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REALITY AND ILLUSION
IN SPIRITUAL AFFAIRS
OF THE HEART
humility discipline love
LOVE AT ITS
UNSQUANDERED and LIBERAL
Love's Lostness Labours
in the Clime of Confusion
How often do we hear of passion, or the lack of it, spoiling a marriage! The man, for example, may be passionate in the sense of self-gratifying, so that love is a lost and forlorn orphan before ever the family begins, or after it ends. Again, he may be so self-pre-occupied that any sort of delight in his wife is controlled by cold and insensitive calculations about his own needs. By no means is this to suggest that wives cannot for their own part be embraced in their own illusions or substitutes for love; nor is it to imply that it is always KNOWN to either party when such things occur. What IS known, very often, is that the marriage is rather a sad affair, or lacks something, at which the eyes of one or the other may either wander to another, in this promiscuous generation, so that the 'partner' is change or the wife or husband divorced, or a certain stultification sets in.
The reality of love is thus intimidated, clouded, obscured or even replaced. Human love is one of the great beauties of creation, but it is so marred - as is the rest of creation (Romans 8:20-21) - in this case, through the sins it imbibes with its mother's milk, however pure the latter, for there is sin from the outset (Psalm 51), duly transmitted (Romans 5:17ff.). Thus the marring of the image of God in man, is mutilated the more if the life does not return to the Lord. What was so beautiful, becomes variously vain, inane, empty or vacuous, vitriolic or acrid, complacently ignorant or evilly preoccupied, proud and vainglorious, impudent and self-satisfied, but corroded through the avoidance of the Lord, like battery terminals, free from servicing - if it were possible - by their own volition.
Far is this from saying that human love is worthless because it is imperfect; nor on the other hand, that one or two special features that are common in its decline, are all that exists in the whole panorama of love's derelictions, afflictions and pathology. Merely it is to remind ourselves that much of the divorce, dissolution, disruption, wanderings, spoiling of the children's pad by having multiple pads and no home, results from spoilage not in the water purity, the air purity or the land residues, but in the heart.
Human love is not all one; and some is of a different order to other; and not all declines in the same way. With some, to speak more broadly of love, there is a selfishness which inhabits ALL that the person does, and hence the love also; with others, it is a calculation which is a species of blindness, with its own very limited parameters, so that sacrifice, if it is to occur at all, will be evoked only in certain glamorous or appealing circumstances, but otherwise is a mute, deaf relic in a corner. Of necessity, the love which lacks God is eminently defective, since God is love.
The only question is HOW this will manifest itself!
Now in this Chapter, we are seeking to illustrate and expose illusion, and delight in reality in spiritual affairs of the heart, knowing from the word, way, covenant and compassion of God Himself (SMR Ch. 1), that love is the ultimate spiritual entity, not in abstraction, contraction or dilation, but as the crown of beauty in the Lord whose it is, and from whom ultimately, as well as proximately where He is received, it comes (John 1:12-14, 17).
God is love, and as such, He embraces all things, seeking, despite its solemn or frantic antics, the heart of man at the uttermost peak of this physical-mental-spiritual creation (Colossians 1:19ff.), and not man only. When HE is absent, so is that love which makes all other love lose its lustre. In Him alone, and by the nature of the situation, is it POSSIBLE for love to have its purity and its truth, its fulfilment and its desire. So long as sin in any formula, format or function RULES the human heart, LOVE in its essence is defiled.
You may indeed give your goods to feed the poor (I Cor. 13), your body to be burned, make this and that noble sacrifice for those whom you love, but it is still YOU who are the boss, YOU whose estimates, self-imposed moralities and social vision is the criterion; and even if you ADOPT some philosophy, perspective or view, approach or procedure, feeling or imagination, it is still YOU who are the judge, the executive and the basis for the selection.
So long as this is the case, there is an ultimate selfishness, even to sacrifice, for it is blind to the SCOPE and PURITY of sacrifice, being blind to the only One in whom truth can inhere, who composes it, comprises it and in whose unlimited knowledge, unprejudiced wisdom and unlimited capacity it finds it source (SMR Chs. 1, 3, 4-5,10).
When however we turn to the love of God, there is the cry, call and command to repent of sin, to become a new creation, one in whom Christ lives in a declarative and effulgent dynamism (Colossians 1:27, Romans 8:19ff.), in whose light we see light (Psalm 97:11).
Far from illusion, platitude or pleasantry is it therefore, when in the Church we hear of loving one another just as Christ loved us, and in these words before His crucifixion, He spoke to the heart:
|"Father, I desire
that they also whom You gave Me may be with Me where I am,
that they may behold My glory which You have given Me;
for You loved Me before the foundation of the world.
righteous Father! The world has not known You, but I have known You;
and these have known that You sent Me.
And I have declared to them Your name, and will declare it,
that the love with which You loved Me may be in them, and I in them."
(bold added for focus of the items here more fully pondered).
Love's Brightness Shines in the Domain of Truth
Sacrifice grips Him, love impels Him, perspective of ultimate need informs Him, duty is clear to Him, love for His disciples imbues Him, and reality moves from Him outward, like waters from a giant reservoir.
It is His desire not only that the prodigious enterprise in which He is engaged, should be consummated - namely, to provide pardon for sin and eternal life through the ruin of death in subjection to life in His own self, crucifixion and resurrection. He also seeks that in particular His disciples be with Him in glory, seeing the truth in its wonder and beauty.
It is ALSO His desire, as one reads at the end of the above passage,
that the LOVE with which the Father had loved HIM should be IN them, and
that He (by His Spirit) Himself should be in them,
so that it is not a distancing
mediation of truth and love and light and peace, with joy and longsuffering,
HENCE this love in its purity, not autonomous in man, who is after all a derivative, but lively since man is, just as truly, in the image of God, is to abide in man. It is only then that the perspective and purity, the power and the allocation of resources, the tenderness in its truth is in principle able to be made manifest.
It is then that the trans-national, trans-cultural, trans-racial, ultra-self-oriented but still intensely personal and tender love of God can be made manifest, then it is not channelled merely through the peculiar sensitivities and sensibilities of any particular person, but given some of the grandeur of scope, which while it is the ultimate prerogative of God, is yet transmissive to each one found abiding in the very presence and love of Christ Himself.
