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GOD'S LOVE IS AS REFRESHING
AND FAR MORE SO
THE MATTERS OF DISCIPLINE, CONSECRATION AND CALLING
LOVE is a very broad and beautiful thing. It is not mere affection, sentiment, nearness, intimacy of thought, correlation of action, sympathetic interactive responses with a flair of jointness, a savour of mutual joy and a comradeship of aim. This is all wonderful, but love is broader than all of that.
It - when it is the LOVE OF GOD, has the dignity and depth which is the Lord's. A dog's love can be a splendid and noble thing, leading to self-sacrifice and immense devotion; but it is not the same as human love. A child's love is likewise a thing of delicacy and kindliness, can be tender-hearted and admirable, so that some children can love their parents with a concern, in weakness and difficulty, which is moving and exceedingly sweet.
GOD however is Himself. We have heard of 'originals' (see Questions and Answers 4); and they have appeal at times. There is something of the lively about those whom culture does not bind, tradition cannot control and normal idols like money or prestige do not touch. God is MORE THAN any original. NOTHING can touch Him, to draw Him astray, make mean His splendour or limit His greatness.
When one is a friend of God, as may be now and should be and was with Abraham, it is a thing of preciousness (Abraham found its wonder particularly in the incident noted in Genesis 18:16ff.). Abraham could actually, even intercede with the Lord concerning His intentions. He did not alter them, but he could understand them in the principles involved, and put the case. Jesus said, You are My friends if you do whatever I command you (John ).
What then if a command is broken ? Then you
repent. It is impossible to over-stress the necessities of repentance. The old
fashioned would stress the need for fresh air and breathing (and not the worse
for being old-fashioned! Oh the beauty of fresh ocean air, inhaling in the
There may however be lessons. The love of God is deeper than ocean or sea, higher than mountain, more embracive than waterfall, and of more energy. He is not slack, being moved with pity, in His return, and will come, delaying while all may come to REPENTANCE (II Peter 3:9). NOR is He slack when it comes to discipline. I for one am GLAD that He is not. Whether with my own children or with myself, it is not good for things to be awry, amiss and uncorrected. True, love can be patient, not jumping on each small thing; can watch, not invading in each observable enterprise; but there IS a time when omission is connivance! One MUST act.
If this is so in our little spirits, what is
it when it is the LOVE OF GOD which is in operation!
1) DAVID the KING
David made more than a mistake; sinned more than in an odd impulse (and if you do that, then repent at once, and acknowledge your lack of self-control or depth and patience, or whatever the cause was, for it is necessary to be CLEAN, neither amusingly imagining oneself near perfect, nor slackly allowing oneself liberties as if sin were not an enemy to be overcome with the power of God as a consistent nor). He sinned in PLAN! To be sure, he may have been so infatuated that his mind was in abeyance; but even the most tender-hearted approach to his willing enabling of the death of Uriah so that he could have his wife, cannot forget... URIAH!
Discipline was coming. It had many dimensions. God is deep; His discipline may be deep.
David was delightful; but is it not true that delightful though someone may be (David was a man after God's own heart, we read), IF there is no discipline, the charm becomes manipulation or self-assurance, or the strength becomes directing, or the tenderness becomes cloyed with self-will, and so on. There has to be a tune-up. When there is a gross offence, it may be an overhaul of the deepest kind. It may even involve service of an unusual degree and kind.
· 1) David was rebuked by the prophet Nathan.
· 2) He was told a parable to awake his conscience.
· 3) Not knowing it was a parable, he reacted at the story, declaring that the oppressor appearing in it deserved the death penalty.
· 4) Nathan told him : YOU ARE THE MAN! The story was really a picturesque presentation of what David himself had just done, and he himself had advocated the death penalty, when it was in fact a LESSER thing that the party in the story had done.
Discipline would not depart from his household affairs. Thus one son murdered
another, one had incest with a half-sister, leading to the murder. One son lead
an army against his father, to take over his role. David tenderly loved that
son (and perhaps not wisely but too well), so that he came back after the
murder without sure repentance, and in fact with rebellion lodged in his
aspiring heart. His cunning in seeking to win the hearts of the men of
· 6) Hence David faced duplicity and the misuse of mercy, just as he had used duplicity in having his military commander withdraw from the man he wanted dead, leaving him likely to be killed.
· 7) David was exhorted by his army commander when his favourite son was killed, and he mourned greatly, by being told that if he did not show his concern of the army which had overcome the son's rebellion, he would not answer for the result.
David was actually cursed by Shimei as he left
Now all this is better than death. It is a refinement of life. It is a reminder, and it means that the loss of sensitivity is being corrected amply and repeatedly. What David did was SO out of character, that that character was given no mellow treatment in its restoration. For my own part, I should far rather have a character so blessed with the devoted purification of the Lord, than become a slob or a slothful person, with the dirt of declension untouched on the unclean heart. Cholesterol for the arteries, and insensitivity for the spiritual heart: they have points in common! It is best to be rid of clogging in both cases.
