the same: what is ‘right’ will be paid. If they want to work, here it is.
As night approaches, the payments are made. He wishes to pay those who came to work last, the first. So these short-time workers are presumably amazed or at least delighted to receive a full day’s wage. When however he comes last of all to settle accounts with the first, those whose services he hired early in the day, there is a lure for them. These have managed to work up an appetite for MORE than the agreed rate. Why ? Was it not agreed ? Yes, to be sure, as the employer explained to them, but they felt that others who worked less having been paid the full DAY’s rate, then they would be paid more, through a ready comparison with the amount of their labour, with the shortened toil of the latecomers.
Because your eye is evil, is my goodness to be attacked! the employer effectually asks. If I wish to give of my own freely, is that not my affair. Can he not be generous without their being greedy ?
Some might say, Ah yes! This is the parable about divine grace, how we never could earn our way in the kingdom of heaven, and it shows that God presses upon us of His abundance; and this is called grace!
However this surely misses the major thrust of the parable. In fact, the early workers had been developing an angst, a desire, excited, hopeful, but in the end frustrated. Their minds were working, their cogitations agreeable, their computations satisfying to greed. Could they not expect MORE, some enhanced sort of payment by simple comparison with these who came so late to the field ? Might not bounty reach them in measure as it reached the others – so swelling their reward ?
Perhaps as they watched the preliminary payouts to those who came late, all a full day’s wage, the scenario struck their soiled spirits, and they imputed not mere generosity, his heart drawn to those who had not managed to be employed earlier, on the part of the employer, but a liberality towards themselves other than that agreed as well.
Nevetheless, to the latercomers, ‘what is right’ was the agreement. To the early labourers, the normal rate.
Was it then right in the sight of the employer to redeem the day of the shorter-term labourers, who had earlier in the day waited in vain, and received no job offer ? Yes it was. That was his compassionate and liberal mind, so that he WANTED to pay for them for the whole day through which they had been available, not merely the part in which he had the convenience of their ready services. HIS MOTIVE was clearly JUSTICE WITH MERCY, realism mixed with consideration, lovingkindness in business, a beautiful concept! This is to be seen sometimes, but not so often as one might wish.
Was it right in the sight of the employer to give what was AGREED for a full day’s work, to those with whom the agreement was made ? Yes it was. Nothing extraordinary had happened to these workers, only to their minds, vying and seeking, greedily gasping for more, in effect acting as if it were their own money, and as to their employer, their greed would be his morals!
Hence Christ in this parable calls their attitude EVIL.
How then does this relate to the teaching which follows, that many who are first will be last, and the lat first ? It is clear that the stratification in view, the first and the last, is in terms of eminence in the kingdom of heaven, for it was the musings of the disciples on these points which led to the parable. What then is in view ? It is this: MOTIVATION. If the workers who in this little play, this parable, were greedy are to be seen as evil, then in terms of the definitional point in view, these are so for their greed. There is a stirring, a whirring, an ambition for gain, a sizing up of the situation with imagination and thought that is hungry, disquieting. WILL he really give them more for working longer (not than was agreed, but than the others) ? HOW MUCH more ?
As this surge of earnest musing occupies their thoughts BEFORE the payment is made to them, the last in the queue for payment by the employer’s decision, so protestation and disappointment occupies them after it is made.
The acts of angst have been at work in its agents. Here then is depicted that querulous unrest that is so typical of it, that seeking not of truth but of triumph, not in spiritual things, but in temporal things, not in morality or nobility or grandeur of love, of mercy, of honesty and integrity, but in mere easy gain. It is a form of anxiety and mobilising of mind, of hope and frustration, of instability and variation from truth. It is rather like a sudden lesson in economic angst moving speedily to post-angst.
But is the spiritual side of the application of the parable much better ? Just before this parable, had not the mother of James and John appeared with her suit for her sons to be seated in glory at the right and left hands of Jesus ? Jesus was tasteful and indirect, but exceedingly clear in meeting this. Is it much better to want to be FIRST in the CHURCH, eminent in its glory, adored or adorable or gurued or something similar in the church, in the kingdom of heaven indeed, to be an important administrator, a knowledgeable rule-book expert, a disposer of other men’s spiritual appointments and the like ? However, it is not what you are doing so much as the MOTIVATION for your doing it!
Thus the chief point of the parable appears to be this: you must WANT to serve, to be effective for Christ, to glorify and honour Him, and accept whatever HE appoints, knowing full well that whether in the ECONOMIC, the wealth of this world, or in the ECCLESIASTICAL, the testimony to spirituality in this world (as the formal level), it is not appearance and eminence that matters. It is the love and kindness, the mercy and truth, the zeal and the humility, the sincere commitment in consecration to Christ the Lord, it is the trustworthiness and the purity, it is the fervour of the server and the motivational honour which is important: not the assumed power or the sought glory.
In any case, ONLY ONE is Master in the Church (Matthew 23:8-10), and this is One called JESUS CHRIST. It is difficult to see how all being brethren, as He declared, and HE only the CHRIST, some other masters, some set of masters or self-appointed zealots wanting to be authorities in the church, can find place! They are not He; these brethren – if they be that at all – are minted in creation, not eternal in the heavens. For these, they are all sinners, just as they are all brothers. Let them never have sinned, and we could consider it prima facie. Let them have existed from eternity, and this would help. Let them, oh let them be equal with God as Christ was and is (Philippians 2), and this would further the propriety of their desires.
