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1) THE SURROUNDS
Autonomous man is a myth. You cannot engender what engenders, whatever it may be 'free' to engender when you have it. Creating your creator and so creating yourself is rather absurd. You are already created. You must deal with the realities, not try to build a universe with lego blocks of your own thought.
Existential man is a flirtation with fancy: your meaningfulness cannot create the meaning, but merely represents a form of assertion, response or commitment. Commitment is not meaning, unless it means that you are daft, for there is the anterior question, committed to WHAT, and another, WHY ?
Libidinous man is merely a description of pathology. Following whatever component or dynamic within, and characterising it as this or that, rather than the other, for example, life abundance rather than lust or desire or the outworking of a perhaps vexed spirit, or the lightness of one which is more gossamer in conception, than in execution: this does not create man. It is merely a creation from man, and one of dubious integrity at that, its source(s) being multiply available and not always even realised.
Democratic man is an improvement on serfdom, but it is too readily compatible with serfdom of a spiritual kind, in which numbers cannot, by any means, equate to truth. For democracy to show its undoubted merits, you have to have people who do not lack them; and truth. That is why some democracies have COMPARATIVELY done rather well, since some have had an enormous component of truth, even if they now lag and lack in indolence of spirit, and lust or carelessness of mind, increasingly.
There is however a liberty. It is not to be found except in Christ, for the simple reason that unless you may BE something different, you are bound to what you are. If what you are is to be removed from its milieu and container qualities, then you have to be able to be something else altogether. Since however what you are will filter what you might wish to become, in terms of what you are, there is no way out even there, until and unless the God who made you, being aware of what you are, might be and should be, should enable a transformation which is not a blind forcing of your heart into some alien mould, nor yet a mere intimation within it, but a sovereign selection in which His will is your restoration to what is your design, and this is liberty in this, that it is in His image that your design abides, when followed. Since HE is free, then you have, in this way only, liberty also, but ONLY within the limits, not of power, since He lacks none of this, not of wonder, since He is full of this, not of the artistry of life, since prudence and discretion are rated highly with Him (Isaiah 52): but limits of licence.
WHAT IS THIS LICENCE ?
1) the licence to live. No one makes men, but God. You need His operation either by creation or pro-creation, to arrive. What you then are is not the result of research of man, however much may be contributed in endeavours to remove results of the second law of thermodynamics, in any downgrading of your genes through long-term damage, or short-term impact.
2) the liberty to think. This is of course merely a resultant of 1), but it is a select feature. In terms of thought, you can arrive where you cannot come, or come where you cannot arrive. You can discover, uncover, flit and fancy, and move a little here or there. You can envisage, intuit, imagine, empathise or realise. If for example you are race-embedded, either in the mud of intolerance without reason, or resentment without it, for resentment is no reasoned reply to evil: then your thoughts are likely to be motivated amiss, subjective and possibly even bowed with a weight which precludes your understanding.
The same applies in friendships, betrayals, commercial success/failure and so on. While you MAY avoid one or other of the all too apparent maladies of thought, resulting from a marred spirit, there are always the others, such as being proud of being free from the normal maladies, which then injects an unrealistic element, and subjectivises all over again.
Nevertheless, it is a potential liberty, and if a contained liberty, it sometimes has wings, some shorter, some longer, and airs of different qualities to fly in, some more, some less polluted.
liberty to move towards what you want to be.
This is limited in much the same way as 2), but more so, since arrival is even more likely to be circumscribed by the preceding quality of the life, the prejudice or the harassments, ambitions or follies of heart. It has the additional problem that it can become exceedingly manifest that the ideal is not the attainment, and then, frequently, mere rationalisation can enter to make the attainment reviewed, until it is attainable, without perhaps acknowledging that this is a face-saving operation of the psyche.
liberty to seek God.
This has even more stringent limits, since one often finds people acting AS IF they would never change, and their interest in God, or desire for Him at one time, is readily shuntable to some other time. In fact, the human psyche, very much like the body in terms of a disease, tends to move this way or that, to become more or less honest, honourable, perceptive, burdened, intrigued by such and such dynamics, and the liberty to do what you want when you want, in this field, is - while not zero - at times exceptionally close to it. It is not what it SEEMS but what, on review, it is found to be, which matters.
Apart from this variability in the very spirit of man, in his researches towards, and movements to or from God, there is the fact that God, being personal, is not available for mere force, whether of mind or spirit, and far less of body. It is good to seek Him with ALL the heart, and to seek with ALL the mind and strength, nothing lacking; but then there is no guarantee that in the intention, there is also the attainment, since the limitations of desire, perspective and pride can readily erode any reality at all. In fact , man is in sin, and sin is in man, and the non-exquisite complementarity has an effect of rendering man at risk of being so bucolic that a beast might be better at it, the effectual seeking of God: that is, no good at all.
