AUSTRALIAN BIBLE CHURCH October 15-22, 2006

A CONTINUATION OF THE THRUST AND BASE OF THE PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH
OF AUSTRALIA ON BIBLICAL LINES
 

A MATTER OF LIFE AND DEATH

Acts and the Gospels

Recently I heard from  a relative who had not been constant in faith. Facing death at some time, because of a chronic disease, yet bearing up in the process and intensely active, he suddenly announced this: I am not going to stay in some box. I am going to heaven.

Now this was as delightful as unexpected. The song of course has it that everyone who talks of heaven ain't goin' there. It is true. Yet in this statement and what followed there did seem a kind of determination which savoured of conviction. I noted that indeed if he received the free pardon of Christ (Romans 3:23ff.) and believed in Him (John 10:9, 6:47), and if His Holy Spirit was in him, as it is in all Christians (Romans 8:9), it would be well. This reminds us that we ARE dealing with a matter of life and death.

We are intensely fragile: despite what soldiers for example can and do suffer, it is all a matter of degree. The skin ruptured is avenue for infection; antibiotics are of decreasing effectiveness in numerous cases. An axe-man can fell an oak, and a heart attack or cancer, a man or woman, sometimes in short time. Others face death more slowly. It is there; and so is life, no less.

It has the resources of vitality, the wonders of illumination from God to find, the discoveries of grace and the joy of service for the God who made us, the assurance of the Gospel - and like snakes suddenly under one's feet, the deadly and perilously near appearance of frauds, false prophets and foolish ideas, as if life and death were quite unreal, and provided one was nice, and believed something or other fervently or at least fondly, all would be well.

It is not so. Life must be faced: we must not allow fascination with accounts, or accomplishments, or actions or hopes or dreams, with this world and its manners or lusts, desires or fantasies to delude us. The kingdom of heaven is the milieu for the Christian, and its ways of faith, confidence, of continually resorting to the Lord, of finding, doing and rejoicing in His will, resting only on Him and on His righteousness, of showing forgiveness and walking with discretion, these are as far from this world as the most distant star.

Let us then remind ourselves of some of the dramas of life, to awaken in us a keener sense of its significance, in each step, and all in all. 

 

I THE APPOSITE COMFORT

LIFE AND RELIEF AMIDST THE WORK OF PETER - Acts 9:36-43
The blessing of life on persevering kindness  Dorcas 

LIFE AND COMFORT AMIDST THE WORK OF PAUL - Acts 20:1-12
The Sleepy Young Man:  God has His ways of securing attention 

 

II THE EMERGING EMERGENCY

LIFE AND RESURRECTION BY A WORD FROM THE SAVIOUR  - Luke 7:11-13
The Widow's Son restored in pity to be a stay

LIFE CONFERRED DESPITE INTERRUPTION -   Luke 8:49-56
The Importunate Woman and the Lost Child  ...
Patience, concentration, authority, the multiple and quick dower of power are the features.
He has set us here an example against being flustered on the one hand, or flimsy on the other. There is no excuse for botched, superficial or slithery work: God is our sufficiency, who trust Him.

LIFE AND RELIEF - Matthew 8:5-13

The Soldier's Servant  Faith has its reward, even at a distance. The great God can do great things: do not limit Him by 'common sense', if this is to make of Him who is Almighty, a common thing! 
 

 

III THE OPPOSITE POLES

LIFE AND FRUSTRATION - John 11:45ff.

The Terrifying Truth:  Graver clouds are stages for greater deliverances, and even slander and selfishness can be turned to serve God, through His wisdom and despite man's folly.

The perfidy of the priests was used as God's occasion to show His power... 

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to die a sacrifice for sin, and that without sin (I Peter 2:22-24),
a portmanteau for sin's horrors, one holding all that is given to Him (John 8:24);
 

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to breach death in body, mind and spirit, shown in purity as the "Prince of Life" (Acts 3:14-29).

THEY who priestly, plotted were frustrated - for all their plans and action, and in fact BY THEM:
so much for the counsel of the wicked.


Yet CHRIST the victim, was victorious: the events foreseen, foreknown and fulfilled according to precise prediction as in Psalm 2, 16, 22, 40, Isaiah 49-55, their very evil therefore being used in the wisdom and by the power of God to authenticate completely the authority of Christ, that here was the salvation of God (Isaiah 43:10-11) Himself, blighted for the benighted, sending forth His Spirit (Luke 24, Acts 2) as He said, to enable His work according to His word (Galatians 1:6-9) in and through those who received Him (John 1:3, 12-14).