2) PETER THE APOSTLE
Peter was disciplined differently. One can see his position. A man of action, a fisherman used to taking matters in hand, a leader, a man of practical intention and straightforward disposition, he was NOT impressed when Christ (Matthew 16) indicated that He would die and be the butt of the contemptible conduct of the spiritually blind, even if He would rise again after that.
Taking Christ aside, it seems, he told him that this was not the way. Like a pope before his time, he would invent doctrine, direct the Lord in ways contrary to His own finding, and become the instructor of the Almighty, even to the point of contradiction of what had been directly said (as, for the pope's own case, in Matthew 23:8-10 - no substitutes, only brethren).
GET BEHIND ME SATAN! was Christ's reply. This is what Christ said TO PETER (). Now in the case of Peter, he was almost certainly NOT arrogating any importance or power, but genuinely concerned, wanting to exalt his friend, keep the Christ and not allow mortals to demean him. Nevertheless, it was directly contrary to the express utterance of Christ, and whatever the motive, it was in the very face of the deep heart of salvation. He was like someone telling a kindly doctor NOT to inject himself with some potion, in the hope of finding its results and using these for mankind, because HE the doctor, was too important a man to take such risks. Christ however had COME to take not risks, but the PLACE of all who come to Him (Matthew ), and that, it is "many" (cf. Romans - those for whom He is delivered up are identical with the group which receives ... all things). To omit the purpose of His coming would be like some lives, to be sure: misdirected, they fritter their time, rich or poor, famous or not, in things unworthy of the scope of plan of their affairs.
This was NOT SO with Christ, who set His face like a flint to fulfil His OWN MISSION AS MESSIAH, leaving nothing out (Matthew 26:52-56). Christ DELIBERATELY TOOK NO ACTION to secure His own deliverance, because His being offered up was a major chapter in the book of His mission. Survival is cheap: who would not rather be a murdered angel than a living rat! What is the good of survival if what survives is filthy, disgusting, immoral self-centred riot of self-esteem or some other drab rag of ruin! The current pre-occupation with this disreputable substitute for living and its reason is founded on NO FAITH in God, and contrary to observation, expectation of strength and continuity in some unknown way creating something better in the long run. The run is rather longer than the evidence. What it does create is spiritual filth, which like other garbage, reeks to high heaven! and does not speak to it...
THIS THEN TO PETER WAS DISCIPLINE.
THIS WAS NOT ALL.
Later, this same endearing quality (and what goes astray, like a beautiful motor-car on a lamp-post, may do it by VIRTUE of a good thing, misdirected), again arose, when Peter cut off the ear of the high priest's servant, when he presumed to come to arrest Christ. Now the calibre of courage, the initiative and the defensive desire to protect Christ are far better than cowardice, more admirable than indolence and more splendid than self-preservation. They were however ONCE AGAIN in the direct flight path of the will of God, announced and clear and sure.
There is perhaps some more excuse for Peter in this case: after all, the onset is sudden, the deceit of Judas is appalling, the night parade of the temple guard is morally offensive, the thing is subversive, showing contempt of law while seeming to enforce it: it is horrible. His response has vigour and devotion in it. However it is not right. "Put your sword in its place, for all who take the sword will perish by the sword!" said the Christ (Matthew 26:52).
Deprived of his natural response, it seems, Peter could think of no other, and not being allowed to protect, he ran and soon coming to the temple, when questioned about his membership (or otherwise) in the company of the disciples of Christ, he not only DENIED the comradeship of Christ, but began, as if to be the more convincing in his lie, to swear perhaps with the oaths or curses long learned in his former role as fisherman.
The Lord's discipline ? A LOOK! (Luke 22:61).
"And the Lord turned
and looked at Peter."
Here then is one of the more subtle exemplifications of the prophetic perfection of Christ. In quality and depth He is what He ought to be, not judging after the sight of His eyes or the hearing of His ears, but giving righteous judgment.
There is no recrimination, no
execration, no contempt. A zealous friend had been miscarried in his admirable
desire to help, and then overwhelmed in his confusion, had been misled. What it
took to bring him back was not great, when the correction came from One about
to be - for His own part - crucified!
Nor grieve the children of men" - Lamentations .
Because His compassions fail not,
They are new every morning;
Great is Your faithfulness..." - Lamentations -23.
Thus when the time came, and Christ, risen from the dead, showed the insuperability of the Almighty, even when in vulnerable human form, and through this, His infallibility in overcoming ANY problem for His people, DEATH ITSELF not excluded, as is fitting for the one who made death a penalty for sin, and in love made a way out of it, just as in justice He had made a way into it, a fitting devastation for the delinquencies of sin: THEN MORE HAPPENED TO PETER.