There has to be an invitation, for personal communication, if it is to be received by another party, wholly unknown, as a person. In fact there IS ONE, in the Bible, indeed many are express or implied in such places as Matthew 11:27ff. and John 4:14, 6:50ff.. But what liberty of heart is there to receive such an invitation ? First a person can simply ignore it; or ignore the inescapable reasons for its truth; or slander those who present it; or attribute to it various ignoble designs on them, by this or that party, and so on.
Secondly, a person might credit the invitation, but in a stultified church way, imagine that his/her church knows all about that, and simply attend, and never meet God personally, or know His salvation or even understand the change which He is able to produce and procure, so granting the liberty to BECOME A CHILD OF GOD.
Now of course if you did not WANT to become this, that has little appearance of liberty. What if however, we take a parallel. Suppose as someone in a drugged, dream state through sickness, you did WANT to die, and asked your nearest euthanasiac bureau (one is conscious this may be a minting of a term) to forward the matter; whereas in fact, you might not be in possession of your own faculties, or not discriminatingly so, in order to arrive at a sound individual assessment. If you were NOT allowed to, this would be a provocation of your DECISION but an enablement of your liberty, since your decision would represent merely the pollution of personality through deficiencies. So too in spiritual things. You are - and this of course is the whole essence of the problem in this field - NOT healthy in your spirit, if not in Christ. Your sins are still in lodgment in your heart, like a virus. Their impact on your mind/heart/spirit is heavy, and parallel to occlusion, or to macular degeneration. Hence even if you do not want God, this is not the same as its being your free decision not to have Him. You are - if not in Christ - not free, because sin is a binding agent (cf. John ).
As we continue our Biblical analysis, which coincides precisely with what one finds of mankind in practice, we are moving to see, then, that the licence to liberty is a very deep thing, when it comes to the relationship with God Himself. If HE does not act, your natural sinfulness will deviate you from the truth. It might make you want an excessive form of exuberance instead of God, or a deadened form of ceremonialism instead of God, or a pitiable substitution of some priest for Christ (cf. Hebrews 7 to see the extent of this morbidity); or of yourself as chief arbiter in prolonged disputation with God; and it might lead you to imagine you have all there is to know of God, either in inflamed emotions or sedated circumscriptions. You would however assuredly not be free; your bondage would simply be variously interpreted. This is not the same as no freedom, to be sure; but it is not liberty, for the freedom used is itself under constraints which prevent its due and true issue.
When Jesus came and judged this, that He had come to make the blind see and those who see to be made blind (John 9:39-41), He of course was telling us that there are those in need who, in HIS PRESENCE can be called to Him, and receiving Him by His own power, be liberated; and that, on the other hand, there are those who because they SAY THEY SEE, believe themselves in NO need of intervention, and merely occupy themselves with their own interpretation of themselves, their need, their church, their culture or whatever else seems dear to the dead, and continue in their own personal grave-yards which often, like other grave-yards, of less metaphorical description, have plenty of flowers.
HOW then can a man find God ? Certainly it is good to seek Him with all the heart. ONLY GOD can enable this. IF HE DOES, He will be found (Jeremiah 29:14); but the enablement is tantamount to conversion in the first place, since the deterrence of sin is rendered inoperative, and the sight of the Christ to whom to come, must be real to the eyes and apparent to the heart, in order for the coming to occur; so that there is a salvation to which response is simply being made.
This in no way lessens its liberty, since God is on record, I Timothy 2, as desiring that ALL people be saved; so that His intervention to enable it is selective on grounds other than caprice, whim or aristocracy out of creation, or any such wishes. It is all about being a child of God or not; and in the end, the position is this: where He brings a soul to Himself, having foreknown all about the matter before the world even began, and of course not relying on ANYTHING the person does since the person cannot do it, to the point (I Cor. 2:14, Romans 9), then this IS a liberation since it is by definition NOT violence, as shown in Matthew 23:37 and in Ezekiel 33:11 and in the simple fact that He DECLINES to take ALL, though He fain would do so!