The love which is to be felt, experienced and shown by disciples CANNOT be so shown unless they are better than impostors, more than formalists, served by better things than sacramentalists, not lost in appearance, but immersed in the realities of God through the only approach which He has not only sanctioned, but sanctified - John 17:17, 17:7-13, by the truth, His word, and by His Spirit, sent with living vitality to the hearts of His people. Just as, in John 17:23, we see that Christ is praying that it might be "I in them, and You in Me" so that they might be "perfect in one" and that "the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me," so we find that Christ has sought that the Father love us who believe, with the same love with which He has loved His own Son (love is not selfish),
Staggeringly, it is "just as You have loved Me" that we find in the Greek!
It is in THIS pure love in its glorious perspective and proceeding from the Father and the Son through the Spirit of God, that we are to "love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God."
The emphasis on such things is not holy hogwash, as it might appear to the urbane mind, immersed in such fluids of sin and captivities of culture, philosophy and banality. It is the liberation of the human spirit to the glorious bathing in the purity of the love of God, submitting to the allocation of one's resources of psyche, of mind, of body, of finance, of future, of past, of present to the best usage as it appears to the mind of God, so that one's entire life is something like a sacrament.
In what way is this so ? It is in this, that there is a special sacredness about its deployment, the acquisition of this or that knowledge, ability, the sacrifice of this or that potential, and the enduring of various tribulations in the pursuit of one's God-given calling. In this frame and setting, then, the Christian is to be found abiding in the will and knowledge of the living Christ, and in His written word which remains and abides the only authoritative deposition of teaching to man, from God (cf. SMR Appendix D).
In other words, the Bible does not limit God in the LIFE of the Christian, for if he asks for wisdom, this is given as the case requires, or strength, or understanding, and the PROMISES for these things ARE in the Bible (as in James 1, Ephesians 3:16, 1:19). Rather does it designate the ways of supply, starting with the ETERNAL LIFE of God (I John 1:1-4, 3:16).
It DOES however limit the DOCTRINE of the Christian, so that he both has the vitality and reality of the Lord by the Spirit, and the STABILITY and command of the Lord, by His word. Unfortunately, many who do not seem to realise that when Christ declared, "If anyone loves Me, he will keep My words" (John 14:23), He meant it. EVERY JOT and tittle counts (Matthew 5:;17ff.), and DOING it is the best love (5:19-20), not ADDING to it by tradition (Mark 7:7ff.), or subtracting through desire (Matthew 5:19-20, Deuteronomy 4, 12), and doing it from the heart because of love!
Those Lost to Love Live without the Matrix of Meaning
How hard it is for the wandering, vagrant children of men to find that their whole queasy quietus, when it is not vicious war or deplorable deceit, uneasy pride or transient pomp and its private counterparts, has precisely its 'difficulties' in logic as in life, because neither the concepts of creation, salvation, sanctification and divine power FOR life are valued in deed (as distinct sometimes merely in word), nor in their divine source, which enlivening and pervading, presents to man a meaning and commmission as distinct from the impoverishment of his deluded state without God, as is a body WITH a head, contrasted with one which lacks that organ! It is, therefore, what GOD SAYS, not what we of the human race SAY ABOUT what He says or we say in conjunction or preference with that, that matters.
It is like arms trying to tell the head what to do, and slavering in slavish dejection or salivating in ludicrous pomp in the process!
As to God's, far more than a mere
General, Field Marshall or King, His words stop at the full stop, start with the
capital (to put it in English idiom), there is nothing in between them, before
them or afterwards. He speaks His mind. Amos 4:13, amidst the provision in
majesty of these words of God, makes this comment on the process. Consider it in
its preceding context, below!
"The Lord God has sworn by His holiness:
'Behold, the days shall come upon you
When He will take you away with fishhooks,
And your posterity with fishhooks.
You will go out through broken walls,
Each one straight ahead of her,
And you will be cast into Harmon,'
Says the Lord.
'Come to Bethel and transgress,
At Gilgal multiply transgression;
Bring your sacrifices every morning,
Your tithes every three days.
Offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving with leaven,
Proclaim and announce the freewill offerings;
For this you love,
You children of Israel!'
Says the Lord God.
'Also I gave you cleanness of teeth in all your cities.
And lack of bread in all your places;
Yet you have not returned to Me,'
Says the Lord.
'I also withheld rain from you,
When there were still three months to the harvest.
I made it rain on one city,
I withheld rain from another city.
One part was rained upon,
And where it did not rain the part withered.
So two or three cities wandered to another city to drink water,
But they were not satisfied;
Yet you have not returned to Me,'
Says the Lord.
'I blasted you with blight and mildew.
When your gardens increased,
Your fig trees,
And your olive trees,
The locust devoured them;
Yet you have not returned to Me,'
Says the Lord.
'I sent among you a plague after the manner of Egypt;
Your young men I killed with a sword,
Along with your captive horses;
I made the stench of your camps come up into your nostrils;
Yet you have not returned to Me,'
Says the Lord.
'I overthrew some of you,
As God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah,
And you were like a firebrand plucked from the burning;
Yet you have not returned to Me,'
Says the Lord.
'Therefore thus will I do to you, O Israel;
Because I will do this to you,
Prepare to meet your God, O Israel!'
He who forms mountains,
And creates the wind,
Who declares to man what his thought is,
And makes the morning darkness,
Who treads the high places of the earth -
The Lord God of hosts is His name.' "
(bold added for focus of the items here more fully pondered).
Here you see the clear enunciation of the divine will and word, in the very midst of cold formalism, captious headiness,gross rebellion, absurd sanctimony, His judgments of His mouth, translated epochally into grave history, the scene of the scenario of indictment of Israel, and all of this in the midst of a compassion so luminous, a grief for their folly so sensitive, a desire for their awakening so intense, that the divine entreaties are historically listed in their calamites consequent on their multiplied rejections. It is only in this setting that the Lord, multiplying mercy amidst a people multiplying its rejection, announces from those same lips that had pronounced all that preceded, that it is time now that they should MEET THEIR GOD!