Yet even this, it is far from the requirements for ecclesiastical eminence, glory and grandeur in the church. You have not only to be all of this, but also to STRIP yourself of it, except your identity, and GIVE yourself as a ransom for others (Matthew 20:28), as Christ taught was the acme of the process. How do this, however, if they be sinners ? Your OWN sin would be your death in itself (Romans , Psalm 49:7,15). As the ONLY non-sinner among men (Romans 1-5), Jesus Christ leaves them incapable of the atonement (I Peter 2:22ff.); and the other problem is this, that it is HE who has ALREADY PAID (Hebrews -28). Nothing more is conceivable, desirable or possible (Ephesians , Hebrews 1, 10) exists (Acts -12, Ephesians ).
In other words, in this parable of Jesus Christ, it is not only the economically grasping worldling who is in focus, the one who has a monetary fetish, and wants to play his/her power as a spiritual substitute, purchasing power (which cannot buy God or goodness) in exchange for life. It is ALSO the ecclesiastically grasping churchperson who wants to say, Well, I have surrendered this world to itself, but not myself to my Lord, for I would like to play the important person in the kingdom of heaven, and have spiritual riches to distinguish me from these others (and HOW I thank God I am not as other men/women in the church!). I shall play the church pool and have my self-appointed glory here.
In fact, this is the most direct result of the parable’s teaching in the setting of James and John; for it was an ecclesiastical glory in particular that they were seeking (Mark 10:35). Thus the chief point of Christ’s parable about the employer and the time of being called on to serve, is not the incidence of divine grace, though this assuredly figures. It is the motivational horror of seeking not to serve, or in serving not to serve God, but wholly or partially, to serve ONESELF! To revert to the parable: Long service does not entitle to special privilege.
Did you do it in love ? Why then do you seek extra reward ? The entire concept of self-seeking as an option INSTEAD OF spirituality, is in view.
Christ goes on to make it clear immediately afterwards, that HE came to give His life as a RANSOM, not to make shrewd spiritual investments for an enduring and indeed eternal return disproportionate to the input. This is merely sin in saints’ clothes, with no spirituality at all. For the saved soul: To you it has been given, and you GIVE; and the aim is to give. To be sure, your eternal salvation is assured (John 10:9,27-28), but this is of the nature of pleasing God, in being brought back into reality, fitted for the lot for which you were born, as human, and having the infinitude of payment which Christ made in His own life delivered to death, with all its limitless glory, made applicable to yourself.
This is a matter of repentance and restoration to the will of God by the love of God in terms of mercy which He is delighted to show, even to the sacred blessedness of the death FOR sin. This He made WITH sin, not from within, but from without (Isaiah 53:6), to clear the accounts for many.
When however this is done, then to seek to use a NEW LIFE received ONLY BY GRACE (the workers did not earn their wages in the parable, and the wages of sin is death, whereas the GIFT of God is eternal life – Roman 6:23) as a gambling chip for greater spiritual gain is mere egocentricity. Who wants the rat-race in heaven ? Not Christ. It is munificence not in GIVING TO GET, this merely shrouded selfishness, but in giving because spiritually this is the glory of God and the way His love acts; and this is a matter of being maintained as it pleases Him (Hebrews 7:25). It is this which here is to the point. “AS IT PLEASES HIM!”
That is the second point in this parable. The employer was pleased to pay this and that to these and those. WHAT HE SAID, He performed. What His heart desired, He then did. Thus motivation in the employes is exposed on the one hand, and His grace on the other; whilst any sense of self-seeking and trying to “make something out of the kingdom of heaven” is sternly rebuked as “EVIL”!
Angst figures in these things as that uncertain desire, that mixture of motives, that sense of apprehension on the one hand, and expectation on the other, that non-quietus of quest which proceeds with morals in shreds and hope in its best clothes, pondering with ambiguous expectation and guilty repression, the lie of the land. As to angst: it is normal for it, whether in its other mode of depression or in its anxiety circuit, to want to find what is not there, and to try to have it there by putting it there, while being frustrated that this cannot be done! It is like trying to put the gleam into sunbeams! the bloom on peaches. This is what they have, and it is something you receive, but do not seek to reproduce.
Actually, saintliness is a result of the indwelling presence of God in the convicted, converted, consecrated comrade of Christ, so that His will, word and work are in the heart, in the life and in the surveyal of horizons. Godliness means being near to God ON HIS TERMS, not stipulating YOURS! not with greed seeking to exploit grace to your spiritual one-upmanship! That is the pith of the parable.
Thus in Matthew 20:28, in His response to this error of James and John. not only does Christ pursue the point to HIS OWN voluntary humiliation (the opposite of seeking to RISE in the ecclesiastical stakes, far less to be FIRST, to be pope on the right hand, or president on the left, or eminent church leader on some other hand if you can only find one!), showing in personal principle the power of this passion. Rather He does more: He then freely heals someone of blindness BEING SIMPLY ASKED (Matthew -33). Grace thus abounds in practice, in principle and in motivational purity.