Again, it was exceptionally tender-hearted.
It was quite amazing that the one who had SO FAILED and in THAT WAY, augmenting
the case by repeated denials of Christ (but in ONLY ONE OCCASION, however
repetitive in its internal structure on that evening), should then be
COMMISSIONED in a tender atmosphere of TRUST, to look after the lambs and the
sheep, and that, on the basis of the LOVE he had for Christ. DO YOU LOVE ME!
came the repeated question. YES, was the repeated answer in effect, but the
three questions mirrored the three denials, and there was a gentleness of
reproof which yet did NOT dismiss the man from his role, about this. No tirade,
just questions... and FROM the answers, as One who knew the heart, did NOT
come, "ARE YOU SURE!" or "CAN I REALLY TRUST YOU THIS
Such demeanings were neither needed nor performed. It is all in John 21.
VERIFICATION BY VIRTUE
This brings up an important point: that of verification. IN THIS LOVE, not a whit less than in His power, Christ showed what He had to show, as Messiah, the depth of God.
Not only in raising the dead, as with the son of the widow of Nain or Lazarus; not only in meeting the hypocritical questions of the Pharisees or scribes, with withering wit and able expertise, to leave them without hope of tricking or trapping Him, though they were many and 'educated' while He was one and without the festoonings of privileged; not merely in meeting every hardship without sin, every challenge without faltering, every question of knowledge or understanding with precision and power; but in the quality of His LOVE, He showed also, WHO HE WAS. He was the One He claimed to be; and in love He was it; and in love, quintessentially, He was it.
His love never tattered, never flattered, never wilted, never was caught in the hollow of the recesses of time and occasion. Always real, strong and pure, it was present with the power, as an inseparable intimacy. It still is. The love of God is the instruction of heart of every Christian. It is found in want, in need, in trial in distress, in chastening, in discipline; and it is more than the source of our own, the criterion, the paragon and exemplar. It is ORIGINAL, His own; and in its dimensions, it is in keeping with His infinitude (Ephesians -21). It is known and it passes knowledge; it is experienced and it passes experience; it is objective and it is found subjectively, it is unbound, uncrimped, uncramped, more excellent than the mountains of prey.
Its dwelling place is heaven, and its site
the heart of God; and as it is HIS HEART, so it is HIS LOVE. If it chastens, it
is well; if it rebukes (Revelation 3:19), it is good, for "as many as I love, I rebuke and
chasten" and "if you endure chastening, God
deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom a father does not
chasten?" (Hebrews 12:7). The
peaceable fruit of righteousness is the yield when the love of God chastens a
son or daughter. Better a chastened child than a swollen child of shame.
Accordingly, Christ asks Peter, Do you love Me (have spiritual love, as religious in its depth and intensity), and Peter affirmed it. He asked again in the same terms, and Peter affirmed again. He was given the sheep, the lambs to look after. He asked again, this time in terms of the affection or friendship that Peter had affirmed in his own answers to the question, and Peter expostulated, Lord you know all things, you know that I love you. Even as Christ spoke, the commission came; even as Peter's heart was searched the call was there. His was to be not a rejection slip, but a recommissioning to service with all the others. God is personal.
PERSON TO PERSON,
CREATOR TO CREATURE,
INVISIBLE TO VISIBLE,
KEEPER TO KEPT,
MAGNIFICENCE TO MIDGET,
FRIEND TO FRIEND
Personalism makes it a matter of man's personality; but man's personality is a DERIVATIVE of God, who is personal. The Person of Christ expresses God definitively (Hebrews 1). Depersonalisation is part of the garbage situation. Persons meet persons and are personally accountable to God. Principles apply, for God has them (cf. Psalm 89:6-7,14). The power of love replaces the love of power, found in the pathological persons who so often invest the earth, and would pollute the heavens if they could (cf. Revelation 12: 7ff.: for power belongs to God, and what is a house to One who always has it; is it to be pined after or gloried in! He uses it in love, in mercy, in answer to those who call upon Him by faith, according to His word, in the name of His Son (Psalm 57:1-2, 34:17ff., 57:11). In the end, its use in judgment has no further stay. Meanwhile, the hospital of the soul is strongly at work, before the site departs (Matthew 25:1-10).
How wonderful is that construction of man, that creation God made. There is not only the whole concatenation of marvels, gloriously intricate in their interwoven integrity, and unification of function (cf. Repent or Perish Ch.7, End-notes 1, 2) . There is not merely the co-ordination of all this integrated systematics with the world, and its own integrated systematics. There is also that all but inconceivable masterpiece of wedding the brain to the mind, so that the implement works for it, the mind to the spirit, so that the implement - this time invisible - works for it; and the spirit to God, so that this person relates to Him. Almost like never ending, ascending peaks on the way to the glory of light, is this phenomenal collaboration, in which the vulnerable and the material, serves the vulnerable and the spiritual, and the spiritual is allowed to call to the Lord, who is invulnerable, though in form He MADE Himself so, in order to deliver those who are by nature vulnerable, and by sin bedevilled, except for His work.