Is it not He, who is the Creator not all, of this world, of its beauties, mountains and light, who so declares to man His thought. It is not calamity without word, it is not mangling without meaning, it is not action without a handbook, nor is it tragedy without the obstreperous and constant tedium of unbelief. It is man and his ways versus God and His word, which now pronounces not only that NOW it is time to MEET THY GOD, but that it is after all, HIS MOUTH, HIS THOUGHT that He declares. He has not been silent. Man's thoughts amount to rebellion, but the controlling majesty of the mouth of the Lord, who declares what He is about (as in Amos 3:7) is this, that He says it and does it, it emanates from Him, as do the judgments, the disasters. It is ONLY after the most intensive and extensive proclamations of that word of God, working in history, that now they reach their defeated desolation, all from the mouth of the Lord, all from His thought.
He has not failed them; THEY have failed Him. He has enshrouded them with His word, has continually confronted them with His words, but they having swept these aside, are left with two bare facts, yes three. THAT THOUGHT of the Lord is to be implemented. It is now the time of utter confrontation in action, since words are dismissed; and that thought will not be changed through any rebellion. Alas no, for rather will MAN BE MET WITH HIS GOD HIMSELF!
Thus in Amos 1:3, 6, 9, 11, 13, 2:1, 4, 6, 3:1, 11, 4:1 right up to our text, we see THUS SAYS THE LORD or its equivalent. HIS words have been said long enough, HE who created the earth, as seen in 4:13, has spoken and spoken and spoken. He does not barely announce calamity as if in a fit of mere indignation, or a barrage of wrath without reason. He has SPOKEN AND SPOKEN AND SPOKEN as the prophecy of Amos in perhaps a unique array of "thus says the Lord" dicta, continually pouring into the text; and now HE WILL ACT. He is not present as psychiatrist, but as director and judge. Man is now to meet that Judge, and aweful is the coming conflagration. Israel is to be sent out for ever, as a Northern nation (as it was by Assyria). Soon they were to be engulfed in little reigns of little kings, with slayings and internal sedition multiplied, leading on to their doom.
How beautiful in this context, is the appeal of Hezekiah to them, from Judah in the South (which of course continued, except for a sojourn of 70 years under Babylon, as Jeremiah announced - Ch. 25 - until a while after the time of Christ, when its judgment likewise came, a generation after the crucifixion of their Lord, cf. Mark 12!) ... He sent RUNNERS into the Northern kingdom, while its people could still be found there, in the very teeth of these tragic and calamitous events, saying:
"Children of Israel, return to the Lord God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel; then He will return to the remnant of you who have escaped from the hand of the kings of Assyria. And do not be like your fathers and your brethren, who trespassed against the Lord God of their fathers, so that He gave them up to desolation, as you see.
"Now do not be stiff-necked, as your fathers were, but yield yourselves to the Lord;
and enter His sanctuary, which He has sanctified forever, and serve the Lord your God,
that the fierceness of His wrath may turn away from you.
"For if you return to the Lord, your brethren and
your children will be treated with compassion by those who lead them captive,
so that they may come back to this land; for the Lord your God is gracious and merciful,
and will not turn His face from you if you return to Him."
(from II Chronicles 30:6-10)
Consider the compassion of this neighbouring King in the South at this time, when his own nation had been militarily threatened and mistreated extensively by that very Northern Kingdom of Israel (the ten tribes which had separated from Judah and Benjamin in the South, then called 'Judah'). He was not willing that during the revival in his own land, magnificently delivered from Assyria (unlike the case with Israel in its unremitting paganism at that time), to dwell on his own happiness without grace and pity, yes exhortation and fatherly advice in the name of the Lord, to the straying North!
So does this exemplify the compassion of the Lord, and King Hezekiah was like a mini-southern-mouthpiece to put in fraternal terms the loving concern of the Lord, who had called the one nation as the other, and now was using one, in the South, to plead with the other, witlessly withering in the North, to return to the Lord. In this sense, Hezekiah is like a regal relay of the challenge, charge and concern in Amos. But as we see in II Chronicles 30:10, those to whom the King sent, "laughed at them and mocked them" so that they might indeed find the truth of the word of Amos, "Prepare to meet your God!" Nothing else was left. God had spoken His word, He who had formed the mountains and created man on the earth, given him spirit, had extended His hand, exhorted and warned, but they would not listen. Thus and then, therefore, they would MEET their God! even He whose word Amos had in such multiplication of phrasings, uttered, saying "THUS says the Lord!", and they would find that He who declares His thought to man, would DO IT!
Unutterably sad as these things are, indelibly tragic, woefully needless, since the mercy of this same Lord was so intensive and His word so extensive both in time and in its day, they now happened.
Here then was love with legs, love with mouth, love with mercy, not the sort that is ballyhoo but that is fearless in its self-declaration, passionate in its purity, willing to go to any length to secure its end, except this, to mangle its nature and spoil its beauty by becoming ... mere force. Judgment is the result of the rejection of truth, even when presented in love, even when paid in the coin of mercy; it is has nothing to do with force in the place of faith. EVEN WHEN love has done and spoken its all, it still does not proceed beyond the reality of the image of God in man, however marred that image. It still reluctantly releases the judgments which sin cannot avoid, any more than a car unserviced, can fail to find its end intemperately!
Alas, this car called man, equipped with personality and will, can will its end, as if arising in petty anger and pride, it could roll over the mechanic in the very act of seeking its good and welfare. So did they crucify Christ. There, that is love; and there, that is will that WILL not hear the cry of the hen for her chicks (Matthew 23:37), and there was to come the daughter of Jerusalem, the current generation, her own tragedy, when Christ came and she scorned Him, just as the North had scorned the prophets and indeed the king, in its own time.
How different it might have been, had that 'daughter' of Zion (Isaiah 37:21), or as Christ phrased it "your children" had listened! Then might that generation not have received the outcome of the consecutive strayings since Zechariah perished between the temple and the altar! (cf. SMR Appendix A). Then might "your children" not have perished in such appalling ways under Rome, waiting in the wings for just such an outrage. Then might Jerusalem have listened, learned of Him who is humble, meek and lowly, and found rest for its life.