Man is indeed free ONLY in a situation where
|a) he is given
a spirit capable of choosing and deliberating with data and analysis .
|b) the One who
gives it, is free, being God without restraint of any kind TO Himself.
|c) The Giver
of liberty loves, so that the drawing on man is not based on utilitarian
or selfish advantage on the part of the Giver, but acts in the enablement of love
which is divorced from the mere dynamic of compulsion, which is a different thing entirely,
for love is debased by mere utilisation for oneself, and is not even then relevant.
|d) The Giver selecting with
liberty assigned to man, and in accord with it, effects the result of this
knowledge beyond man, to enable man to be what he is not. The freedom of the
and the power of the liberation are often confused;
but the latter is mere implementation of the former,
without which, in view of the character of man, he could not be saved.
|Were he sinless and perfect, he
could indeed as he did, simply choose.
Not being so, he has this special deliverance, in principle as free as before, but not in methodology.
Not being so, moreover, man needs the One who is, and is by nature of such love that mere
desire does not determine it, but desire plus purity, which neither dooms what may be saved nor
saves what is ultimately known as averse, adverse and confirmed in alienation,
even before the eternal mind of the Creator.
Man's liberty, which is the occasion for all his guilt and much of his melancholy and rebounding manias, the ground of error likewise, is found in this way to have no possible ground or even meaning, unless in and from God, not some god, but this one who is thus loving and living and competent! (cf. SMR).
Thus while God may indeed liberate by simple divine action, this so far from reducing liberty, consummates it WHEN BASED on liberty evidenced in foreknowledge and the love which would have all, but takes only those to whom He thus relates. Thus man as known to God who foreknew whom He predestined, is selected within a divine heart that would have all, but will take none by mere force of ANY kind, though He may take them WITH it, to deliver and implement the truth where liberty dwells in His own omniscience, for the one so taken. Thus He WEPT for Jerusalem which did not know the day of His visitation (Luke 19:42ff.), not because He would be disposed to force them to believe, but because He was NOT so disposed.
These things we have seen often on this site, especially in Predestination and Freewill, and for example, Tender Times for Timely Truth Ch. 11, that there is this divine election, and this not as a bond to, but an implementation of human liberty. It is however not operable without the divine; and not set into its flight path, until directed, and not directed, until redeemed. The necessity of facing the word of God, for one, in man's place all the more, is given overview Spiritual Refreshings for the Digital Millenium Ch. 16. When however man has come, and passed over the insurmountable, being liberated by God, what then ?
Before however we pursue this Christian conception of liberty, and it parallels precisely the practice available, let us again emphasise a crucial consideration. IF you want God, receive Him where He is to be found; HE would like you; but ONLY on His terms. If then you do NOT want God, cease imagining that you are God, so that you can, as one second hand car salesman once thought, strike a deal with Him. God is what He is, and is not surmountable, manoeuvrable or manipulable; and it is well that it is so. The follies of this world die with it (II Peter ). That is one of the things so exquisite about the Gospel of Christ: you CANNOT grumble. If REALLY you do not want Christ. then your options are to overcome truth, and invent a new universe (and some really do seem to imagine that they try!), or to acknowledge that you are going where you choose.
When you try to justify such a course, we come to some of the most ludicrous things on the face of this poor, and increasingly reeling earth ...where, for example, Syria is telling the world that it is a good thing for the guerrillas to blow up Israeli civilians at will, since there is no comprehensive settlement in the Middle East - presumably one in which Israel would have an even more vanishingly small apportionment from the munificence of Islam, and if possible, be even more vulnerable to instant attack! Blow up children then, if they are around ? SO be it, and have some maimed ? It is so very religious is it not!
Extermination is one thing; the thrust of decades of pain, it is another. Land is one thing, and the Arabs are in an ocean of it; and life's abuse, it is another. Disregard of this life in those who live, it is not a good way to start religion. It is not a good way to approach the Maker of all...
WHY not find Christ ? Because NO ONE, but NO ONE, you may say, will tell me. But your birth 'told' you, and your death will, if this is your way. Why not investigate reality instead of indulging in moods ?
Why not ? Because I do not choose to believe ? Fine: you may not choose to believe that a dam is about to burst, but it still will, if it is so disposed. There is no REASON in such human choice, but wilfulness, as we have found times almost without limit. You still CAN then relish your unreason, your volition, your scrumptious seeming self-assertion, self-fulfulment; and if this is the merely unreasonable extension into central place, of what is peripheral, at least you get what you want.
Then it is the WILL that is dissatisfied with
Christ ? SO be it. There you go, where your will
Why worry ? Since this sort of irrationalist subjectivity has a price, it is payable. We would that you did not have to pay it. Christ's offering on the Cross is the divine way in which justice is met and mercy shown. No mercy, and only justice... Judgment has charm ? So be it.