What then of His following triumphal entry into Jerusalem …with a motorcade of Cadillacs, a fleet of Boeing 737’s, atomic explosions in space and the like, to signal His signal majesty, who has it and had it from the first and to the last, as the Word of the eternal God ? It is not so written. Not at all in this way or any like it, did He act. In fact, He chose the COLT of an ass (Matthew 21), and sitting on this had the makeshift saddle of old clothes, and the red carpet ? It was people’s odd clothing, tossed in front of the ass! It was not even a neighing horse, far less a snorting one, a creature of dignity and war! There was no signal of power, except in service: there was no glamour or self-exhibition, either as He went to RANSOM, as He has just earlier declared, through debasement and criminal-tagged death, or when He proceeded to HEAL in mere mercy.
It is this which the world had; it is this Spirit and this Word. It is this which this world had and has sought to void. It simply DID NOT desire this in the courts of the church and of the nation (cf. John -51); nor was it tolerated by those who were interested in self-serving concepts at the level of the authorities.
The world has not changed. It simply DOES NOT desire it now. In the United Nations, it is too interested in diplomatic manoeuvres now, as then, to be concerned about so small a thing as the truth, as the Christ, or as the pardon of God. It does not desire that power of peace which comes from pardon and purity in the light of the loving sight of God who made it.
Not at all: not such is this world. THEIR concern is some other desire, some phase of angst in its satisfaction now and for me: a phase of human clasping and grasping, which though it never works, they seem to be trying to secure. To activate by mere numbers and mortal, human power, they press, alas, but to the pit! (cf. Isaiah 14). They did something like that last time with Caiaphas and Pilate; and the combination of international ‘church’ bodies and political groupings continues as fascinatedly DISMISSIVE of subjection to God now as they were then (cf. News 121, 122). The first shall indeed be last in this domain of religious groping and grouping, making their religion as they go, by remoulding what is or buying it up through the dissipation of truth in the cultural containers, which bring in the polluted waters of distant streams from the industrial wastes that for so long have made new gods that having neither life nor power, die with the ages which beget them.
Many who are persecuted by churches that have made their peace with the ruler of this world, will be first, for the wilderness of wildness is then gone, and the righteous shall shine forth as the sun in its brightness, in the kingdom of their Father (Matthew 13:43): for it is HE who is their Shield, and the Lord who is their glory, and in Him they are content, whose brightness shines about them.
Alas for the ‘last’, who seek their pay in this world, pressed down and flowing over, in their cloisters and their international committees to mould man. They talk gods and cultures, nations and races, mooting anything, doing everything, as if the true God had never sent His word, His Son, His prophecies or His truth into this summarily self-serving world. They act as if they and not He, were the compassionate, the knowledgeable, the comprehending intelligence over and for man.
But let this be modified. It is not ONLY itself that this world is serving; but as we see from Christ’s own words in John 14:29-30, it is the Prince of this World. It is of course he who is the prime minister of the sinister, the great, the deceptive, the spiritually diseased adversary, Satan, who himself is being ULTIMATELY served. How is this done ? It is done by an outage, using this devious delusion to seek to short-circuit effort the grandeur and grace of the divine, in favour of the pompous pride and pretension of the human. And this ? it is the mere butt and victim of is vapid affair with exaltation.
And the human, thus so to be elevated ? It is of course anything but human, this collection of cultures, this prey for vultures, this terrain of the defeated, this ransacked residue of successful assault. It is immersed in hatred, lives by war, praises the arbitrary, the outrageous and the destructive, whether in the physical, the mental or the spiritual realm. It is covered with the blood which is like a dim mist not of green or blue, as in the disappearing mountain ranges, which merge, set on set, into the distance of beauty. It is rather, instead, like a red mist rising from the outpourings on the earth.
Man without the living God always descends in the end, to mere violence of one kind or another, since he has violated the truth: oppression of liberty, compression, contortion or distortion of truth, or its weird dismissal; and yet they complain, as if the MERE FORGETFULNESS of the way of the God who cares, has come and has won, were a bagatelle, like the mist on the wind-screen in driving rain.
From time to time, many realise this and man has been warned, as we see from Isaiah 59, in two excerpts, below, the first at the commencement of the chapter:
“Behold, the Lord’s hand is not shortened,
That it cannot save;
Nor His ear heavy,
That it cannot hear.
But your iniquities have separated you from your God;
And your sins have hidden His face from you,
So that He will not hear.”
“The way of peace they have not known,
And there is no justice in their ways;
They have made themselves crooked paths;
Whoever takes that way shall not know peace.
“Therefore justice is far from us,
Nor does righteousness overtake us;
We look for light, but there is darkness!
For brightness, but we walk in blackness!
We grope for the wall like the blind,
And we grope as if we had no eyes;
We stumble at noonday as at twilight;
We are as dead men in desolate places.
We all growl like bears,
And moan sadly like doves;
We look for justice, but there is none;
For salvation, but it is far from us.
“For our transgressions are multiplied before You,
And our sins testify against us;
For our transgressions are with us,
And as for our iniquities, we know them:
In transgressing and lying against the Lord,
And departing from our God,
Speaking oppression and revolt,
Conceiving and uttering from the heart words of falsehood.