The Gentile world is not different (Romans 11), for it is built into the same tree, by graft; but alas it has pursued in the main a different form of graft, with corruption, and as Israel fell by unbelief, as Paul there declaims and proclaims in the name of the Lord, so do the Gentiles now face their own come-uppance, their own confrontation, their own case of "meet your God", who has indeed declared His word, even He who also created the whole conglomeration, the whole race, the whole set of ears and minds that will not listen, any more than did Israel, will not heed, will not receive Him
Now it should be added that even in the case of Hezekiah's runners sent to Israel in the North, there were SOME who heeded, even though the generality of Israel did NOT (II Chronicles 30:11,25), and these did join in the wonderful Passover, that symbol of Christ who then was still to come (I Corinthians 5:7). Similarly now, amongst the Gentiles, there is a group who do not mock, deride and delude themselves as if God has not DECLARED HIS THOUGHTS TO MAN, as Amos so abundantly exhibits, and so clearly, over and over again. These are a witness, a royal priesthood, a special people, a Gentile contingent (cf. Revelation 7) of vast numbers over history in the millenia of its passing, accumulated before God (I Peter 2:9-10), those who "once were not a people" but now know the Lord.
These, like those few who (at one time) came from Israel to the Passover of Hezekiah, now come, the contingent from this generation, to the Lord, amidst the mockery of most of their peoples. The love of God still reaches out to them, fortunes are still spent in seeking them, sacrifices showing the present expression of the love of God, are made to help them come, to the Lamb, while there is time, before this generation of Gentiles comes to MEET YOUR GOD, yes these also.
There is absolutely nothing of hogwash about the love of God, when you see it, know it, find it and respond to it. Indeed, there is nothing but purity and truth in it, whether you see it or not. Mountains are not moved because of blindness!
The victory is in finding the Victor, Christ our Passover, who is beyond the former things in this, that not satisifed with providing cover for sin, for those who receive it, He also provided breach of death, outwitting and overcoming it, for in bearing sin, He removed the need for death when this phase of history is over, and has presented Himself the Guarantor of life eternal, when this little show called history has closed its books, and God, the Lord has opened His (Revelation 20:111-15). This follows.
"Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat on it,
from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away.
And there was found no place for them.
"And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened.
"And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged
according to their works, by the things which were written in the books.
The sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and Hell delivered up the dead
who were in them. And they were judged, each one according to his works.
"Then Death and Hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death.
And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire."
The rubble of restless rubbish, as at Gehenna, the city dump, embraced in whatever time frame the Lord chooses, is nevertheless, whatever the way of it, the conclusion of what refuses life. Its contempt is everlasting.
Thank God that in His mercy, in "Christ our Passover" in the Lamb of God slain since the foundation of the world (Revelation 13:8). All, we read of the Age outcome, in this last reference, will worship instead that quasi-ravishing ravisher, the "Beast", that summary of incredulity*2: that is all whose
"names have not been written in the Book of Life of the Lamb
slain from the foundation of the world." *3
BALLLYHOO AND WHAT IS TRUE
Love and Humility
Now we come to two pithy elements in this presentation. The first is this: what appears ballyhoo to many, either in resentment of Christianity or churches, or in weariness with them (even when attending some congregation in its meetings or some of them), IS so for those who do not HAVE God in their hearts, nor Christ in their lives with His sacrificial love impelling them: that is, non-Christians.
In other words, it is not merely that God does not APPEAR so merciful to them, but in vital and indeed crucial ways, IS not so. Mercy executed is not so lively in the heart.
What is it like ? Cataracts do not alter the external world, it is true, but they do obscure the light and disperse its images. This itself is an image... but the reality is that the absence of Christ not merely prevents true comprehension of things, but excludes the light of mercy, providential shepherding and that intensive care which is the work of the Lord. Hence they do not merely SEE things differently; for them they are, by this cardinal omission, different. Images received are distorted in their rebellion and occlusion of light.
God is not different; their relationship to Him, and His operation with them, however, is decidedly so. On this vacant life, they comment, and in this their experience, they speak. Like a barren hearth, it is what it is: it is only what it might have been, and the nature of its management, and the reason for it, that is obscured to them.
MANY ARE IN THIS BLIGHTED PLIGHAT, and in our time and clime, it is predicted that this will become increasingly the rule, even in would-be churches (II Thessalonians 2, II Peter 1, II Timothy 3). It does not at all predict that the Christian Church will fall: instead, the opposite; nor that it will cease to exist at any time, the opposite (Matthew 16). It DOES predict that in the midst of proliferating hypocrisy and evil, it will become very testing for the Christian! (cf. Revelation 12:11) and much that seemed once sound will fall away. Thus, churches of justly high name, will no longer be of this kind. There will be ecclesiastical epidemic, and many will fall with it. Christians once so, in the Lord, do not cease to be so (John 10:27-28), but churches move with time and population within them; and they can indeed fall irrevocably and unutterably, in appalling horror. In Revelation 2-3, you see warnings issued to some such.
Instead therefore of the 'critic' or the sorrowing worldling dismissing the nature of love and the testimony of it, let him or her seek to find God where He may be found, and when (Isaiah 55), so that it may be realised experimentally what it is, and trust God so that the implements of death, like some lawn-mower transgressing onto the new shoots in a flower bed, do not slay the realisation of the love of God before it is found.
The second pithy point is this. Just as such things are so with love, so are they with humility.
Which of us is not either openly or in some recess of the psyche, slightly nauseated when we hear of someone to whom great praise or success is attributed, telling us that he or she is greatly "humbled" by all this exaltation. Maybe in some contrived way, this has a meaning, but it is not at all apparent. It IS however very delightful to many to hear it, so that they do not feel like competing, or using the snippers of the tall-poppy syndrome to cut down this tall flower! It is, in other words, alas, often exceedingly hard in such a case to dismiss the impact of hypocrisy, or convenient cultural convention, or the meaningless.
Humility, then, like love, is readily capable of being a verbal phenomenon, rather than one of the heart. It is the latter than constitutes one of the great essential of human life that is to be found. Humility MAY be very functional if people want to overcome the sound barrier which tends to limit 'success' in many locations, because of jealousy and that dyspepsia of the spirit, which impels many not to WANT to see any good thing, and that perhaps as a sop to their own failures, which would otherwise the more be highlighted!