Nevertheless, if you go for your options, there is no room for grumbling: you have what you want, pure adulterated YOU. Is it so inimitably wonderful, so incorrigible ? Christ lacks nothing and redemption provides all, and except you want to be God, and make your own universe, which is something for which you lack power and precedence alike, you are simply shutting your eyes, if you ignore Him. They however ARE in your power, to close. See what Christ says here Matthew 13:14ff., and compare Questions and Answers 1, with Barbs, Arrows and Balms 14, and A Spiritual Potpourri Ch. 12 and Repent or Perish Chs. 2 and 7.
Today, however, it is our privilege to
2) THE ROAD
A - WHAT IT IS NOT!
To the way and will of God, then, let us turn to find more of what is offered.
First of all, HIS WORD is offered. But you
may say, what of this: "The
letter kills" - in II Cor. 3:6.
Does not this give for Christians a liberty to ignore what is written, and if you like, write your own
ticket ? Far from it. The "letter" as the following verses show, is merely metonymy for "the law", the Old Testament Covenant. It is surpassed, to be sure, by the New Covenant, and Paul is stressing this in the verse 7ff.. However, he is not despising what is written, for "if the ministry of condemnation had glory, the ministry of righteousness exceeds much more in glory... For if what is passing away was glorious, what remains is much more glorious."
Moses, Paul declares, had to have his face covered after communing with God, so did his face shine! NOT accepting Christ, he affirms, on the part of Jews who cleave to the Old, the preparatory covenant, is like leaving the cover on things, when the glory of God has been exposed in the face of Christ Jesus - which is something the apostle declares in II Cor. 3:6.
Was there something wrong then with 'Moses', his covenant from the Lord ? Not at all, says Paul in Romans 7, for if there "HAD BEEN A LAW given which COULD have given life, truly righteousness would have been by the law" (Galatians 3:21, bold added), and in fact, "therefore, the law is holy, and the commandment holy and just and good" (Romans 7:12). The glory which excels does so because what preceded it was already excellent.
But this which was excellent is here called a "ministry of condemnation" and indeed in Galatians 3 we are told that the law was brought in to emphasise, categorise, apply with piercing penetration, the facts of sin to the unruly human heart. It was a tutor to this end. Its tutorials are not in vain; sin is not less than it has shown, and God has not spoken amiss. No the law is holy! What then ? It is just this: that this ministry of condemnation, like a doctor alerting a most reluctant patient to his cancer situation, as prelude to operation, not desired, is like a killer. Paul indicates that even in his own life (Romans 7), the very commandment NOT to covet, led to his actually beginning to covet, because of the sinful trends within (and so declares, "in me, that is in my flesh, there dwells no good thing" cf. Isaiah 64:5). Those who like one Baptist minister of note in this land, are reported to feel that they do not really quite need Christ (to go so far as ) to die for them, since they are not as bad as all that, appear to have a pathetically sin-reduced conception of their spiritual condition, of God's glory and of His greatness, both in love and in purity.
THIS then is the sense in which the "letter kills" ... "the commandment which was to bring life, I found to bring death. For sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it killed me" - Romans . Indeed, "we know that the law is spiritual, but I am carnal, sold under sin. For what I am doing, I do not understand; for what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate that I do" - Paul apparently reflects, in pursuing the problem situation which Christ healed (cf. Romans ). He makes it the more graphic by, as it were, living it, and doing so in the midst of autobiographical developments which give a sense of impetus to the dissertation and exposť on sin.
It is, then, in Romans 7 that we likewise find this: "But now we have been delivered from the law, having died to what we were held by, so that we should serve in the newness of the Spirit and not in the oldness of the letter" (v.6). The "letter" manifestly is the letter of the law, and not in some restrictive sense, but simply as a figure for the whole apparatus of condemnation which the apostle has so often described, with the liberation repeatedly discerned and declared, not merely from the law, but from the sin which made the operation of the law so horrendous (cf. Romans 8:2,10-11).
It is not that no one in the Old Covenant
could be so delivered, as you find in detail in Psalm 119; or forgiven freely
as you see happening in Psalm 32, and that on the basis of imputed
righteousness, received by faith (cf. Romans 4 which specialises
in this). It is rather that the entire weight of the sacrificial and ceremonial
law, with its multiplied provisions and intimations, is all wrought up in one
man, Christ Jesus, whose holiness met those things and whose sacrifice paid for
all things for those who come to Him, precisely as foreshadowed in Isaiah
22:24-25. This is duly expounded in Hebrews 7-10.
He has paid what awaited payment; He has served what awaited performance; He has wrought the miracles required in the due finger of the supernatural striking in the midst of men, He has simplified, unified, interpreted, but NOT destroyed the law, merely fulfilling and promising the completion of whatever remained, to the uttermost point.