Justice is turned back,
And righteousness stands afar off;
For truth is fallen in the street,
And equity cannot enter.
“So truth fails,
And he who departs from evil makes himself a prey.
“Then the Lord saw it, and it displeased Him
That there was no justice.
He saw that there was no man,
And wondered that there was no intercessor;
Therefore His own arm brought salvation for Him;
And His own righteousness, it sustained Him.
For He put on righteousness as a breastplate,
And a helmet of salvation on His head;
He put on the garments of vengeance for clothing,
And was clad with zeal as a cloak.
According to their deeds, accordingly He will repay,
Fury to His adversaries,
Recompense to His enemies;
The coastlands He will fully repay.
“So shall they fear
The name of the Lord from the west,
And His glory from the rising of the sun;
When the enemy comes in like a flood,
The Spirit of the Lord will lift up a standard against him.
“The Redeemer will come to
And to those who turn from transgression in Jacob,”
Says the Lord.
“ ‘As for Me,’ says the Lord, ‘this is My covenant with them: My Spirit who is upon you, and My words which I have put in your mouth, shall not depart from your mouth, nor from the mouth of your descendants, nor from the mouth of your descendants’ descendants,’ says the Lord, “’from this time and forevermore.’ ”
So it was to be; and thus it is.
Thus we return to our parable, from the lips of the Lord. It is NOT POSSIBLE to fit the concept of the first workers into some idea of grace only, for while many received what they did not work for, yet those who did WERE EVIL, and so in the context of first and last, were enemies of God. They SEEMED to be the first; they WERE the last.
HOW then could you be LAST in any evaluative sense, just because you started young, or early ? Is this the teaching ? Of course not: then of what does it consist ? It is the MOTIVATION, not the CONTINUATION which is called into question in this parable; and then condemned. Thus many with these maladies of mind and spirit will say in that day, LORD, LORD, and ask for their wonderful works to be considered; but He will say (as He declares in Matthew 7:21ff.), Depart from Me, you workers of iniquity, and this, I never knew you!
The WILL of God has not been done when the spirit is a soiled worldly byproduct, merely masquerading as God’s. Not thus are His children; not with this did He work when He washed with the waters of regeneration (Titus 3:5); not for this did Christ come in the kindness of God, and present a glorious gateway of access to heaven. Not into this spirit did the “new man” arise, after the image of Him who created him (Colossians ). Being saved by grace is being SAVED by grace; and the power of God is what keeps His children, that they be saved from the corruption of this world (I Peter 1) and made partakers of the divine nature. It is simply a matter of buying a car, and it runs.
You come into His kingdom, and you both see it and its ways, and are empowered to proceed. It is no delusion of perfection on the one hand, or of imagination on the other. What substantially is, does what it is. Faith without works is a dead image and a delusion of desire. Works from faith are as natural as wheels turning.
PART of this relationship to God, is the fealty to Christ and the focus of His Spirit in the heart. Humility is not an effort of pretence for perceptive deployment for social or ecclesiastical advantage, then; but part of the clothing which is natural to the new nature. Eyes see; Christians find this nature and this love of it, for in this way, served the Christ*1. People are forever trying to draft Christ to social unrest, to revolution, to spiritual sauna baths, and such use is simply this world having a go at making Him go on its own way; or stealing His name, or His people. However, the continuation of His people continues with His countenance beholding them (Psalm 17), and their testimony is the one which by its insistence on His word and suffering if need be to blood, endures.
Counterfeit Christs are numerous as foretold for this era (Answers to Questions Ch. 5); and counterfeit Christians and counterfeit churches are merely outcomes. The income of Christ to His people continues, and the world congratulates itself on its erosion of much. What is not eroded is the body of Christ, His people who rely not on churches or nations, on powers or philosophies, but on Him; and IN churches they continue to stand fast and faithful, knowing that the end for this Age, like that for Him in crucifixion, is one of the uttermost challtenge for which they are to the uttermost ready to pay. This is how it was to be, and increasingly, this is how it is (Revelation ;13).
The Spirit of God continues His blessed ministry in Christ, and what He told the disciples, and showed them does not alter. The principles are together dutiful, beautiful and practical. Nothing else works since man is FROM THIS SPIRIT.
B. THE LOVING MUCH AND BEING FORGIVEN MUCH
With these things the parable in Luke 7, concerning the bad woman and the good perfume she used, have special blending effect. Both concern attitude and actuality; and both of these relate to the spiritual condition of those concerned.
Here the story is simple. A woman evidently a prostitute, decided to anoint Christ’s feet with fragrant oil gained from the breaking of an alabaster flask. Long she poured tears and perfume on His feet. Since I came in, said Christ, she has not ceased. But the host, a Pharisee, did not even perform the customary act of grace, in washing His feet as He came in from the hot desert, or anointing His head with oil. Where she excelled, exceeding all custom, he, the host was niggardly, parsimonious with his friendliness and hospitable graces.
When therefore Christ was criticized for not EXCLUDING so bad a woman from His company, He replied with the observation that it is LOVINGKINDNESS and MERCY, the saving of the sick soul, not the buttering of the basted beauties of the upright, that He had come to work. Citing from Hosea 6:6,
“I desire mercy and not sacrifice, and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings,” He rebuked the industrious religiosity of his urbane host.