If therefore humility is to be found, it also is in Christ's purity. Thus the ultimate requirement here is that one SUBMITS not to some religious fear or convention, whether world-rule or false prophet with scimitar, sword or bomb, but to one's actual, well-attested Maker (SMR Ch. 1). It is ONLY then that the pride of life, to DARE to direct itself, or to be so FOOLISH as to let man direct it, either thus direct or indirect, is overcome. The life which manufactures its own morals, desires, designs, in its own way, is already not humble; nor can it be. It is in defiance or denial, or at least dereliction of duty and reality, relative to its Maker, HIS will for His product and HIS design for the person. Like a citadel at a garden party, it stands erect and a monument to misrule (Matthew 7:21ff.).
Again, when one hears in some churches words in laudation of humility, one may find a certain reservation about the sincerity; and indeed many find it categorically nauseating to listen to such talk. This of course, in principle, can have two major movements. The first is this, that the humility of submission to the love and wisdom of GOD ONLY, in the ultimate, being missing in the hearer, there is a virtual inability to appreciate the essence of the phenomenon. It is like talking of light to the blind. If a blind person were not assured that ANYONE could see, this might seem hypocritical as well as meaningless!
VICTORY in all this is in finding God for oneself, so that in HIS love, one finds the light and the direction, the meaning and the oversight needed if one is to love as He has prepared for us to do. It is likewise in so subordinating one's personal wishes not to some program or principle, but to God PERSONALLY, in inter-personal love, that the ultimate humility of being gladly, willingly and practically under His personal direction, so taking up one's cross not only in word or in design or principle, but in daily work and walk, can occur. That is not all, by any means, to be found in that wonderful reality of humility; but it is a necessary condition of it, if it is to flower and to flourish.
VICTORY over the world and its lusts and pretences, pretensions and the pride of life and the lust of the eyes, on which I John dwells, is found in the KNOWLEDGE of what is beyond this world, since GOD made it and us with it! Victory is not merely over false starts, false strayings and ways, but this because one is in the true! Life’s discipline is not only in avoiding the fatal appearances that deceive, but in seizing with ardour, the exuberant reality that is abundant (John 10:10), which in turn is what lays fast hold on one's own life (Philippians 3:13), as one apprehends that for which one is apprehended, is seized by Him whom one seizes, by His will, His ways and His life, strength, wisdom, love and purity. Then it is by "sitting in heavenly places" in Christ (Ephesians 2:6), that one is enabled by the power of the Spirit and the cover of the Lamb, to overcome.
One SEES, in His light, one understands in His wisdom, and so does not merely seek blindly to do this or seem that, but follows the path both prepared and apparent (cf. Psalm 97:11).
It is then that one praises God because He is good. That, it is just a fact.
of facts and of life
Depersonalising Ditches and Deft Remedy
Yet there is after all, a third pithy point. It is this. If talk of love or humility can seem nauseous to the uninitiated, and that either because they are seeing mere formality that does not spiritually function, therefore, or because they so lack the eyes that dare face light, that they CANNOT see what IS there (as in John 3:3ff.), cannot see the kingdom when it is spread out before them like some glorious panorama before the myopic. Yet there is another feature as well in this series. It is DISCIPLINE.
Many hear of the disciplines of the Lord, and perhaps think of this as a virtual pseudonym or even euphemism for the disciplines of life, of some imaginary, inchoate or unformed, some meaningless or merely automated occurrence which strikes whom it will how it will. Such is the pagan, secular mind. It CANNOT see the truth of discipline because it cannot see God. If you were witlessly persuaded that your own father did not exist in your childhood home, discipline would be VERY hard to understand when it ... impacted on you, and various theories might be envisaged!
It is only when you ARE a child of God that discipline is in any case, a work of child-training, like that of a trainer, a coach, a father, a teacher, and more than any or all of these. He does not treat non-children, illegitimates as Hebrews describes them (Hebrews 12:8), as if they were His children. In His love, He can be most compassionate, but then again, for those who wilfully exclude Him from their created lives, even their Creator, and worse, the Saviour whose redemption is quite wide enough to have covered them, who despise its provisions, and so never gain any of them: there are consequences.
If you refuse to wear your arctic suit, in Arctic cold, what then! Is it callous on the part of the weather which God made, to afflict you! Putting it in biblical terms, from Psalm 1, the ones who refuse God, or the wicked, those in whose hearts is neither freedom from sin nor willingness for its cover, who proceed from their own grace and pace, these are like chaff which is blown.
Discipline of Facts:
Facts, not Febrile Factotems,
at the Shrine of Cultural Totem Poles
It may well seem to many of these, that forces are propelling them, and in a limited sense, as a result of refusing their Designer, this is happening. If they want to depersonalise their lives by ignoring the Personal God who made them, then of course there is just that ambivalence in which philosophy loves to ponder, alas fruitlessly and always in predictable antinomies, since it ignores the basis that alone is true. Indeed, this is the one way in which human philosophy does glorify God, in that it shows by its ineptitude, amid teeming brilliance, its complete ineffectuality in ultimate things and understanding, in harmony within the discipline or victory in its fields, that thought without God is like a sailing boat without wind. Make it as good as you like, windless sails do not flutter, far less provide force for impulsion and propulsion!
That is what you would expect; it is what you get: and that, it is verification. It is the more so, in this, that biblical perspectives and insights provide ready resolution of philosophy's problems, almost to the point of utter amazement (cf. for example, SMR Ch. 5, Barbs, Arrows and Balms 6 -7, 29, TMR), and provides balance to science to prevent the philosophical attacks which the many confuse with science's true purpose, of checkable knowledge in the grand-stands of verifiability, starting with data, not doctrine.
It is only when it is built on the foundations of coherent logic, which God alone supplies, that it avoids that nullifications of practicality which so mar it currently in many of its intoxicated devotees, worshipping secretly at the shrine of religion without warrant or reason, while dressed in secular clothes (cf. TMR Chs. 1, 7, 8, Secular Myths and Sacred Truth Chs. 7, 8, Earth Spasm ... Chs. 1, 7, Wake Up World... Chs. 4-6, Spiritual Refreshings Ch. 13).