Thus these statements about "the letter" and killing, so far from being a denigration of the word of God, are merely amplifying to our understandings, the severity of sentence on sin, and the means God has taken in the past, to underline this, stress it, exhibit it, manifest it, bring it home with force, deal it out to the heart of mankind, with dynamic that wounds the hard tissues of indifference and the absurd pretensions of holiness of their own, which so many affect (as denounced in Isaiah 65:5).
Christ accordingly has made it apparent that so far from any phase of the word of God being nothing, in fact every last jot and tittle, every tiny difference and distinction will be upheld by God in its integrity, until ALL is fulfilled. Indeed, He declared, greatness in the KINGDOM OF HEAVEN comes through both believing and teaching, doing, the least of these commandments, to the point that failure can retard to the end, the greatest, and assiduity bring blessing to greatness, for the least! (Matthew 5:17-19). No, it is not the word of God which is removed in the interests of "liberty" for the Christian.
The work of the "tutor" remains, when the extraordinary details and data once performed, are needed no longer. The teachings were sound, but the paraphernalia which Christ fulfilled is finished; just as the moral law which He executed, never changes. The law does not justify; it shows the need of it; but justification does not remove the concept of sin, it merely removes the illustrations which Christ assumed, interpreted and fulfilled. You do not pay twice; the illustrations are covered, sin is covered, but the word of God is still uncovered. It pursues, persists and is indestructible as long as earth lasts: I Peter 2:24. Christ indicated what He DID and DID NOT come for in Matthew 5:17ff. in this connection; and as to Him, HE knows!
The Sunday, for example (see Biblical
Blessings Appendices 1-3), being set up
because of the PAST, the CREATION, is not affected by Colossians ,
which deals with the future (). God wants a day of rest BECAUSE He states, HE MADE
THE EARTH thus and man is to mirror this for his
constitutive reality, as man, in God's image (Exodus 20). This does not change! we are still men, still creations of God. The day of course has had to change, since the greatest of the works of God, the personal payment for sin for all who believe and will believe, is vastly beyond any creative energy as in the creation of the universe, and is a very criterion of the love of God (John 3:16) who IS love (I John 4:7ff.)! Hence what was to speak rest from due labour, and MUST, in terms of the 6 day creation, do so, is moved as to its acknowledgment of the greatest work of God, that of love, in redemption. It is moved to reflect the New Covenant, far above the Old which pointed to Christ; but the reflection is still of a creation, man, and of the Redeemer Christ, whose rest, like that found by David, is delightful and always has been, whether received or rebelled against (Psalm 37:7, Psalm 23, Psalm 116:7, 51; Isaiah 28:12, 63:14, Jeremiah 2:12-13).
Not to recognise
this need, is merely to insult Christ and misunderstand redemption, which,
interestingly enough, is precisely what Seventh Day Adventism has been famous
for doing, both in failing to understand assurance of eternal salvation, and
having its Mrs White put Satan in as scape-goat, and such fallacies beyond belief! Satan is and
MEANS the adversary, not the saviour! A Satanic
component in salvation, whatever more modern 7th Day people may say, is
something to be rejected with loathing, and whatever has propounded it, as
false prophet work. Like
The word of God continues to RULE. It NEVER was the way to earn salvation (Romans 4), and the covenant of grace with Abraham was NOT FORFEITED, because the law intruded into the falling life of man, to instil instructions more mightily into him, as Paul indicates, declaring indeed, of Abraham on whom he dwelt at length, "it was not written for his sake alone that it was imputed to him, but also for us. It shall be imputed to us who believe in Him who raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead, who was delivered up for our offences, and was raised for our justification."
WHAT was IMPUTED to
Abraham ? RIGHTEOUSNESS! It is ONE GOSPEL, in mode 1 and mode 2, the one preparatory to payment, the other following it (cf. Barbs, Arrows and Balms17 and That Magnificent Rock Ch. 3).
2) THE ROAD –
B) WHAT IT IS
The liberty in Christ is not liberty to ignore what HE IS, namely, the word of God, whose attitude to the word of God as written is well enough exhibited in Matthew 4:4, where in exchange with Satan, Christ made his stance to follow this criterion, "Man ... shall live by every word which proceeds out of the mouth of God," quoting in the process with the introduction, "It is written", as the indisputable source. NOTHING to the contrary even lived in His presence! His pursuit of it is likewise shown in Matthew 26:54, "How then could the scriptures be fulfilled that thus it must happen!"
The point here is this: at the summit of
preliminary testing, when defence by force is offered
to enable His escape from His death squad, courtesy of Judas (and it is never
nice to be betrayed), Christ REQUIRED an end of force, pointing to the outcome,
that the SCRIPTURE MUST BE FULFILLED, at whatever cost. Thus the resistance,
though lovingly directed to His deliverance from a close friend, has to STOP!