This leads to the thought that of course, since the Pharisee was MOST upright in external appearance, and in a class where this ornate show was often a superficial, a shallow thing, indeed a whitewash in contrast with the drab and dirty inward dross in the heart (Matthew 23:23-26),. Thus Christ deemed them to be
like whitewashed tombs. He even rebuked his Pharisaical host, even in contrast with an admittedly grossly sinful woman, for being unfeeling where she at least sought Him with sorrow and grace.
Thus the need was twofold. First the sick had to realise their condition, as this Pharisee did not; and then, as soiled, take the cleansing of Christ. In that respect, harlots and publicans (tax-collectors for the conquering Romans, amongst the Jewish subject race!) would go into heaven BEFORE these self-righteous proponents of their own righteousness (Matthew -31). Their lot was less adverse to this opportunity; their number would more readily be touched with truth.
This denunciation in fact was part of the teaching which Christ made in the period following that with which we began this chapter, namely that in Matthew 20. There was, and is, no use in being so pure in your own eyes that you do not take a spiritual bath. Realism is required by reality; integrity by truth; and the innocent man does not exist among the children of man. ALL have sinned. ALL hearts need reconstitution. ALL need to find and to know God. There are NO Exemptions (Romans 1-3).
Our interest now turns, however, in terms of angst, to a special teaching about the fallen woman who had bathed Christ’s feet. It was the fact that the one who LOVED MUCH was FORGIVEN MUCH!
In what way does this principle teach and direct the often uncertain and wavering, the querulous and quavering, the depressed or abrasive spirits of sulking man ? It meets it clearly, but as an additive which is nevertheless one of the utter nature of the love of God.
HOW could she be forgiven much BECAUSE she loved much ? That is, if she were finding in Christ the utterly necessary atonement for her sin, and had found it, and so loved, why or how can it then be said that she is forgiven BECAUSE she loved much ? (as in Luke 7:47).
The answer at the outset, is simple. Christ declares, after the protest of some about His being able to forgive sin (and WHO BETTER, since HE had to bear it! cf. Mark 2), that she should go in peace, pardoned, because “YOUR FAITH HAS SAVED YOU!”
as the medium of reception of the atonement, to which He was proceeding, as
predicted for a thousand years was in Christ. It is He who was the object of
faith. In what way does this contain pardon when so received ? It was to be as
it is: Christ crucified, yes, rather risen (as was also predicted cf. Joyful
Jottings 25). It was in HIM that
the saving faith was placed.
In what way however did it all fit together, the love, the faith and the pardon. Where does her LOVE fit into that ?
The order then, is this:
FAITH IN CHRIST yields
Salvation which yields
Cover of many sins which yields
Much love which yields
Much evidence of much forgiveness, which attests
A thorough work in the heart, of repentance, not concealed or congealed, but actual and so
A thorough and authentic new birth.
Thus MUCH LOVE in this context where FAITH SAVES, faith in Christ, is simply AN INDEX of the fact that the pardon has come to faith, because it is in Him and in His work which He has done; and as in INDEX, it testifies to the presence of the ground on which Christ’s pardon comes. The index attests the fact, and the fact is the faith which she held in Him. The index being extreme, and unmistakeable in the setting, it is like an open door attesting the use of the key.
Thus, the faith is in the fact of Christ, received, believed and acted on. The love is the outcome. As sure exhibit in this decisive event, of the faith in the One who could and did pardon, the much love is not the sufficient cause of the forgiveness, but the sufficient attestation. Because of it, it is true that she is forgiven. As to the operative cause (“your faith has saved you”), that precedes; but as for a sufficient condition of the presence of this invisible faith (which nevertheless He as Lord could and did know), the love served.
Let us pursue further the ‘quantitative’ aspect. The “MUCH” is the attestation that it is not some cursory glance down the throat on the part of some cancer specialist which has been made. A thorough magnetic resonance patterning has been made, if you will, an exhaustive and clear testimony has been made, and the woman, thus divinely accosted (as in John 16:8-12), is convicted of sin (hers), of righteousness (His cf. Psalm 71:16, Psalm 51, Romans 3:23ff., Galatians 3, 5) and of judgment. As to this last, it is an indictment pending and impending, unless the sole avenue to its cancellation is taken.
Due to all who are not covered by the objective Christ in His objective ransom on the objective Cross and His objective resurrection in which He dowers His gifts thus attained cf. Romans 5:25ff., 10:9, I Cor. 15), this judgment position is now changed. Faith has worked; its object, Christ has worked and provided the foundation of forgiveness; its fruits are now received. Thus mercy smiles in the face of judgment (James 2:13), or “rejoices against judgment.” Her sin as deep as life, has been covered; her life as deep as sin has been redeemed, brought up to the upper air of hygiene and holiness; her expectation is only from HIM, and her merit is thus irrelevant. Since His is adequate and this alone trusted in, hence she is simply, completely, categorically, publicly and indubitably forgiven! It is as in I John 1:7-2:2.