How amazing it would otherwise be, to find counter-evidential musings still thrust forward in the very face of the absence of data, despite the strict conformity of data to discontinuity in design - as one writer brilliantly indeed SHOWS - only to leave all this in what has all the appearance of a rambling desire for something NOT found, even amidst what IS! (cf. News 57). What more could be shown in all the world more precisely following the divinely indited description of man without the Lord (Romans 1:17ff.), wrestling with the inevitability of the attestation of God! If it is unconscious, it is the more lethal; and if it is unsought, it is the more incumbent, like sea-sickness.
Principles and procedures never once discerned, capacities never once evidenced in the most intensive research, where neither the apparatus nor the laws are even discerned, but the entire opposite: these things can so readily be deemed apposite for sheer unreason, gripped by a cultural captivity that will not follow procedure from evidence to hypothesis, but rather proceeds in reverse, where you proceed neither quickly nor wisely. In the hypnotic-seeming daze which these dim dealings exhibit, the scientist can become without realising it, very quickly a mere philosopher.
If then in this world, many are those who like Stephen Jay Gould, one of the most brilliant and certainly one of the more open-minded compared with many, writhe in confusion of thought rather than follow their own data (cf. Spiritual Refreshings Ch. 13, Wake up World Ch. 6) and see 'evolution' index); and if the world is becoming with increasing publicity and errancy and indeed erraticism, a very forest where the bees of pseudo-scientific philosophy drone with bitter honey in their hive, it is but the opposition of science falsely so-called, or knowledge so misnamed, for Paul's term incorporates ALL of knowledge, and includes the most boastful of its kind (I Timothy 6:20), despite the speculations of that outstanding scientist, Sarfati, on this particular topic*4.
What then ? what should be done instead of the appalling pseudo-scientific solecisms and quasi-philosophic diversions, both of which were long ago evidenced just as clearly as today, and just as lethally to the domain of truth ?
Instead, what is should be reviewed in its own terms, and what is required postulated, tested and verified, as far as science is concerned; and indeed this used to be done with delicious rigour by such as Newton, while even Einstein had no small thrust in this direction (cf. SMR pp. 299ff.). Indeed, this scientist did have a considerable flair to look for reason, and not in merely one mode, for on hearing Yehudi Menuhin play, he came after the event, surging to where the young musician was to be found, embraced him and declared, we are told in Menuhin's biography, "Now I know there is a God in heaven!" (Unfinished Journey, p. 133).
Yet the common, current pseudo-scientific vagaries ? What of these in their morbid and often mordant profusion ? Is it not amazing that they so proliferate with all the vanity of philosophy, and much of its worst mis-methods ? Is it not startling indeed that they inhabit the scientific schools of many universities (there are exceptions, and there are thousands of exceptions to this amidst prominent scientists), and thrust out their necks, although witlessly, for execution as did Cicero, when a deluded emperor sought to apprehend him (he was, according to report, duly executed on the spot)*5.
It would be ? Yes it would be amazing if it were not that there is here yet another verification of the Bible, for it proclaims most roundly that there is not only an INABILITY by natural sight to enter or even SEE the kingdom of heaven, but an inbuilt pathological work in ALL men, without Christ, to suppress the truth (Romans 1:17ff., Ephesians 2; 4:17ff.). This is far removed from declaring that this always results from explicitly desiring to do so; it is endemic, and from this proceeds the endless double-talk without single truth, the bifurcation and often explicitly irrational philosophy - where it is not instead doing it surreptitiously with astoundingly unnecessary antilogisms as in Kant! (cf. Predestination and Freewill Section 4).
That, it is a question of mauling the discipline of facts, and dispensing with their inexorable testimony, as that of truth itself *5. The other discipline which many likewise fail to appreciate, either absolutely or in the sense of realising that it is operative much less desirable, it is of life.
Discipline of Lives
Again, as to the latter point, one can readily understand that it might be disrelished, indeed hated. If one dislikes and distrusts a teacher, what is his discipline ? Desirable, useful ? If one is right, and the person is a hypocrite or duffer, then the discipline to the WRONG end in the wrong way may objectively be undesirable. If however one is a duffer oneself, in the area of the discipline, the academic discipline concerned, say no good at mathematics, then there may be a certain blindness about one's dislike of being disciplined. One does not SEE the point!
So when people do not know Christ, have not found the love of God, then discipline in two ways may fail to attract, or even to seem tolerable. First, without God there IS not the discipline which is apt for children, and that after all, is what we all are in the sight of God! You are not being treated as a child of God when by your own refusal, you decline the adoption as one of His! Hence what you get is not what you might prefer. In a similar way, an escapee from prison, might not like the discipline of the State, since if he is a criminal indeed, refusing just laws, then discipline is merely, for him, confrontation with what he rejects.
Again, even a child of God may not greatly desire the discipline coming for some careless slip or momentary folly - as with Jonah! Indeed, he hated that discipline until, after a very short time, he was made to realise very directly the enormity of so wanting not to look or feel foolish and vain or even a pretender, that he would rather see hundreds of thousands judged, as they would have been, in Nineveh, had they not repented. What added to the irony there was this, that his courageous ministry was precisely what God had used to allow Nineveh to escape judgment for the time!
When we grow, it is as with athletic enterprise and exercise, often through adversities and corrections. That being discipline in some measure, is in the end, peaceable in its fruit, as Hebrews 12 tells us.
As David expressed himself, showing it so clearly (I Chronicles 21:10-13), he would rather have the discipline of God than the tender mercies of the wicked any day! God in His most corrective disciplines to His children, in a way parallel to the case with loving earthly fathers, has their good at heart, in terms of spiritual truth, personal growth, spiritual quality and abundant life. It may not seem so at times, just as an aching back may not seem a good way to grow athletically, at the end of some session of exercise or climbing expedition. If however one understands, then the discipline comes into focus and meaning.
This attitude to discipline in its reality, as to love, as to humility, it is a thing of the light, a creation of truth in the heart of man, removing him from the artificiality of forms and norms, statistics and appearances, to the reality of the invisible, which after all, is what is the controlling influence in the lives of us all. Is it not a DESIRE or DESIGN to be an architect, or a good friend, or a good husband, or a creator of this or that, or a patient person, or on the other side, a successful tyrant or whatever, that is MOVING the guns, or the gifts, the expenditure of time or of funds ? Of what length, however, is courage, of what shape is kindness, or of what weight is vision, ambition, or organisation towards its fulfilment ?