There is more to it than that, not less!
No, there is no liberty whatever, to become something other than what the word of God depicts, or to follow, for that matter, any road rules invented in excesses of insouciance or self-will, or hope or convenience. God has structured our brains; they give no options for restructuring, unless in cases of disease, in efforts to remedy and restore to normal. These are far beyond man.
God has given likewise moral structure, for our rest, and for our lives in respect of neighbours, relatives and His own worship. Liberty does NOT consist in second guessing God to make out what 'freedom' might mean if we were different people differently made by a different God. There is and can be no other God (cf. SMR Chs. 1, 10). THAT would be nothing short of an experiment in impudence, as if we were creators, not creations.
Now we CAN create; but ourselves and our God, these are not among the items of our grandeur, AS creators! Some try it or act as if they would as in Psalm 82, that rock of wreckage for the astoundingly misled enemy of Christ movement, which so loves it. But they are merely cut down in their folly and presumption, objects of divine mirth (cf. Psalm 2) as the Lord reduces them in their pretensions to size. Gods indeed! they'll die like men! (82:7).
However, there is a liberty which is LICENSED. It is inclusive of so much that it can resemble living in some great school, where the times of the bells, and the routine of the House is declared, but where the entirety of juvenilia is before you. The knowledge, the ideals, the means of inculcation, the needs of the spirit, the modes of feeding, the social rules to limit evil and advance good, the peaceable character of conduct, the impacts as needed to expose evil and so on: all this is free. Its freedom is the CREATED image parallel, under God.
In this life, one is not free to become other sorts of beings; but IS free to have such an amplitude of liberty AS these beings, people of that supernal power, that it is only when you reflect that you are a child of GOD, that you begin to realise to the full, how vast it is. God is free, and we are free within that glorious kingdom which is His, to be as like Him as we can. If it be patience, or longsuffering, or grace, or kindness, or goodness, or thoughtfulness, or perception leading to harmony, or distancing of evil, or understanding, or friendship or faithfulness, or guidance in preparing young lives for the road they will follow with increasing independence, or older ones to continue on it: it is there.
It is like a river: its course is sure; but HOW MANY THINGS can occur on its surface, as it moves, and what differences of movement come, and what eddies and swirls occupy it in its diverse contiguities to the bank, its provisions for events... in the scenes in which it participates, in the colour of its liquid heart.
But let us move out of our analogy to schools and rivers.
There is liberty in LOVE, in LIFE, in THOUGHT and in GOVERNMENT.
We are wise if we use ALL of these features, in intimate communion, as Christians, with our Father. Fathers may be downgraded now, because God is downgraded, authority is downgraded, law is downgraded, honesty is downgraded and ideals are downgraded, so that the tenor of things is not finding scope of young ideals nearly as much, now, as scope for inverted, perverted, or contorted violence, expression, throbs and sobs in suicide of the slow variety, in smoking, the intestinal sort in marijuana, the more vicious in heroin, the more self-revealing as in guru concerts and the like. It is like a fretful child, increasingly, who having no concept of anything worthwhile to do, wants to be amused, expressed.
In LOVE, it is wise to consult with God. It is not that one CANNOT DO OTHERWISE: by NO means! But it is thrilling to have such wisdom available and such resources for recourse, such wonder of intelligence to consult and such depth of discernment to which one may relate. It is especially so in marriage, where no one ought, as a Christian, to consider marriage without that invisible guidance, intimation, communion and communication, that watching of the word and walking in the Spirit, who guides and leads, that reveals in God's own time, what He would like.
You could do a Bath Sheba, of course... There is liberty. The wonder of it is this: that it is when you are most willing in the Lord, that your understanding is so expanded and your perspective so purified, that you find a Father's hand, not a chance universe, a creation which by no chance relates to chance, but has the ways which, intruding foolishly, can grind the face of man, because he does not watch the laws, principles and the Lord (Psalm 1).
THAT, it is rebuke, and the result is often like that of an adolescent, caned for outrageous behaviour, who finds the school just a place of confinement, because he is already confined, and his internal confinement is merely exhibited to his mind, now more openly. Love can turn to hate; but in the Christian, rebuke and discipline from the Lord are means of development (as in Hebrews 12). Sometimes one may wonder at the leniency, sometimes at what seems severe; but the result is growth (cf. I Peter Chs. 1 and 4).