What then does this have to instruct us, in terms of her feelings before and afterwards, in the matter of angst ? Before the free pardon, she was oppressed, concerned at her condition, and seeking Him, became unconcerned at the sanctions of society, its hypocritical mockings, its tongue lashings and its pretence and pretension. Being driven to faith, what did she find ?
Uncertainties assailed her; certainties of guilt disported themselves before her. Sadnesses at her condition affronted and confronted her. Seeing the Saviour and in the mighty and majestic grace of God caused to realise this, she being convicted, is convinced; and being convinced, is casting her life on the rock which is Christ (I Cor. 10), and no other (Psalm 62). It is no more a question of that Rock falling upon here (Matthew 21:44), but making her place stable, spiritual, sure beneath here. Thus her initial turmoil becomes the intimation of truth as it finds it place in Him (Matthew -30); uncertainty becomes the perception of reality; disturbance becomes delight’ and degradation yields to the contemplation of exaltation. This completes the circuit.
Thus as HE being REAL AND LOVING, God in form, LOWERS Himself to FIND such as she was, she being reached is RAISED by the One who He is. The aspiration is not celebration, but Christ. The object of faith is not upward motion in society of angels or any other, but Christ. The friendship in view is not that of the world or an admiring church, but Christ. To be sure, she would want to WORK IN the church, and humbling herself, help its ministry; but not in order to help herself! Those who are Christ’s, says Paul, are CRUCIFIED WITH CHRIST (Galatians 5:24 cf. I Corinthians 15:29ff.).
How in the world could a CRUCIFIED person be intent on some kind of selfish advantage, position or primacy!
JOY COMES IN THE MORNING, but FIRST THERE COMES MOURNING
Thus does angst finds its answer, not in contorted strivings, not in imaginary arrivings, not in sententious epithet construction, or guru-ish jibes, but in the God who made the mankind which being divorced, sometimes feels like it; and would like marriage, but being unsure that it would really like, if you will, its husband, goes on looking for some other source of comparative quietus. This of course being pure, or more aptly impure illusion, does not satisfy, so leading to the cynicism, assertiveness, sadness or even mourning that so often throngs; or even to the depression which is the cancer of angst.
However when it is MOURNING INDEED, and not just regret, then we may come the full circle; for then it is found that BLESSED ARE THEY WHO MOURN! and if this mourning moves from frustrated selfishness and self-fulfilment to seeking for God only for truth, for mercy and for righteousness, then is the way becoming clear. It is then seen that it is Christ who IS the way, for there is no other who meets even the most distant of the necessities of truth, declaring God with power and purity, prophecy and satisfied scenario, even exhibiting in advance the methods to be used by His enemies, and the date on which they would do their lethal but futile task (cf. SMR Chs. 1-3, 6, 9, Joyful Jottings 25, Highway of Holiness Ch. 4, Repent or Perish Chs. 2, 7, That Magnificent Rock, Biblical Blessings Ch. 15, *2, Appendix IV).
None other fulfils the specific predictions of God, which embrace the ages (cf. SMR Chs. 8-9), or deploys the visible to attest the invisible, the power to pardon in God’s own name.
Imagination merely aggravates angst when it is placed in the mouth of God, and tries to make an echo sound as if He uttered it. What He has said, attests itself. He IS the Rock (cf. II Samuel 22:32), and His words stand unrepentant at the assaults of multiplied centuries of waves! In all science, there is nothing which has been so clear from the millennia, so maintained to the end, unrevised, correct in perspective, connotation, denotation, verification.
The leisurely plan is in marked contrast however to the passionate performance of it. In the interstices of history, love met hate. Christ was surrounded by a buzzing flight of bees, stinging, stinging (Luke 11:53-54, John 11: 47ff., Matthew 21:46, Luke 20:19, John 7:1).
The more they hated, the more His love showed; the worse their penalties, imposed in scurrilous haste, the more His suffering spoke to man of man’s sin; the more they refused justice to Him (cf. John 18-19), the more His judgment rose like a vast and massive wave; and the higher it rose, the more could some become aware of the epochal masterpiece of folly, killing the very source of goodness and the master of life.
The more this was realised, the more became Christians (Isaiah 53:10), forsaking the dread angst of judgment, and the futilities of lurching searching without wisdom or possible truth; and finding rest (Matthew 11:28ff.). In this, was Christ satisfied (Isaiah 53:9-12). His love was to give, not get, and in this it was given.
So was the plan of God, forecast for millennia, performed in time, even in the midst of enemies so long warned of His plan, made to look asinine, as sin does make man look, for their pomposities of belligerence against their own Maker (cf. Acts 2:23ff)! it is not enough to feel vaguely inadequate in the face of these facts.
What then of the mourning for sin, which rests in regret, and finds but feeble heart, looking to man, to his customs and his ways, for some sort of escape. There is none. Offence against man is merely the beginning. Misuse of equipment and history in the wrong motivation, this continues against God; and in the end, the whole offence rests on Him, for ALL is His property! (Psalm 51:4) ?
What of this ?