As victim, He showed, from the majesty of God in the humility of man, how to love His neigbour, even the neighbour who despitefully used Him, viciously traduced Him and selfishly abused Him for mere advantage!

His love led to the protracted cry to the Father to forgive them: lost in their blindness (Luke 23:34): they did not know what they were doing. It led to the resurrection: a dead Love cannot act, but the eternal God is not subject to a death which can hold Him. Innocent of sin, for which death is the penalty, He erupted from death (Acts 2:23-32), the Son rising as the sun rose, showering the earth with a love and demonstrating a power which is of God only. Meanwhile the earth ignores the love and misuses the power of creation while dispensing with the power of God to its destruction.

Yet while God remains the same, the day of opportunity does not. It passes quickly into the Day of the Lord, of judgment.

 

LIFE AND PEACE - The Verifying Peace   John 20:24-30

Honest Insistence is not Disdained, but Sustained by Truth.

Belief in the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ is as unnecessary as a heart for the body, or bones for the physique. You CAN do without it, but only if you are a disembodied relic of life; and if you reject it, or refuse it, you are like one who asks for all his bones to be broken. YOU did not raise the Lord, and your faith is not raised by you either - it is a gift of grace (Ephesians 2:8), and ALL are invited to it, while NONE without it can storm the gates of heaven.

The very principles of faith are spelt out by Christ, with this immovable truth of John 20:27-28. Thomas' confirmed faith in Christ's bodily resurrection, and in Him as "the Lord of me and the God of me" thus became a criterion of what faith is, as to Christ and His works.

If you ignore this, it is not merely at your peril: it is like requesting an atomic bomb in your garden.
If you believe here, and it is faith which acts: then you have a channel to the very power of God (Ephesians 1:19)  ...

 

IV SPIRIT AND BODY

The STOLEN LIFE - Mark 10:17ff.

The CRYING NEED THAT WOULD NOT FEED 

The FLITTING LIFE - II Timothy 4:10

Demas for cash ?

The FITTING LIFE - The Tongue and the Truth  Luke 9:26-36

Faith's utterance is not a flattery, but a matter of fact: the glory is in what the fact is  
 

Things done in the body are THROUGH the spirit of a man, whose purposes, imaginations and choices display it, like the flags on naval vessels, even if all cannot read them well! The Lord can, however, read exceedingly well. The issues of life come from the heart Proverbs 4:23 tells us this:

"Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it are the issues of life."

All these cases bespeak what is true without the drama and the power: the absolute need of man to find the Saviour from sin and Prince of Life for ALL of its opportunities and ALL its fitful tragedies which come like storms and leave litter like typhoons. The still of His spiritual presence is not an option for wisdom, but basic for life.

Having found Him, the necessity is to worship Him as deity, and realise Him in His magnificent reality. Of the storms and challenges, the drama of death is just the last one: life has many more for which the last is merely the final page of the novel. All that went before contributes. In Christ, there is shelter sufficient, sure and eternal. Have then your ways written with the pen of truth, the nib of grace and the ink of love, and make the turning of each page, a work of faith!

It is ALL a matter of life and death. Do not leave any of its drama, dynamics, decisions, actions,
performances, holiness, graces and love till then. You are building a house.  Start at the foundation of salvation, and put only the solid tiles of truth on the roof, esteem the spirit of grace and rely on the Lord of lovingkindness in its rule, and use the decisiveness of faith in all the steps on the way.

 

REFLECTION

The Challenge of Life and  Death - this, then, declares itself in provisions of comfort, situations of emergency, contesting opposition, but above all in the purposes of the heart as it meets the changeless holiness of the God of eternity, and the pressing appeal, on His part, that we receive His free pardon with the repentance (Isaiah 55, Romans 3, I Corinthians 7:9)  that gives access and the faith that gains its grant (Hebrews 11:6).

His provision is as narrow as mathematics - Jesus Christ crucified and bodily risen from the dead (Romans 10:9, Luke 24), Lord of all life (Luke 6:46); and it is deeper than the ocean, the torrents of His truth and mercy pouring through that vast chasm in the towering rock face of life eternal, that is the place where Christ is to be found (I John 1:1-4, John 8:58). He is the Rock cleft for your inclusion; but on those disbelieving that it falls, it is very hard (Matthew 21:44). Mercy is free but not foolish. Love is wonderful but very pure. Yet grace is sufficient and very sure (I John 5:11-12, 4:14).