In LIFE, one can find what it is that one can CONTRIBUTE to the church, to the people of the Lord, and to the people outside the Lord; and in His power and provision, DO IT! Thus as an author, this writer could not even have contemplated, however vaguely, one tenth of the output that has come, had one not been aware of a divine movement, aid, thrust, call and enablement. It is at times like sitting in a tutorial, with the teacher at the board! It is already true in spirit, this, that the meek are blessed for they shall inherit the earth, for its bounty spills to the admiring eye, and the released spirit, liberated to love. Things hidden from possessiveness can bound into brilliance before the appreciative eye.
In THOUGHT, there is the elevation of understanding which enables man to find the plane of God, and even to walk on the plateau where the light shines, where the problems recede, which reduce philosophy if not to tears, then to tedium more than enough for it, while it plays so skilfully on the surface, as if it did not even realise that there was anything underneath, and so argues endlessly, unremittingly dark without Christ. (Cf. SMR pp. 422 Qff., 422 Eff., Chs. 3,5)
It then becomes a liberty to find the fit, the see the interaction and the weft of things, and to see how exquisite it all is in every part in the entire composition, like a play, but wrought not only in words, but in deeds, and not only in those on stage, but in all the preparations and preliminary (cf. News 87, The Biblical Workman Ch), the depths and dimensions, on and on. The principles and rules, the ways and procedures, they are set out; the liberty TO FOLLOW THEM induces awareness of magnificence, like eyes at last opened; and the ignoring or aborting of them, as in those who sport evolutionary programs in some species of so-called Christianity is still a liberty, though it is one that binds to contradiction and impotence (cf. That Magnificent Rock Chs. 1 and 8).
IN GOVERNMENT, there is likewise liberty. You can throw away the billions of decades in folly, as in this State some years ago; or you can conserve and develop with sensitivity. It is open. You can seek to grasp in contention, or abound in invention. You can open the Sunday to work, as again in this State, and do so to the point that some store-keepers are appalled by their exposure to WORK on the rest day, or LOSS because so many others USE the chance. You can make everything JOBS, JOBS and fail to consider the direction of quality, the nature of the people who work, and shrug off all ideals in the presumption that prosperity of bank accounts alone is measurable, and so sound; or you can have a vision, a thing not entirely yet a thing of the past, but decreasingly visible. You can lead the people, at any cost to your own career, towards freedom from oppression of speech and thought, and care in conduct, or you can seek to chain them with absurd laws and rules, to tame their speech, as if they were animals which must not be poked, and so shame the image of God in them.
Government has often been a thing to relish; but now rarely. Nevertheless, in school or firm or country, in laws national, international, of which latter we have too many, allowing a mere aggregation of nations to direct the national step, there can be wisdom or lack of it. People do not HAVE to be wise, and they CAN be unutterably foolish, till without the wonders of the past, they become subject in their internal subjections to little things, to little nations, and fall prey, without heeding God, prone before those whom they so foolishly deserve.
This, it is precisely what God told Israel of old (cf. Deuteronomy 32:21).
It is well worth while to hear this verse:
"They have provoked Me to jealousy by what is not God;
They have moved Me to anger by their foolish idols.
But I will provoke them to jealousy by those who are not a nation:
I will move them to anger by a foolish nation..."
Unwilling to be subject to God, they became subject to a populace expert in folly, a foreign people depraved and deprived of the truth.
But good Government, what a joy it is (cf. Questions and Answers 7).
For all this, then, there is
liberty, and for the child of God, it is one both intriguing and uplifting, for
its source abounds in wisdom and power, love and grace.
3) AN EXAMPLE - JOINT
Josiah and Jeremiah give us a good example of this licence for liberty. In Jeremiah 1:1, we find that the prophet Jeremiah was at work in the time of Josiah. Indeed, this king, although dying rather young, had 31 years of reign, so that Jeremiah, at work from the young king's thirteenth year of rule, had some 18 years to co-operate with one of the most godly persons you could wish to find, one in charge, under God, of government!
What the prophet subsequently suffered in wiliness and witlessness alike, under the later King Zedekiah, for example, makes it heartening to consider his long peace in the former period, even if the people were the subject of enormous warnings, not without tears (Jeremiah 9), for their persistence in the ABUSE OF LIBERTY to the point that it would display for them, as on a screen, the enormity of their ways when, as so often, it became too late to later the results. Indeed,
"The sin of Judah is written
with a pen of iron;
With the point of a diamond it is engraved
On the tablet of their heart...
For you have kindled a fire in My anger which shall burn forever" - Ch. 17.
Let us then see something of the parallels between these two godly men, and the source of inspiration, the criterion of love, the eternal word of the living God, Jesus Christ.