There is the very heartland of angst, anxiety, depression, uncertainty, contingency plans, unfulfilled hope, arrogant assertion contrary to evidence, leaning to one’s own understanding, submergence in darkness, looking for dawn at midnight and the aerial combats of spirit which reduce but do not bless: it is the energy of defeat poured on the earth in mingled protest and impotence.
the mourning is mere depression, cynical regurgitation, then it is merely a
matter of the despair which takes the air. It aches and it assaults, is
repressed, comes out differently dressed; it impresses and it distresses. It is
this to which Christ refers in Luke 21, together with “distress
of nations with perplexity”, when He indicates that men’s hearts will fail them for fear, in the tartan of events which
announce His near return (Luke 21:28). It is this which was to be, when
They look down the barrel of a 16 inch gun, or into the stomach of a cyclotron and understandably, can find no comfort; nor does courage remake the world; nor can it; for it is polluted past all power of man, in heart and mind, in environment and culture, in selfish ambition and in loathsome deceits. Even morals can be manufactured with address, addressed to this world and its endurance, to man and his pretentious pride, as if he could ascend (as in Isaiah 14) to the very heavens and vie with God, though merely derivative, and at that, denatured by sin.
God alone can make the crooked straight (Isaiah 40), and of gods, there is but ONE (cf. Genesis 1, Exodus 20, Ephesians 4:4, and see SMR Ch. 1). Of truth there is but one, and without its absolute Basis, for your faith, you merely resemble pickled herring in a tin; and this, it has no future, and could it feel, it would not do well to imagine it anything good!
What attracts is the sheer goodness; what works is the sheer willingness; what is pure is divine truth; what is blessed is the sheer loving favour, not bound to empty convention or tradition, but unbound from the very heart of God. What is written stands; and is not to be revoked, but performed (Matthew 24:35); and it is done with a demolition of hope of those who seek to exterminate all memory of God from the memories God made (cf. TMR Ch. 1).
It is quite certain that man without this is merely making towers of Babel (Genesis 11), so that the sheer extravaganza of destitute pomp and impotent pretension will break them down from within, even where they are not at length, put under the judgment of the God whom they ape, monkeying about with His divine glory, as if they could INVENT it from Nature. Monkeys however do not have the spirit or the mind of man (cf. SMR pp. 10ff.); nor do they share his responsibility. Pigging it with food is no excuse for greed; aping it with God is no excuse for the spirit we possess. It does not change what we are any more than a child can become invisible by putting its hands over its eyes.
NOTHING can EVER make anything right or good, because something happens. Indeed, it cannot even make anything at all (cf. TMR Ch. 7).
SO they worship nature which merely asserts its Maker, and does not make itself! Will it legislate a law for them, make a code ? Will the stony hearts find their feelings inscribed with law ? However, to describe is not to prescribe; to want is not to make rightness. Descriptive tenacity does nothing for decreeing the right principles. It happens ? and then ?
Rightness is from one source only (cf. News 19): that of the very power of morals to find place in contention with desire, with culture, with civilisation or any other misfit which presumes to announce itself the criterion. Men will not and do not rest in anything, but God; and there only because it IS rest which is truth. There IS no criterion but God, for actual right, or good or truth. Your desires are just that; your priorities are just that; your obvious assertions are merely that; your hopes are just that; you are just meaningless junk, and your mind is mere banter in the stars, without God (cf. SMR pp. 99-100, 999ff., Chs. 1-3; Sparkling Life in Jesus Christ, Ch. 4)
Travelling without His certification is like going on a road for 200 kph minimum travel, with a wheel barrow of your precious belongings in front of you. It is not so much ridiculous, as an ache of soul. It achieves nothing, is based on nothing, confronts actuality and if not blind, might have less angst if it were! That however would not reduce the impact of reality.
Small wonder that angst in its myriad forms attacks so many. They are as due for it as is he who works underground for 40 years, in clammy condition with polluted air, ready for tuberculosis. This world is thus not really being exploded by bombs so much as by the belittling of God by the little and the exaltation of the little into god-like status, which being totally without any possible meaning but pride, comes where the unrealism of that clammy mockery that mars man, simply deserves. Without mercy, there is and can be only justice. When you hit reality, rest assured, there is no rest.
But love ? and loving much ? working with the relish of being in the will of the Redeemer ? These things are the total traverse of that downward slope. Though vested in grace, work has its place as OUTWORKING of the goodness of God (Titus 2).
It is the UPWARD CALLING to which Paul refers (Philippians 2-3, Colossians 1,3). It DOES take effort; but then what is effectual precedes it, just as the GOOD tree bears fruit because it IS good (planted by God cf. Isaiah 61:3, Matthew 15:13, John 3). It is just not the case that it produces its version of fruit and so gains admission to the class of ‘good trees’. The root is back of the fruit. You need to be planted by God. Fruit is the product, not the cause.
Fruit as an admission ground to heaven is at the root of the problem: there is no root. Rootless trees are rotten, if they get so far in their superficial spread.
The root must be in the Redeemer, where it belongs, where truth lies and pardon is to be found. Putting it in man or nature is merely putting it where pollution is, and truth is not. As to truth, if you want to manufacture it, that is fine, so long as you name is that of Almighty God, to whom alone is the absolute naturally available. Since it is not found except in HIM, without HIM all that is found is mere occasion for angst, issues of bleeding, evidence of failure, product of pride. In the end, man in these modes always makes himself the criterion (anything he erects is simply an extension – you need what is actually there); and being without assessment, he assesses himself, rather like a student who marks his own papers. It is not so much guilty, as mirthful; and not so much mirthful, as spiritually dead. But guilty it is, in the highest measure.