It is all of the domain of purpose, which is in another realm entirely to mere matter, in its relatively simplistic mode, without knowledge, weighable information or capacity to err!
In this realm of the effectually invisible, where God Himself who made that little thing called matter, and used it so brilliantly as a butt for much, and called into being the sentient passage of history as the invisible employs and deploys it, when it is in the domain of man that life moves, much is experienced, and much is distorted. However, when the light shines, and man lifts up his head to Him who gave him one, the mind to use it and the spirit to wish to do so, the heart to understand and the will to choose not to do so: then that invisible source of discipline can manifest it in ways most visible.
Discipline ? It can come on the recalcitrantly bombastic (as with Sennacherib of Assyria, who made it both an art form and a propaganda device, albeit not effective with Judah then, since God was in the heart of the King, and many others there - Isaiah 37-38), as on the tirelessly obstinate (Proverbs 1).
It can however also come on the Christian as his or her life duly develops under the hand which made matter, and made it matter not to chatter, with boring and reductionist monopolisation, about matter when the domain of thought and spirit are in view (cf. It Bubbles ... Ch. 9, Repent or Perish Ch. 7). Even the great men of God, like Hezekiah (Isaiah 38-49), may need discipline. Thus, to take but two cases, they may become either careless because of 'success' in various enterprises, or insensitive because of mingling with the world too closely, in the execution of business.
Being corrected by this, however, when the source is actually one's own divine Father, this can be glorious, if painful, like surgery that liberates. Often in needful discipline, there is either a light which quickens understanding, or a forming which specialises function. Without the Lord, however, as one's inward sovereign, the Creator without and the Teacher within (cf. Isaiah 30:20-21, I John 2:27), light in discipline there may well not be; and indeed this can be habitual. Just as in the process of arising early, and not wishing to disturb one's wife, understanding (in this case, of the precise topography of the room or place of some item) may become defective because of light's absence!
The ONLY light which empirically meets and covers the case being that of God, and in particular of His word in the Bible, testable and endlessly verified as well as logically required (SMR Ch. 1, Repent or Perish Chs. 2, 7), then it is actually and factually and indeed practically the case, that it is HERE that one is able to find the meaning of life, of love, of humility (the delicious sort which is a close association and intelligent submission with understanding and desire, to the will of the most wonderful of persons): yes and very often, the meaning of discipline! In divine government of the psyche by wisdom, of the life with His understanding, of living with His presence (Matthew 28:20ff.), there is a light which makes and awakes the stained-glass windows from their apparent dulness to shimmering beauty.
It is valued by those who know what it is, who God is and His stated principles, and in working on these, as a scientist may do in the laboratory with sound basics, so in the life of one's spirit and mind, there is an advent of light which leaves its luminosity with appealing beauty.
Abiding in Him is better than roses or lilies, rubies or emeralds, skies or shores, lakes or mountains (cf. Question and Answer 6). It is here that victory comes in the mind, with all the answers flowing like a river in full flood, in the heart, with its needs met as by Spring in mid-season, in the life with its provisions enabled, its duties clear and its strengths supplied. It is here that one realises to the full that it is Christ the Victor who alone can give it. The striving is not so much for the power to do it, as to order and apply the faith to obtain it, as a gift.
The battle, as Jahaziel told Jehoshaphat is not yours, but God's; and the victory, as Paul through the Spirit of God has told us all, even over death itself is given by Christ (I Corinthians 15:57). To this, John adds that that over the world is by faith (cf. I John 5:4) and Paul that it is personally provided by the power of the Spirit (Romans 8:9 - the Lord IS that Spirit - II Cor. 3:17) as through the prevailing of Providence (Romans 8:28ff.), and the merits of the living Christ (Romans 8:1ff., John 14:12-13, Matthew 18:19-20, Mark 22:23ff.) whose promises strike home like the breakers that surge remorselessly to the shore (II Peter 1:4).
Far is this from suggesting that a Christian ALWAYS understands any given discipline. For example, the entire book of Job is not least devoted to showing just this,
that suffering is sometimes to the glory of God, as a DEMONSTRATION of sincere love FOR Him,
that godly persons are NOT mere
sublimated self-seekers investing in heavenly real-estate
Nevertheless, the difference between a characterisable education, shaping, moulding, disciplining, child-training and a horrid substitute from mere gross human power is infinite. Indeed, it is discernible with no more difficulty than that found in seeing the difference between a snake and a lizard, when your eyes grow accustomed to them both. Repentant at the surrealism of straying mind and life, receiving the Lord of life and finding its Prince, with sin stricken from the books and the love of God in His looks, one can then appreciate to what it is directed, and find its functions... His!
is when one knows the Lord,
as one might know a great waterfall, artist, or event, yet more the Maker of all of these,
and because He is personal, that one finds the reality which many despising,
experience in its resultant absence from the dynamics of life,
in a sense of the artificial,
the inadequate, both logically and personally,
which transfers itself to the affairs of the heart and mind.
mere mirage thus takes the place of reality, because of lack of vision and discernment,
or at best a poor reflection - however beautiful it may look to the self-congratulatory -
of the lake of truth, of the Lord of life, for absentees
from the environment of God Himself, whose being and provisions
alone gives meat and meaning to man.
Reflections, far less mirages, neither quench the thirst nor satisfy the need.
On this, Job's affairs, trials, tests and outcome, see
Barbs, Arrows and Balms 31,pp. 265-269,
Old and New Ch.
Marvels of Predestination and the Ways of Will Chs. 3, 4
SMR pp. 95, 358, 372;
Christ, the Wisdom and the Power of God Ch. 2;
From Grace Triumphant to Face Divine Ch. 9 \
See on this aspect, Biblical Blessings Ch. 2.
*3 COMING OR CASUISTRY
See on this, Marvels of Predestination and the Ways of Will. God who would have all men receive the reconciliation (Col. 1:19ff.), has worked out who are His from before time was (Ephesians 1:4), like an author who knows his characters before the books is written. So often people confuse this simple function and aspect of His eternal majesty, from whom time comes as a book from an author who invents that season and setting, with the GROUNDS of selection or even its METHOD.