Josiah starts rule when very young, and early in life, sought the Lord. Jeremiah is called so young that he feels like a child - Jeremiah 1:6-7 Christ BECAME A CHILD, by INCARNATION.
Jeremiah, being commissioned for this work by God, was to speak to the downfall of nations, or else his pointed speech might convey a purpose of God, to build and to plan (). In fulfilment of the type, Christ's death led to the downfall of Israel and the opening of amazing scope for the Gentiles.
Jeremiah would weep night and day for those whom he saw all too clearly, would inherit the price of folly (as they did!), while Christ wept over the approaching destiny of deliriously rebellious Jerusalem (Luke 19:42ff.). Josiah having started young, a child, as king: soon laboured and wrought in government to deliver the people, as in I Kings 22:11ff., when he saw the necessity of following ALL the word of God, or in purging perversion of spirit and body (as in I Kings 22:8ff., 15ff., 23:7), and removed the idle moonings of astrology (I Kings 23:4,24), leading the people to seek the Lord seriously, and not with a pandering to their desires, such as then as now, so often puts convenience in the place of godliness (I Kings 23:2ff.).
Thus like Christ in the Temple (John 2) was Josiah in the land. He exposed, rebuked and prevailed in presenting something so far better, so that if liberty had not had its place, the people might have been blessed and continued; but it was not to be. Liberty to love may imply a love for liberty, but the use of it is not always lovely at all!
Jeremiah like Christ crucified, in type, was lowered into a presumably stinking well, full of mire, so that the mud might slowly allow him to drown in corruption (Jeremiah 38). He was delivered by a eunuch who took pity on him, and drew him out; and Christ rose from the dead. Jeremiah continued a time after the fall of Jerusalem, and Christ stayed 40 days to teach His people after the resurrection, before retiring pending the Gospel proclamation throughout the entire earth, a necessity before His coming as King (Matthew 24:14,29ff.).
Jeremiah had to meet an effrontery of liberty, a vacation from reason so profound that it resembled the excited talk of the priests, against Christ, when they cried, concerning God: LET HIM DELIVER HIM SINCE HE DELIGHTED IN HIM! Thus, they heartlessly chided the Messiah as He died, by prophecy and appointment at the date predicted, oblivious like little children of what was happening, filled with awe at their own importance (Matthew 27:42ff., Jeremiah 44:17).
Josiah died in battle, being appointed by God for an early death as a blessing, while the rebellious land rotted to its final overthrow (cf. II Kings 22:19ff., 23:28ff.), seeking to deliver His land from their end. Jeremiah may have died with the rebellious as Christ did in His time, for Jeremiah he who might have left the city when it fell, instead stayed, and soon was constrained to accompany them, and warning them, himself the very acme of unpopularity before the rebellious.
In all this, we see the LIBERTY of Jeremiah and Josiah to do good, loving the Lord, following Him, keeping to the way of life, and helping others to find it, or to keep to it - and Jeremiah put forth as late as Jeremiah 17:19ff., an offer of entire munificence from the Lord, which followed the indictment Jeremiah 17:1ff.; but it was not heeded, and how often did Christ offer (Matthew 23:37) to those bound in their illusion of liberty, and offer freely, with the knowledge of wisdom, to those only some of whom would come.
It is better to rescue some from a wreck,
than to see all die, even it is death to do it! Love is of God!
Love is the background to liberty. When it is not there, liberty is liberty to rot, like a seed which refuses to die (cf. Barbs, Arrows and Balms 3). The result is ridiculous, like a colon that tried to attach itself to an ear, in the interests of freedom. It is essential to be able to sin, since without it, there is no scope of personality, no room for love, no meaning to life: it is a mere program, with nothing attaching to it, but the maker (and in that case, of course, contrary to reality, the Maker would be guilty). It is still more vital to avoid its power, overcome its touch, disrelish its company, detest its vices, delight in goodness.
When love IS there, then liberty is liberty to learn the truth, to grow in awareness of what is good and godly, merciful and true, honest and filled with integrity, and to appreciate all that is, and to see it in its place and program, to relish reality and to enjoy its wonders, walking not at ease, but also without any spiritual peril, for the one who can deter God is not in existence (Isaiah 43:13), and as Father, He does what He will. As brothers of Christ (Hebrews 2), Christians have the ear of God.
The liberty of God is perfect. The liberty of man is to be a child of God, or to be free for doom. It is fascinating as well as horrendous, that wide is the way and many go into it, which moves, freely as you will, to destruction.
When God is your Father, especially, you are FREE to grow. There is an altitudinous magnificence for growth, into the stature which God gives, dazzling with the scope of Himself.