The invisible! Is it mere wilfulness of heart, recalcitrance of spirit, or animosity of mind which makes mankind so nearly completely blind. What must be the percentage of materialistic reductionists in this generation. It is fed in the TV, imparted in major Universities, assumed in irrationality and applied in devastating murders unlimited, in mind, morals, body and spirit. Self-inflicted wounds of the spirit are the catastrophic self-crucifixion of the race in enormous numbers, in this folly.
WHY do they do it ? Because an atom of sodium is this or that size ? Because their will is one mile long, or their ideals are short-circuited, or is it because, perchance, their spirits cannot function, their minds cannot operate ? There ARE in fact none so blind as those who will not see. Is it blindness that MAKES blind, when the eyes see straight ? Is it deadness that induces death, when the spirit still teems with ideas ?
Does matter err ? Do atoms make mistakes ? Does substance plan ? Are their purposes available for the disposition of molecules ? Do nerve cells plot ? Alas the questions are as absurd as the answers, when the evidence is discounted for the sake of materialistic passion. No matter does not purpose or plan, but is planned; and blindness does not MAKE your eyes blind when they see, but makes them irrelevant whatever they see, when your INVISIBLE vision, your seeing of what your purposes and ways are, is dead.
Was it matter of the love of freedom which drove European scientists to help consummate the atomic bomb ? Was it explosion of bombs or spirit, which led to its construction ? Was it ideal or the waltz of atoms which make freedom precious ? Is matter, bound in its suit of form and format, the source of freedom ? Is law the father of liberty ? Is nothing the source of law ?
Alas, the sheer spiritual insanity which infects the race in this 20th century, in so much of its absurd glamour, is its death knell. It will not continue long without the second advent of the murdered Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:7, Acts ). It is the INVISIBLE which is the light of judgment, whether of beauty, or of morals, or of spirit, or of purposes or plans or schemes or creations. Matter merely implements, itself a mere phantom of the mind, a projection of the thought, an assessment of the judgment which nothing controls, unless it be sin, and the limits which the Lord has imposed, themselves breachable by HIS OWN PRESENCE, in His own love. It is THIS which is loved, not the corruptible flesh, the manipulable atoms of the brain which can have seizures, like a banged piano.
The pianist, however, you, that is another thing. Hard to play without a piano it may be; but without a pianist, the piano is but matter. Its design is then a mere misdirection of energy. We, who have designs in our hearts, desires and purposes, morals and values, aspiration and perspectives, which are in some cases wrong, in some right, and right only when subject to the Lord: we use the designs of His mind, and in this, we shown in the world of His design what we design, and all our designs are under His countenance, subject to assessment, and since imperfect, not fit for that perfect place, heaven, that end of tour, end of pilgrimage association with God without the limits of the land any more.
These designs may err; and they err very
culpably; but the love of God is rich, and pure, and able to subdue with a
look, to endue with His Spirit. So was Peter called in his spirit, despite the
follies committed in the flesh, to execute the good design of the Lord, to
preach, teach the Gospel, to care for sheep, for lambs. The love of God could
reach into His own design, in which liberty was a feature, where friendship is
a focus, and Peter, comrade of God, was commissioned, consecrated to his task.
Isaiah was called too, in the midst of known sin - not in its sovereignty, God forbid, but in awareness of his lack of the sort of incandescent purity which belongs to God (Isaiah 6). His commission came when the power of God to remove the controlling, limiting dynamic of sin from subduing the mind, and infusing the heart was shown by the angel taking a live coal from the altar and putting it on Isaiah's visionary lips. Your iniquity is purged! was the message. That fire was in the love of Christ when the just for the unjust, He brought His people to God. It burns in the life, it covers the sin, it enlightens the eyes, it brings warmth to the depths.
Your calling, consecration, discipline,
reception of the love of God, it is all part of the wonder of being His, which
is the prodigality of Christianity.
· Repentance, call, commission and the love of God in the cross and resurrection of the body of Christ: these are critical in the coming to the labour of the Lord; and in His labour, love is the impulsion, was His enticement, is our milieu.
· Justice is not offended, since it is met (Psalm 85:10) in and through the practical love in which Christ achieved the atonement for as many as receive Him by faith (Romans 5:1-11, John 1:1-3, 12-14, II Cor. 5:17-21), sent from the mercy and pity of God His Father, that great philanthropist (that is the literal Greek term used in Titus), whose coin is not gold, but goodness.