What God would like, He repeatedly, in historical episode and pervasive, prevailing principle, states as He declares what is His thought to man. It is the failure to listen, to heed and act on it, which is the stated ground of the desolation, noted as coming in Amos 4:12.
Knowing all things and the end from the beginning (cf. Isaiah 46), being the First and the last (cf. Isaiah 44:6, Revelation 2:9), having not only spoken but COME TO THIS EARTH INCARNATE, the word made flesh, that format for function in manifestation and salvation for man, He is not acting in a vacuum of intelligence or knowledge. All outcomes are always known in advance, but HOW they come to be wrought into history is in no way a travesty of His principles, but rather the more certain application of them. Worked out in advance IN love and WITH all the mercy that He so often pleads, and with just that embracive desire, His people represent those who in His pure love He has found, without abuse of their image, without using force for favour, in His own integrity.
People need to realise, therefore, that it is not some superficial or even childish thing, when they reject Him, for the matter in the end is all weighed and considered by wisdom infinite and pre-temporal. It is the more tragic therefore when any fail to come to Him, and the end is the more certain.
Mercifully, for our part, it is so simple that a child can, and often does most clearly perceive it, and coming in faith given by God, receive Him. IF you want Him, take Him. IF you do not, why blame God ? Blame yourself. IF you do not want to blame yourself, COME!
As to any person who comes, WHEN you have come, the VICTORY is HIS! It is HE whose love has been constant and clear, whose gift of Christ on the Cross has been infallible in execution, glorious in plan, magnificent in scope, available for all, and sufficient for any. In securing any soul, His victory is so complete, not of wilfulness against wilfulness, but of willingness in the face of a profusion of folly, that there is more joy in heaven over one soul that repents than over 99 who see no reason to do so. It is an incandescent event. Here is the whole plan of salvation, that daring yet delightful provision of will and mind to man, of reason and of volition, meaning and scope, coming to its outcome through an outlay of mercy so prodigious, a method so outrageously courageous, so gloriously humble, so self-attestingly clear, that its resultant in ANY soul who receives the Lord, fills heaven with praises.
As David put it, THINE IS THE VICTORY! (I Chronicles 29:11). Small wonder you see such praise of God and of His Son, the Lamb of God, in Revelation 5, that these paeans echo via the Messiah, for example, Handel's masterpiece, through the crowded halls, often Town Halls, and gifted orchestras of this earth, on multiplied Christmases, as they have done for centuries.
Science falsely so-called. Paul's inspired declaration concerning the need to avoid this monstrosity of gravity without gravitas, this cultural occlusion, this abuse of scientific method and logical enterprise, is to be avoided. Of course it is, as is any substitute for truth. The term embraces all the sorts of knowledge in view, and as noted below, these included naturalistic hypotheses surely as prodigious in their irrationality as are the modern exemplars, to which Paul's term justly applies, though not exclusively.
There is no way the Greek can be forced to limit itself to any one variety in the clamour for the fame of the name of 'knowledge'. Modern science, often dressed in naturalistic underclothes without cover, is merely a more stylised version of what went before, in the sense of hypotheses built on nothing, verified in nothing, rambling with defamatory reductionism through the universe, and postulating things so absurdly without interface for technical action, or power for the same, or attestation, that it is a profound contribution to the force of faith to see scripture fulfilled as this does fulfil it, in terms of Romans 1:17ff..
There the struggle to suppress truth is exposed; it is in the heart and hand of unconverted man, hiding from the Lord and His attestations. It expresses itself in any method of knowledge, psychological, pseudo-logical, metaphysical, philosophical. Dr Safarti's contribution here is too narrow for the Greek term, even though the actual term 'science' has come to have a limited specification. Science falsely so-called, or more aptly 'knowledge falsely so-called' has no limit to its application, whether to the naturalists of today or yesteryear, before Christ or after Him. Its drab presumptions are not different; and the breach of method in seeking to justify unbased theory instead of seeking to explain actual facts, continues now as then. T he environment of terms in any one 'phase of knowledge' is different as culture changes; the method of abuse of ALL knowledge however, continues the same.
Below are three paragraphs, slightly adapted, from Cascade of Truth, Torrent of Mercy Ch. 3, and to this the reader may refer.
'Elite esoteric knowledge' then is not limited to the gnostics, manifest in part of the first century AD, and falsely so-called knowledge cannot be confined to them, nor to them and mystery religions. These AND gnosticism, with some influence from the Parsees it is held by some, were long standing elements, and philosophy itself, from the Greeks, this too was long standing, long before Christ came. Indeed, there is a vast array of such falsely knowledgeable things from the follies of the early Greek exponents of naturalism, to the Platonic with its variable surveys of the scene, now touching the name God, now working in principles and ideas far below Him, and not even able to be assembly in a logical continuum*1; as also to those of Aristotle later again. The Greek philosophers themselves reach back to around half a millenium before Christ.
Thus knowledge falsely so-called, the simple translation of I Tim. 6:20, cannot be limited to some setting of gnosticism, itself seemingly a synthesis of much of mystery and philosophy for hundreds of years before; but likewise it cannot be limited to mystery religion, which is merely one of the examples of the trend. It must include the whole array of what was in vogue, or held appeal, or stretched out arms from the past, contemporary trends and various systems eventually working to compete, in things large or small, with Christianity, with indeed, truth itself.
Nor is this all. The term cannot even be limited to this. There is the further question of the essences of all these things, the philosophic vagrancy, conceit and imaginative use of irrational and arbitrary self-will, and all the romantic unleashing of the human spirit without God, or with hand-made gods, into the whole scene and scenario of philosophy in its broadest sense.
The process is inevitable. Compare TMR Chs. 1, 7, 8, Secular Myths and Sacred Truth Chs. 7, 8, Earth Spasm ... Chs. 1, 7, Wake Up World... Chs. 4-6, Spiritual Refreshings Ch. 13 and see Ch. 16.
See also SMR Chs. 1-3, TMR Ch. 5, Barbs, Arrows and Balms 6 -7.