Its penalty is just; and just as unnecessary as just. Since Christ has covered the case, His unsearchable riches of redemption, adequate for all, are by no means dispensed or dispersed to ANY who do not receive Him (John 8:24). HOW could you receive from HIS hand what you conceive unavailable, because you do not believe (John 8:40-44). Will you stretch out your hand to the stones, or the sky ? Will wisdom be found there ? (Job 28:20ff.), or meaning ? (Isaiah 48:6-13, 48:10, Jeremiah 9:12-13, Matthew 5:17-20, Romans 3:31, 5:1-12, John 14:21-23).
Ponder Job 28:20-28:
“From where then does wisdom come?
And where is the place of understanding?
It is hidden from the eyes of all living,
And concealed from the birds of the air.
Destruction and Death say,
‘We have heard a report about it with our ears.’
“God understands its way,
And He knows its place.
For He looks to the ends of the earth,
And sees under the whole heavens,
To establish a weight for the wind,
And apportion the waters by measure.
When He made a law for the rain,
And a path for the thunderbolt,
Then He saw wisdom and declared it;
He prepared it, indeed, He searched it out.
And to man He said,
‘Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom,
And to depart from evil is understanding.’ ”
Will events instruct you on duty ? will ignorance teach you your responsibility, or blindness inspire you with sight ? Will the absence of truth teach you either what it is or how to obtain it ? Will you fall before a myth, or operate in the presumption of some inspired nonsense, which attributes to nature, or man, what they never do (Jeremiah 23-27), because they are not so made, and hence do not provide, though you tickle them with X-rays, and provide every technical support (cf. TMR Ch. 1)! Will you calibrate mentality with mentality, mark your own work and become your own god ?
Will you inhabit eternity and make time? Will you become naturalised to the universe, part of it, and then subdue it to your all-conquering knowledge, without even knowing its beginning or its end ? Will conquest be your name and obliteration of dependency your aim ? Is sacrilege your species or your own choice ? Will you be the absolute, and source everything in your own knowledge, though you die tomorrow and were born yesterday, and time is your master, except you know Him whose is eternity ?
Will man then submit his name disrespectfully to
the awesome realities in which he was formed, to the linguistic specialist
whose words are his DNA, whose construction is his genome, whose intelligence
he has derivatively as from adequate source, and to whose judgment in his own
construction he must bow, whether he likes it or not, since he is FORMED of it
and by it, however wantonly he presumes and pretends to autonomy! (cf. Barbs,
Arrows and Balms 6 ff.,A Spiritual
Potpourri Chs. 1-9,
Licence for Liberty, Predestination and Freewill).
Such aspirations are asinine; but man does not lack intelligence. It is his heart which chafes at his derivation, chides at his limitation and imagines things …
These things, they merely blow the harder with the bigger knowledge, to make the puny pollutions of spirit the powerful defilements of the universe (II Corinthians 10:12, 11:15ff., 4:1ff.). They advance in regress; in regress, they tower in strength: the tower collapses, the stack of cards with names but not strength, and has done for millennia of arrogant presumption. They hasten the pit by faster digging. It is not wise.
But when you believe in Him, the result is as sure as is the injection from the doctor in whom you believe medically. He is demonstrably there, and you are beside him, and the matter needs no further description. The results of the treatment moreover take away the fuzziness of mind, and all things at last have their light, place, with nothing left over (cf. SMR Ch. 5, Tender Times for Timely Truth esp. Ch. 11).
THAT ? It is the correct place for nothing! That, it is the ONLY place where nothing is prime in the place of verification!
In parallel, Abraham found in God, his shield, in God Himself, his exceedingly great reward (Genesis 15:1, Moses walked “as seeing Him who is invisible” (Hebrews ), the Psalmist asks –
Ř “Whom have I in heaven, but You ? And there is none on earth that I desire, beside you,” in Psalm 73:25, expecting that God will
Ř “guide me with Your counsel and afterward receive me to glory,” while David reveals his desire (Psalm 27:4):
Ř “One thing have desired
of the Lord, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord
all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to enquire in
Thus he will go
Ř “to the altar of God, to God, my exceeding joy” (Psalm 43:4), while Peter sings in the chorus at the honour of His majesty, saying –
Ř “whom having not seen, you love; in whom, though now you do not see Him, bet believing, you rejoice with joy unspeakable, and full of glory” ( I Peter 1:8).
Thus “crowns” are important because they are from His hands themselves - which did not cling to glory (Philippians 2), but to the cross - symbols of blessed companionship, for the works of value are wrought through, with and from God, BECAUSE one belongs to Him (John 14:12), so that the elders in Revelation 4:10 “cast their crowns before the throne, saying, ‘you are worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power, for you have created all things, and for your will they are, and were created.’ ”
v Salvation is free (Romans 3:23ff., , , Ephesians 2:1-12), grace is sufficient (II Corinthians 12:9), and the works (John )? He does them, using us as a Master, His apprentice. They are HIS! (Philippians 2:12-13), the defects but our own.